“What’s In a Name?” wasn’t announced but it’s already making waves. The speech took place at Chappelle’s alma mater, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C. During the conversation, Chappelle addressed the controversy and backlash.
“All the kids were screaming and yelling. I remember, I said to the kids, I go, ‘Well, okay, 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,” Chappelle said, per Variety.
“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.”
The comedian described how the student criticism affected him personally.
“When I heard those talking points coming out of these children’s faces, that really, sincerely, hurt me,” Chappelle continued. “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,” he continued. “That is valuable to me. That is not severed from me. It’s worth protecting for me, and it’s worth protecting for everyone else who endeavors in our noble, noble professions.”
“And these kids didn’t understand that they were instruments of oppression. And I didn’t get mad at them,” Chappelle concluded. “They’re kids. They’re freshmen. They’re not ready yet. They don’t know.”
The 48-year-old comedian was annihilated by critics in October following the release of his comedy special, “The Closer.” In it, Chappelle pokes fun at radical gender theory and sticks up for J.K. Rowling.
“Gender is a fact,” Chappelle said in part during the special. “Every human being in this room, every human being on Earth, had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on Earth. That is a fact. Now, I am not saying that to say trans women aren’t women, I am just saying that those p*****s that they got … you know what I mean? I’m not saying it’s not p***y, but it’s Beyond P***y or Impossible P***y.”
“Any of you who have ever watched me know that I have never had a problem with transgender people. If you listen to what I’m saying, clearly, my problem has always been with white people,” Chappelle later joked in “The Closer.”