The comedian, 48, is being criticized by many in the LGBTQ+ community for seemingly doubling down on comments he made about the transgender community in his previous special "Sticks & Stones," and he’s shown no signs of contrition since prominent LGBTQ+ organizations have spoken out against both him and Netflix for giving him a platform.
With so much debate and controversy surrounding the comedian, some may be confused as to what exactly he said that prompted so much scorn. To help keep the debate in context, below is a rundown of the top 5 most controversial jokes from Chappelle’s "The Closer."
Addressing previous comments
The reason so many people think that Chappelle is doubling down on past comments is that he dedicated roughly the last third of his comedy special to talk about LGBTQ+ issues, specifically when it comes to the transgender community. He previously caught backlash for comments made on both "Sticks & Stones" as well as his other Netflix specials. During a portion of this latest special, Chappelle argued that anyone who was truly paying attention to his past work would know that he wasn’t ever actually talking about the transgender community when he was making them the butt of his jokes.
"I have never had a problem with transgender people," he declares. "If you listen to what I’m saying, clearly my problem has always been with White people."
He added: "Go back, go back tonight, after the show … I said, ‘How much do I have to participate in your self-image?’ I said, ‘You shouldn’t discuss this in front of Black people,’ ‘I know n------s in Brooklyn who wear high heels just to feel safe,’ I asked you why is it easier for Bruce Jenner to change his gender than it is for Cassius Clay to change his name?"
"I’m not even talking about them, I’m talking about us and they don’t listen."
Defending J.K. Rowling
While Chappelle seemingly had a defense for his past comments, a lot of people who tuned into "The Closer" found his comments defending "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling indefensible.
"They canceled J.K. Rowling – my God," Chappelle says in his special. "Effectively, she said gender was a fact, the trans community got mad as (expletive), they started calling her a TERF."
"TERF" is a term that many critics have applied to Rowling that stands for "trans-exclusionary radical feminist." It relates to someone who believes in feminism but does not include transgender women as part of their personal belief or activism on the matter.
"They look at transgender women the way we Blacks look at Blackface," Chappelle explains. "They go ‘oh, this b---- is doing an impression of me!’"
That’s when Chappelle proudly declared that he too identifies as a "TERF."
‘Gender is a fact’
The comedian then spent a few minutes harping on the biological aspects of gender, discounting what many critics and transgender activists have argued reduces the conversation to mere biology rather than the social constructs of gender.
"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," Chappelle says in the special. "Now I am not saying that to say that 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----, but that’s like beyond p---- or impossible p----."
Chappelle pulled no punches in mocking the LGBTQ+ community for "canceling" DaBaby after he made homophobic comments at a recent Miami-area concert. He was forced to make several apologies as criticism led to him being dropped from the Lollapalooza lineup.
In "The Closer," Chappelle noted that the rapper, whose real name is Jonathan Kirk, suffered more career strife from the homophobic comments than from a 2018 shooting he committed that left a 19-year-old dead.
"Part of the LGBTQ+ community doesn't know DaBaby's history," Chappelle says. "He once shot [19-year-old Jaylin Craig] and killed him, in Walmart. This is true."
"DaBaby shot and killed a [man] in Walmart in North Carolina. Nothing bad happened to his career," he continued. "Do you see where I'm going with this? In our country, you can shoot and kill a [man], but you better not hurt a gay person's feelings."
Fox46 reported at the time that the charges in the shooting were dropped after a key witness did not show up to testify. DaBaby claims that Craig was trying to rob him, but his family says that was not the case.
In October 2019, the Grammy-nominated rapper told Billboard, "I don’t lose no sleep" over the shooting that he said was "unavoidable."
Calling a truce
A lot of Chappelle’s special was dedicated to talking about his past jokes about the LGBTQ+ community and the ensuing controversy it sparked. He closed his special with a note about empathy and how it does not belong to any single community. Although he meant it as a rebuke of cancel culture, he eventually pivoted back to the LGBTQ+ community. As a result, despite spending a lot of time in his special discussing the community, he noted that he would not be discussing it any further.
"I am not telling another joke about you until we are both sure that we are laughing together. I’m telling you, I’m done, I’m done talking about," he concluded. "All I ask from your community, with all humility, will you please stop punching down on my people."
For context, the phrase "punching down" is typically reserved for when someone of high status uses a platform to mock a person or community with a lower status. Throughout "The Closer,'' Chappelle noted how the phrase annoyed him when it was applied to his comments on the LGBTQ+ community by his critics. As a result, the slight truce he was offering flipped that script and implied that the community at large was capable of canceling high-profile people like him, and therefore sits in the high-status seat.