Dave Chappelle Show Canceled in Minneapolis Over Trans Joke Backlash

Yes, some clubs are still banning the comedian, and this time it’s a venue made world famous by Prince, who also helped make Chappelle famous

A famed Minneapolis venue apologized for booking Dave Chappelle to perform and canceled his set Wednesday night in response to community backlash over the comedian’s transgender jokes and repeated defense of his right to tell them.

“We hear you,” tweeted First Avenue on Wednesday afternoon while announcing his performance as moving to the nearby Varsity Theater.

“To staff, artists, and our community, we hear you and we are sorry,” the management continued. “We know we must hold ourselves to the highest standards, and we know we let you down. We are not just a black box with people in it, and we understand that First Ave is not just a room, but meaningful beyond our walls.”

Further explaining itself, the venue said, “The First Avenue team and you have worked hard to make our venues the safest spaces in the country, and we will continue that mission,” the statement continued. “We believe in diverse voices and the freedom of artistic expression, but in honoring that, we lost sight of the impact this would have. We know there are some who will not agree with this decision; you are welcome to send feedback.”

Chappelle has been drawing controversy for jokes about transgender people for years, and more recently, dedicated a large portion of his Netflix comedy special The Closer to explore his use of the subject and its backlash.

The streaming company’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos repeatedly defended the comedian, and cited “creative freedom” as the reason they would not be giving into demands to remove the special. As a result, hundreds of Netflix employees walked out of work this past October in protest.

Earlier this month, Netflix released a surprise special from the comedian who was honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2019. What’s in a Name? focuses on Chappelle giving a speech at his Washington D.C alma mater, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. He began by announcing that he decided against allowing the theater to be named after him amid the controversy, so the venue was ultimately named Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression.

“And this is my biggest gripe with this whole controversy with The Closer: That you cannot report on an artist’s work and remove artistic nuance from his words,” he said in the speech. “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.”

Chappelle was confronted by some students before his speech, and told the audience that their comments “hurt,” but maintained any objections to his stand-up material were attacking his “freedom of artistic expression.”

“The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it,” Chappelle said. “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. That is not severed from me. It’s worth protecting for me, and it’s worth protecting for everyone else who endeavors in our noble, noble professions.”

In May, Chappelle was attacked onstage by an armed audience member during the Netflix Is A Joke comedy festival at the Hollywood Bowl. The man later claimed he was “triggered” by jokes about the LGBTQ community.

First Avenue is best known for its connection to local hero Prince, who performed there early in his career and immortalized it in his 1984 masterpiece Purple Rain. Prince, of course, also made for one of the all-time greatest moments of Chappelle’s career.

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