Dave Chappelle’s Controversial School Speech Quietly Drops on Netflix
What’s In A Name? features a 40-minute speech that Chappelle made at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C., last month. The address was part of a ceremony to rename the school’s theater after him due to his support of the school and the money he’d raised for the building. However, due to the controversy from his 2021 special The Closer, Chappelle decided against having the space named after him — it was ultimately called the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression.
Chappelle faced some angry students when he arrived at Duke Ellington School, particularly during a combative Q&A session held before his speech. Many students were upset with his jokes targeting the transgender community and his failure to listen to the objections from the LGBTQ community.
While Chappelle mostly focused on his years attending Duke Ellington, he does address the controversy around 30-minutes into the speech. Referencing the angry students during the Q&A, the Emmy-winning comedian said those who objected to his material in The Closer weren’t looking at the “artistic nuance.”
“All the kids were screaming and yelling. I remember, I said to the kids, I go, ‘Well, okay, well what do you guys think I did wrong?’ And a line formed. These kids said everything about gender, and this and that and the other, but they didn’t say anything about art,” Chappelle said.
“And this is my biggest gripe with this whole controversy with The Closer,” he continued, “that you cannot report on an artist’s work and remove artistic nuance from his words. It would be like if you were reading a newspaper and they say, ‘Man Shot in the Face by a Six-Foot Rabbit Expected to Survive,’ you’d be like, ‘Oh my god,’ and they never tell you it’s a Bugs Bunny cartoon.”
He went on to add, “The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it. And it has nothing to do with what you’re saying I can’t say. It has everything to do with my right, my freedom, of artistic expression. That is valuable to me.”
What’s In A Name?, Streaming, Netflix