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Dave Chappelle has decided against having his name attached to a new performing arts theater at his old high school, following student backlash to his controversial Netflix comedy special, The Closer.
The Washington Post reported that Chappelle made the announcement at the theater dedication ceremony Monday night at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C. The event had been delayed since November after students at the school criticized the comedian for The Closer, which featured a number of jokes that have been widely condemned as transphobic.
At the dedication ceremony, Chappelle directly broached the rift between him and the student body, making it clear he was “hurt” by the backlash. According to HuffPo editor Philip Lewis, Chappelle said, “No matter what they say about The Closer, it is still [one of the] most watched specials on Netflix,” adding that it was a “masterpiece.” Lewis wrote that Chappelle described himself as “maybe a once-in-a-lifetime talent.” Speaking to the student backlash, Chappelle said, “these kids didn’t understand that they were instruments of artistic oppression.”
He added, “The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it.”
Instead of featuring his name, Chappelle said the venue will be called the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression.
After the initial Duke Ellington backlash in November, Chappelle returned to the school to discuss the controversy around his special with nearly 600 students. Politico reported at the time that the comedian was met by a frosty reception, was accused of endangering trans lives and told that he was handling the storm of criticism like a “child.”
Chappelle is Duke Ellington’s most famous former student and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the school, and brought various actors and comedians to the campus, including Bradley Cooper and Chris Tucker.
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