Dave Chappelle urges Americans to fight antisemitism years after backlash over ‘antisemitic’ SNL speech

Comedian was performing in the United Arab Emirates as part of Abu Dhabi Comedy Week

Kevin E G Perry
Los Angeles
Friday 24 May 2024 00:34
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Dave Chappelle has described the Israeli war against Hamas in Gaza as a “genocide” while also calling on Americans to do more to fight against antisemitism.

The acclaimed stand-up comedian, 50, was performing in the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as part of Abu Dhabi Comedy Week on Thursday (23 May).

Abu Dhabi has maintained diplomatic relations with Israel even as it has increasingly criticized its conduct in the seven-month war.

During a wide-ranging set, Chappelle made reference to the war in Gaza before a woman in the audience screamed: “Free Palestine!” The crowd cheered in response.

It was then that Chappelle referred to the war as a “genocide”, before going on to argue that protecting Jewish people in America from antisemitic attacks would make them realize that they don’t need to rely on Israel for protection.

His comments come a year and a half after Chappelle faced backlash for comments he made about Jewish people while hosting Saturday Night Live.

The Comedian opened his November 2022 appearance by talking about disgraced rapper Kanye West, who has made a number of anti-semitic statements in public.

“He broke the showbusiness rules,” Chappelle said. “If they’re Black, then it’s a gang, if they’re Italian then it’s a mob, but if they’re Jewish then it’s a coincidence and you should never speak about it.”

Chappelle was performing in the United Arab Emirates as part of Abu Dhabi Comedy Week
Chappelle was performing in the United Arab Emirates as part of Abu Dhabi Comedy Week (Netflix)

“I’ve been to Hollywood and—no one get mad at me—I’m just telling you what I saw,” he later added. “It’s a lot of Jews. Like a lot. But that doesn’t mean anything, you know what I mean? Because there are a lot of Black people in Ferguson, Missouri, it doesn’t mean we run the place.” Chappelle then said that the “delusion that Jews run show business” is “not a crazy thing to think,” but “it’s a crazy thing to say out loud”.

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt responded to the monologue at the time, saying it was “not just normalising but popularising antisemitism”.

Chappelle has become a polarising figure in recent years due to jokes that critics have described as transphobic.

Last month, comedian Jerrod Carmichael expressed regret over his prior public criticisms of Chappelle.

Appearing on The Breakfast Club show on iHeartRadio, Carmichael said: “I deeply regret saying anything about Dave Chappelle to the press. I want to say that I’m sorry for that because, one, I’m a huge Dave Chappelle fan.

“I think he’s brilliant. I think he’s a bright light in a dying industry. I think he’s more important now than ever before because comedians are now just posting clips of them doing crowd work online and calling it art, and it’s not art. Dave Chappelle is an artist. He’s one of the few artists that we have. And I care deeply about the work that he makes.”

Carmichael had raised the idea that Chappelle might be tarnishing his comedic legacy by fixating on jokes about the transgender community in an interview with GQ magazine in 2022.

Additional reporting by agencies

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