At this point, Dave Chappelle is as famous for being controversial as he is for any joke he has ever told. The latest bit of news about the stand-up comic comes with the announcement from Deadline that he has reportedly decided to not let his name be used for a theater at Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington D.C, where he once attended. According to Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin, Dave Chappelle announced at the naming ceremony that the theater would not use his name and instead be called the “Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression.” Reportedly, he also went on to compare his recent Netflix special The Closer to Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting Mona Lisa.
The story is made a bit more complicated that only months ago, the involvement of Dave Chappelle in the naming of the school theater was protested by students for his perceived bigotry towards trans people. In recent years, Dave Chappelle has been widely criticized for his views on trans people and rights; he has also been actively supported by the executives at Netflix. While Chappelle has become as much a vocal proponent of the rights of very wealthy people to be given a platform for their social views via one of the largest streaming platforms in the world as a comic, he also consistently seems to view himself as a persecuted and harassed individual.
Also according to Josh Rogin, Dave Chappelle said “These kids didn’t understand that they were instruments of oppression” apparently in reference to the people protesting him. He also said that he did not want the building named after himself because he did not want people “to feel bad” when they saw it, which is kind of nice if you choose to continue saying the things that make people feel bad in highly publicized and accessible comedy specials. Dave Chappelle and a group of friends were reportedly crucial in the funding of the new theater at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, which is why he was to be honored with the naming rights. While Chappelle has recently been accused of using his enormous wealth to sway public matters to his own personal preference, it can be said that using his funds to help schooling is a decent thing to do.
Even by his own standards, this has been a particularly dramatic year so far for Dave Chappelle. He was attacked mid-performance at the Hollywood Bowl in a shocking display; the attacker later assaulted another prisoner and has been charged with attempted murder. Chappelle was publically supported by other comics like Kevin Hart and joined John Mulaney for a public performance, which caused some audiences to criticize Mulaney.
Despite the attack on his person and being criticized online, Dave Chappelle remains one of the most popular and wealthiest comedians in the entertainment business, which probably makes it relatively easy to feel okay about taking his name off a theater. It also seems like Netflix will not be getting out of the Dave Chappelle game anytime soon, so we will surely be hearing about this in his next special.