The 46-year-old stand-up comedian received the accolade at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. He went off-the-cuff while accepting the award onstage, USA Today reports.
"(I) don't get mad at 'em, don't hate on 'em," he said while discussing comedians he knows to be racist. "Man, it's not that serious. The First Amendment is first for a reason. Second Amendment is just in case the First one doesn't work out."
The former “Chappelle Show” star has been talking about freedom of speech and "cancel culture" a lot since his recent Netflix standup special, “Sticks & Stones,” received backlash for defending comedians like Louis C.K. and Kevin Hart as well as telling a series of jokes about transgender people.
"Political correctness has its place,” Chappelle told reporters on the red carpet (via The Hill). “We all want to live in a polite society, we just kind of have to work on the levels of coming to an agreement of what that actually looks like.”
“I, personally, am not afraid of other people's freedom of expression. I don't use it as a weapon. It just makes me feel better. And I'm sorry if I hurt anybody,” the comedian added. “Yada, yada, 'everything I'm supposed to say.”
It was a big night for the comedian, who was honored not only by his friend and “Chappelle Show” co-creator Neal Brennan, but by Sarah Silverman, Aziz Ansari, Jon Stewart and “A Star is Born” director Bradley Cooper as well. The ceremony will be broadcast on PBS on Jan. 6, 2020.
USA Today reports the star also stood up for his right to smoke indoors, brazenly lighting a cigarette on stage.
"I want everyone in America right now to look at me. Look at me smoking indoors,” he said. “I didn’t ask anybody… What are they gonna do? Kick me out before I get the prize?”
He added: “It’s called leverage.”
Last year's award went to "Veep" star and multiple Emmy winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
After years off the air, Chappelle returned to the stage in 2017 and released four stand-up specials on Netflix. He also appeared in the Oscar-winning movie "A Star Is Born" and had a comedy residency at Radio City Music Hall.
In 2017, he received his first Emmy award for his guest appearance on "Saturday Night Live" and another in 2018 for his special "Equanimity." To add to his collection, the 46-year-old won two Grammys for Best Comedy Album and in 2018 and 2019.
Fox News' Jessica Napoli contributed to this report.