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Comedian Dave Chappelle was assaulted onstage during his set at the Hollywood Bowl on Tuesday night, according to footage circulating on social media and confirmed by the Los Angeles Police Department.
The attack took place around 10:40 p.m. as Chappelle was attempting to leave the Hollywood Bowl stage after finishing his set, according to a statement from the LAPD.
“As he was exiting the stage a male, who was part of the audience, jumped onto the stage and tackled the comedian to the ground,” the statement reads. “Hollywood Bowl uniformed security officers, who witnessed the incident, engaged the suspect and removed him from the victim and took him into custody.”
The 23-year-old suspect, Isaiah Lee, was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, the LAPD told The Hollywood Reporter.
He was carrying a replica handgun with a knife blade inside, authorities said.
NBC News Los Angeles reported that the gun “can eject a knife blade” when discharged correctly. It wasn’t immediately clear if he tried to use the weapon. Police said that Chappelle was not injured in the incident.
Lee is currently being held on $30,000 bail.
In video footage from immediately after the attack, Chappelle quickly recovers his composure and jokes, “It was a trans man” — a reference to the ongoing controversy surrounding some of the comedian’s jokes in his Netflix specials that have been construed as transphobic.
BuzzFeed News reporter Brianna Sacks, who attended the show, tweeted that the attack took place toward the end of Chappelle’s set, and the man “got his ass kicked” by security. She added that, before he was attacked, Chappelle had talked about needing more security amid the controversy over his trans jokes.
Sacks also posted video that showed the alleged attacker being placed in an ambulance.
Also in attendance was Stephanie Wash, a journalist for ABC. She tweeted that Chris Rock, who performed earlier in the evening, then came onstage and joked: “Was that Will Smith?”
Later, in video of the curtain call, Chappelle spoke more about the incident and thanked actor-comedian Jamie Foxx. “Whenever you’re in trouble, Jamie Foxx will show up in a sheriff’s hat,” said Chappelle, referencing Foxx’s choice of headwear for the evening.
“N—a, I thought that was part of the show, I didn’t know what the fuck …” Foxx joked in response.
Chappelle then said, “I grabbed the back of that n—a’s head. His hair was spongy, absorbent.”
Foxx then took a moment to address the crowd and Chappelle. “Listen, I just want to say, this man is an absolute genius. We’ve got to make sure we protect him at all times,” said Foxx.
He added, “For every comedian who comes out here, this means everything. You’re a genius. You’re a legend, I enjoyed myself thoroughly, and we’re not going to let nothing happen to you.”
Chappelle then joked to Foxx, “I’ve been doing this for 35 years. I just stomped a n—a backstage. I’ve always wanted to do that.”
Chappelle was performing as part of the Netflix Is a Joke Fest, an 11-day stand-up comedy festival backed by the streaming giant. The festival features 130 comics, with some of the biggest names in the industry in its inaugural lineup including Seth Rogen, Chelsea Handler, Aziz Ansari, Bill Burr and Conan O’Brien. The L.A.-based event is taking place across 25 venues.
In a statement on Wednesday, Netflix said, “We care deeply about the safety of creators and we strongly defend the right of stand-up comedians to perform on stage without fear of violence.”
A rep for Chappelle added Wednesday that the comedian is “fully cooperating with the active police investigation into this incident.”
While calling the attack “unfortunate and unsettling,” Chappelle’s rep noted he continued with the show after the onstage altercation and said that after four nights of shows and record-breaking sales, Chappelle “refuses to allow last night’s incident to overshadow the magic of this historic moment.”
According to the Hollywood Bowl website, like at most Chappelle performances, cellphones were required to be checked in Yondr pouches during Tuesday night’s show to create a “phone-free experience,” so it’s unclear how some attendees were able to record the incident.
In addition to Chappelle, the lineup for Tuesday night included Jeffrey Ross, Leslie Jones, Jon Stewart, Michelle Wolf, Sebastian Maniscalco and others.
Tuesday night’s event was Chappelle’s fourth night at the Hollywood Bowl, where he’s been performing with various comedians and musicians. At an earlier show, on Saturday night, guests had to go through security and metal detectors on the way inside.
A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, which operates the Hollywood Bowl, was unable to comment as there was an active investigation into the incident.
The attack on Chappelle is likely to reignite worries in the comedy community about audience members rushing the stage and attacking comedians. The issue was highlighted after Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars last month.
A THR report in the aftermath of the slap incident showed that comedy clubs were considering adding security guards, preshow warnings and even metal detectors for shows.
Dave Chappelle just got attacked on stage
— Hoodville (@Hoodville_) May 4, 2022
Kirsten Chuba, Hilary Lewis and Jackie Strause contributed to this report.
May 4, 12:18 p.m. Updated with Netflix’s statement.
May 4, 12:32 p.m. Updated with a statement from Chappelle’s rep.
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