Dave Chappelle declines to have high school's theatre named after him over backlash to comedy special (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Dave Chappelle has declined to have his former high school’s theatre named after him after blistering criticism over transphobic jokes in his Netflix comedy special The Closer.
The Duke Ellington School of the Arts, in Washington DC, was due to honour Chappelle after he donated $100,000 to the school’s theatre. The comedian said in October 2021 that having it named after him was “the most significant honour of my life”.
“I used to skip school,” he explained in a fundraising speech last year. “I would hide in there [in the theatre] when I was skipping class.
“Who would have thought that that theatre would one day be named after me?”
But, according to the Washington Post, Chappelle has now turned down the honour and the venue will be renamed the Theatre for Artistic Freedom and Expression.
It comes after Chappelle was called a “bigot” directly by one of the students at the school after a visit in November 2021 in the wake of his controversial and reviled comedy special.
The school’s headteacher Sandi Logan also said she has had meetings with students to discuss the transphobic jokes Chappelle made in The Closer.
The school said in a statement: “Moving forward with the event… without first addressing questions and concerns from members of the Ellington Community would be a missed opportunity for a teachable moment.”
Chappelle then said at the dedication ceremony on Monday (20 June): “The idea that my name will be turned into an instrument of someone else’s perceived oppression is untenable to me.”
He added that he was “sincerely hurt” by the students’ backlash to his special.
“I took a lot of cold shots in business… but that day [in November], they hurt me,” USA Today reported Chappelle as saying.
“No matter what they say about The Closer, it is still (one of the) most watched specials on Netflix… The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it.”
Despite the backlash to Chappelle’s newest Netflix special, the comedian has been green-lighted to create another show for the streaming platform.
After the comedian’s show featured mocking jokes about trans people, Netflix announced Chappelle’s Home Team in February, a series of stand-alone comedy shows which will feature comedians hand-picked by Chappelle, who is to serve as executive producer, Variety reported.
Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos reportedly admitted he “screwed up” with regards to the accusations of transphobia against Chappelle, but refused to condemn the comedian for “hate speech”.
Sarandos told Variety: “Of course, storytelling has a real impact in the real world… that impact can be hugely positive and it can be quite negative.”