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Dave Chappelle speech calling teenagers who opposed his trans jokes ‘instruments of oppression’ released on Netflix

Comedian said he felt ‘hurt’ after clashing with students during a Q&A at his former school

Ellie Harrison
Friday 08 July 2022 09:23 BST
Netflix employees stage walkout over Dave Chappelle transgender comments

Netflix has released a speech by Dave Chappelle, in which the comedian addresses the backlash he has faced for his controversial comments about the trans community.

The new release – titled What’s in a Name? – arrived on the platform on Thursday (7 July). It is a 40-minute speech that Chappelle made in November at his former school in Washington DC, The Duke Ellington School of the Arts.

The speech was made during a planned ceremony to name the school’s theatre after the comedian. Many students, however, opposed the idea over Chappelle’s jokes about the trans community in his Netflix special The Closer, which have been criticised as “transphobic”.

Chappelle clashed with some students who opposed the ceremony in a Q&A moments before he made his address.

While much of the speech covered his years at the school, Chappelle also defended himself against criticism from the current students, calling them “instruments of oppression”.

“All the kids were screaming and yelling,” he said. “I said to the kids, I go, ‘Well, OK, well what do you guys think I did wrong?’ And a line formed. These kids said everything about gender, and this and that and the other, but they didn’t say anything about art.

“And this is my biggest gripe with this whole controversy with The Closer: that you cannot report on an artist’s work and remove artistic nuance from his words. It would be like if you were reading a newspaper and they say, ‘Man shot in the face by a six-foot rabbit expected to survive.’ You’d be like, ‘Oh my god,’ and they never tell you it’s a Bugs Bunny cartoon.”

Dave Chappelle (Getty Images)

He said that he felt “hurt” after the Q&A. “When I heard those talking points coming out of these children’s faces, that really, sincerely, hurt me,” he said. “Because I know those kids didn’t come up with those words. I’ve heard those words before.

“The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it. And it has nothing to do with what you’re saying I can’t say. It has everything to do with my right, my freedom, of artistic expression.”

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Chappelle continued: “And these kids didn’t understand that they were instruments of oppression. And I didn’t get mad at them. They’re kids. They’re freshmen. They’re not ready yet. They don’t know.”

During the Q&A session, one student reportedly stepped up to the microphone and called Chappelle a “bigot”, adding: “I’m 16 and I think you’re childish, you handled it like a child.”

The students claimed that one of their classmates shouted at him: “Your comedy kills,” to which Chappelle replied: “N****** are killed every day.”

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