After being the center of plenty of inflammatory commentary in recent headlines, Dave Chappelle decided to quietly release his latest comedy special Dave Chappelle: What’s In A Name? on Thursday. In it, he delivers a speech at his high school alma mater, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C., to students who were offended by the comedian’s transphobic jokes in The Closer.
Last month — around the same time of the filming of What’s In A Name? — the controversial comic also rejected his name being attached to a theater at the school that was supposed to bear his name in his honor.
The 39-minute speech came in response to heavy criticism he received during his last campus visit in 2021 for the anti-trans sentiment he expressed in his pior Netflix special, and his continuous responses that seemingly only digged him deeper in the hole.
“I remember, I said to the kids, I go, ‘Well, okay, well what do you guys think I did wrong?’ And a line formed,” Chappelle shared.
“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.”
He adds he was “sincerely hurt” by the backlash of the teenagers, but not before implying the students were brainwashed into having these opinions.
“I know those kids didn’t come up with those words. I’ve heard those words before,” Chappelle said. “The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it. It has nothing to do with what you’re saying I can’t say. It has everything to do with my right and my freedom of artistic expression.”
Additionally, he claimed, “These kids didn’t understand that they were instruments of oppression.”
The veteran comic went on to stroke his ego by proclaiming that The Closer was indeed a “masterpiece” while challenging his contemporaries to make something equally as great.
“They cannot, I am sure,” he asserted. “It will be decades before you ever see someone in my genre as proficient as me. I am maybe a once-in-a-lifetime talent.”
He even went so far as to dare the student critics themselves.
“If you have a better idea, then express it, and you can beat me,” Chappelle urged. “It’s that easy. If you have more talent than me, then display it, and you can beat me.”