Amid a swirl of controversy around his new Netflix special, The Closer, Dave Chappelle took center stage Thursday night at a star-studded and sold-out show at L.A.’s iconic Hollywood Bowl. Though the superstar comedian did not repeat any of the jokes that have been loudly rejected by members of the LGBTQ community, GLAAD and the National Black Justice Coalition, he thumbed his nose at the notion of cancel culture while also promoting messages of kindness and love.
He shared the marquee with a screening of Untitled: Dave Chappelle Documentary, a 118-minute film directed by American Factory Oscar winners Steve Bognar and Julia Reichert that offers an inside look at last year’s “Summer Camp” series. Mounted at Wirrig Pavilion near Chappelle’s home in Yellow Springs, Ohio, the 50+ shows served to reinvigorate the small town during dark days in the COVID-19 pandemic as it played host to his circle of famous friends.
Some were on the bill tonight including Snoop Dogg, Nas, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Stevie Wonder, Lizzo and Jon Hamm, with the latter cutting a rug together during their outing. Comedian Jeff Ross kicked off the program with a short intro, followed by a screening of the film, which one attendee described as “moving.” Then came Chappelle — dressed in a suit, with his wife and a cigarette on hand — for the main event that saw him being heralded at the mic on numerous occasions as the greatest living comic.
“If this is what being canceled is like, I love it,” the 48-year-old said in response to a standing ovation. The line, and many more like it, was greeted by rapturous applause from the crowd, which included a masked Brad Pitt, Tiffany Haddish, Donnell Rawlings and others. At another point, he was more blunt: “Fuck Twitter. Fuck NBC News, ABC News, all these stupid ass networks. I’m not talking to them. I’m talking to you. This is real life.”
But that is precisely what the LGBTQ community, and in particular trans women, have objected to after Chappelle used their real lives, bodies and gender identity as punchlines in The Closer. “Gender is a fact. 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,” he says in the special, his last of a string of Netflix specials that included Sticks & Stones, Equanimity and The Bird Revelation.
He also sided with Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling by identifying as “team TERF,” a term that means trans-exclusionary radical feminist, an ideology that excludes trans women as women. The special, currently No. 4 of Netflix’s top streaming titles, also features jabs at white gays, the #MeToo movement and lesbians, among others. “I don’t hate gay people I respect the shit out of you. Not all of you,” he says. “I’m not that fond of these newer gays — too sensitive, too brittle. I miss the old-school gays…the Stonewall gays. They didn’t take shit from anybody.”
What he’s received in recent hours is condemnation from the NBJC, which called for The Closer to be pulled from the streamer. “With 2021 on track to be the deadliest year on record for transgender people in the United S