Dave Chappelle Addresses Transgender Jokes, Then Criticizes Louis C.K. Accusers
Dave Chappelle managed to address the controversy surrounding last year’s standup specials and ignite a new one all at once. The comedian’s latest Netflix standup offers a measured response to jokes about Caitlyn Jenner and the transgender community, though a subsequent special sees Chappelle questioning both the #MeToo movement and fellow comedian Louis C.K.’s accusers.
It was back in March of last year that Dave Chappelle’s The Age of Spin (itself filmed in 2016) made diminishing comments about the transgender experience, and rumors that Caitlyn Jenner might pose for the pages of Sports Illustrated. Those jokes and their repetition in subsequent standup shows kicked off a wave of accusations about the comedian’s transphobia, which Chappelle himself then worked into material, and eventually Netflix special Equanimity. In it, Chappelle attempted to clarify his thoughts on the transgender community, and shared a letter from a transgender fan that made him rethink the bit.
When I read that letter, in the moments after I read it, I did something that many black men in America do not have the time or the money to do. I thought about how I felt … I don’t understand all the choices people make. But I do understand that life is hard, and that those types of choices do not disqualify you from a life with dignity and happiness and safety.
Chappelle goes on to suggest that his issue lies more with “dialogue about transgender people,” as he feels the voices of both women and people of color have been marginalized in LGBTQ discourse. Some have taken Chappelle’s words as a form of apology or understanding, though any goodwill was quickly overshadowed by the comedian’s subsequent special, The Bird Revelation. The much less formal set (recorded in November 2017) saw Chappelle giving offhand thoughts about the litany of Hollywood sexual assault accusations, including those of fellow comedian Louis C.K. Chappelle denied knowing about C.K.’s habit of masturbating in front of women, but admitted the thought made him laugh. In particular, Chappelle diminished comments from victim Abby Schachner, who previously stated that her encounters with Louis C.K. put her off pursuing a comedy career:
One lady said, ‘Louis C.K. masturbated in front of me, ruined my comedy dreams.’ Word? Well then I dare say, madam, you may have never had a dream. C’mon man, that’s a brittle spirit. That is a brittle spirit, that is too much, this grown woman.
The bit continues with Chappelle likening her experience to Dr. Martin Luther King giving up his Civil Rights dream after a similar encounter. Suffice to say – Chappelle’s unfiltered thoughts on the #MeToo movement have not gone over well with supporters, especially as the comedian muses aloud, “At the same time … they took everything from Louis. It might be disproportionate, I can’t tell. This is where it’s hard to be [a] man.”
Equanimity and The Bird Revelation mark the last of Chappelle’s scheduled Netflix specials, but we’ll likely hear the comedian addressing further backlash to both subjects in future standup and interviews. Stay tuned in the meantime.
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