Louis Theroux names the divisive figure he wants to interview next: ‘Bit controversial, what do you think?’

The documentary maker wants his BBC conversation series to ‘see people clearly’

Nicole Vassell
Tuesday 31 October 2023 10:23 GMT
Louis Theroux Interviews trailer

Across the Atlantic, and on all sides of the political divide, Louis Theroux has made a career out of getting deep under the skin of society’s most notorious – and compelling figures.

Now the interviewer has revealed the controversial comedian – whose divisive views have made him beloved in some quarters and vilified in others – that he would most like to profile.

The documentary maker is preparing to launch the second season of his BBC conversation series, in which he welcomes people from across the entertainment industry for a closer look at their perspectives and unique approaches to work.

In a recent Q&A event for Louis Theroux Interviews season two, Theroux named the celebrity figures he would most like to cover, includeding names such as Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Erykah Badu.

But he flagged the comedian Dave Chappelle as being at the top of his list.

“Dave Chappelle would be a big get,” Theroux told host Clara Amfo. “Bit controversial, what do you think?”

Louis Theroux names Dave Chappelle as someone he’d like to interview in the future (Getty)

Since the early 2000s, Chappelle has been a key figure in the American stand-up comedy landscape and has been widely praised for his sharp observations on race and society, particularly in his Comedy Central sketch series, Chappelle’s Show.

However, in recent years, Chappelle has drawn criticism for jokes that many have considered transphobic.

His 2021 Netflix special, The Closer, featured remarks about gay people and transgender women, as well as Chappelle declaring himself “team Terf” (which stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist). He also defended author JK Rowling, who has come under heavy fire for her views on gender.

The special drew backlash from several online commentators and saw students at Chappelle’s former high school, Washington DC’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts, take particular offence at an alumnus expressing such divisive views.

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In November 2021, the school had to postpone his planned appearance at a fundraiser over threats of a student walk-out.

Chappelle addressed the criticism in a video posted to Instagram soon after the special’s release and doubled down on his stance. “To the transgender community, I am more than willing to give you an audience, but you will not summon me,” the comic said. “I am not bending to anyone’s demands.”

Last year, as a result of the Duke Ellington students’ reaction to The Closer, Chappelle refused the opportunity to have his name attached to the school’s theatre. He explained: “The idea that my name will be turned into an instrument of someone else’s perceived oppression is untenable to me.”

During the Netflix is a Joke festival in May 2022, the comedian was tackled during his set by an audience member who later attributed his actions to his disagreements with Chappelle’s jokes about the LGBTQ community.

Dave Chappelle (Getty Images for Pilot Boy)

Despite its polarising nature, the comedy special won a Grammy for Best Comedy Album in 2023.

Elsewhere in the Q&A session, Theroux gave some insight into his vision for the show, which includes giving viewers the chance to see a familiar figure in a more multidimensional light.

Speaking about his vision for the show, Theroux said: “The goal is to see people clearly, to explore their vulnerability, but alongside that, just as important, is to appreciate how they approach their craft, what it is that makes them special in their field and to have moments of lightness and humour.”

Season one, which premiered in 2022, featured musicians Stormzy, Yungblud and Rita Ora, comedian Katherine Ryan, survivalist Bear Grylls and actor Dame Judi Dench engaging in wide-ranging discussions with Theroux about their lives and careers.

Its follow-up season begins with an interview with boxing champion Anthony Joshua.

Louis Theroux Interviews series two is on BBC iPlayer and BBC Two from Tuesday 7 November at 9pm.

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