Celebrities were high schoolers once upon a time, and when they visit their alma mater to give motivational speeches to new generations of students, the kids cheer them on and aspire to do better than they did before they showed up. But Dave Chappelle’s visit to his alma mater turned out to be anything but motivational. He spoke to nearly 600 students at Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C., and it went horribly wrong.
According to Politico, Dave Chappelle visited his former high school on Tuesday to address the students after a fundraising event set for the same date was postponed due to threats of a student walkout 10 days before. His address comes nearly two months after his controversial Netflix comedy special The Closer. That performance has received backlash over Chappelle’s remarks about the transgender community. The fact that the comedian showed up at the school at all caused an uproar from the student body.
The students at Duke Ellington did not hold back in criticizing Dave Chappelle for his offensive Netflix special and the way he handled the controversy during a Q&A session. Two students who attended the event said one of their classmates stepped up to the mic and called him a “bigot,” saying, “I’m 16 and I think you’re childish, you handled it like a child.” The student’s comments were confirmed by Chappelle’s spokesperson Carla Sims.
Instead of apologizing for his actions or responding to students’ concerns, they said that Dave Chappelle mocked them, laughing off their questions and replying with jokes. One of which he said, “My friend, with all due respect, I don’t believe you could make one of the decisions I have to make on a given day.” According to Deadline, cameras were rolling throughout the entire assembly, but Chappelle has not revealed any plans to release footage of the interaction with the students, who had to place their phones in sealed pouches before the event to prevent them from recording anything.
The original fundraising event that was postponed was supposed to raise money to open a new theater named after Dave Chappelle. It was supposed to be held on November 23, the same day as the assembly, but the school pushed the date back to April 22. Over the years, Chappelle has donated over $100,000 to Duke Ellington, spoke at commencement ceremonies, and brought some A-list celebrities to campus, including Bradley Cooper and Chris Tucker.
Although Dave Chappelle got defensive for his content during the assembly, he changed his tone after getting off the stage. Before he left, he handed out tickets to a screening of his documentary Untitled held later that night to students regardless of their individual stances towards him. The tickets reportedly provided 600 Thanksgiving meals to students and staff. He also spoke out on camera about the death threats sent to the students who protested him. One student told Politico, “He said, ‘This is my family and whether they know it or not, I love these kids. …I don’t want to hear about any threats to these kids. These kids don’t deserve that.”