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Netflix quietly releases Dave Chappelle special where he declines having theater named after him

Netflix has quietly released a new Dave Chappelle special which captures a speech he gave at his former high school on June 20 in which he declines the honor of the school naming a theater after him.

The comedian caused controversy after his last special, ‘The Closer,’ featured jokes aimed at the transgender community. Many students at his alma mater, Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington DC, did not take kindly to this line of humor and told the comedian as much during a heated Q&A session at the school in November. 

Chapelle said the pushback ‘sincerely hurt’ him, but has not apologized for his remarks at the expense of transgender people. 

The new special, called ‘What’s in a Name?’, has Chappelle back at the school – this time for what was intended to be a naming ceremony in his honor. 

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‘Rather than give this theater my name, I would like to give these students my message,’ Chappelle said in his speech, available to watch on Netflix.

At Chappelle’s request, the theater will now be called the ‘Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression.’

Dave Chappelle will not be naming the theater at his old high school after himself. Instead, at his request, it will be called the ‘Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression’

Chappelle's new special, called 'What's in a Name?', has him back at the school - this time for what was intended to be a naming ceremony in his honor.

Chappelle’s new special, called ‘What’s in a Name?’, has him back at the school – this time for what was intended to be a naming ceremony in his honor.

Many believed the facility would be called the Dave Chappelle Theatre

Many believed the facility would be called the Dave Chappelle Theatre

Duke Ellington had planned to name the theater after Chappelle, its most notable alumni, due to his ‘ongoing commitment and service to the school.’

In his new special, Chappelle references his November visit to the school, when the renaming ceremony was initially supposed to take place, alleging the outcry from Duke Ellington students ‘sincerely hurt me.’ 

‘I took a lot of cold shots in business… but that day, they hurt me,’ Chappelle told the crowd, according to USA Today and Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin.

He recalled how ‘a line formed’ of students slamming his behaviors after he questioned what he had done wrong.

But Chappelle also defended himself and called the students ‘immature,’ saying ‘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,’ he continued.

‘[While the kids] said everything about gender… they didn’t say anything about art,’ he explained.

Chapelle said the pushback from students after his first special 'sincerely hurt' him, but has not apologized for his remarks at the expense of transgender people

Chapelle said the pushback from students after his first special ‘sincerely hurt’ him, but has not apologized for his remarks at the expense of transgender people

 Chappelle has been a generous donor to the school over the years, reportedly donating $100,000 and one of his Emmy awards in 2017.

In the wake of the heated visit, Chappelle issued a challenge on Instagram for those who opposed the school’s plans to name a building after him.

‘If you object to my receiving this honor, I urge you to donate to the school noting your objection,’ he posted. ‘If you are in favor of the theater being named “Chappelle,” I urge you to donate to the school, noting your approval.’

Supporters of the comedian ultimately contributed more funds to the challenge, leaving many to believe the facility would be called the Dave Chappelle Theatre.

Chappelle has defended his controversial statements, saying 'The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it'

Chappelle has defended his controversial statements, saying ‘The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it’

The controversial Netflix special was released last October and prompted hundreds of Netflix employees to walk out of work in protest, as well as public outrage from the LGBTQ+ community.

During the special, Chappelle declared ‘gender is a fact’ and aligned himself with Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who has taken issue with the push for some transgender rights, including the right to self-identify, and calls for trans women to be sent to women’s prisons, or allowed into domestic abuse shelters.

He also joked about the anatomy of transwomen in the Netflix special, saying that they lacked real female reproductive organs and that they did not have menstrual blood but ‘beet juice’ instead.

He argued women today view trans women the same way black people might view white women wearing blackface, and remarked that women are entitled to feel anger toward transwomen, since Caitlyn Jenner won Glamour magazine’s 2015 Woman of the Year award.

The jokes he made resulted in a fiery backlash against the Ohio comedian, who says his documentary was pulled from film festivals and dropped by film distributors.

Dave Chappelle, Nicole Avant, and Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos (right) speak backstage during the 36th Annual Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on October 30, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio

Dave Chappelle, Nicole Avant, and Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos (right) speak backstage during the 36th Annual Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on October 30, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio

Organizations like National Black Justice Coalition and GLAAD condemned the jokes told in the special.

Chappelle’s jokes about the transgender community were backed by Netflix, with Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos defending the comedian in an internal email, saying ‘we don’t allow titles on Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe “The Closer” crosses that line.’




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