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A new Netflix comedy special from Dave Chappelle was released under the radar on Friday through the streaming giant, and focused on a speech he gave at his alma mater after declining the offer from the school to rename the theater after him following his transphobic joke controversy.
His lecture at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, DC, last November was the primary focus of the latest show available from Netflix and Chappelle, “What’s in a Name.”
It’s unclear how either side profited on the new special, as Chappelle’s $60 million contract with Netflix only included four specials, and ended with his last, and arguably most controversial project, “The Closer.”
In the new special, Chappelle recalled how the students reacted to transphobic jokes made in “The Closer,” and how he had to defend his rights to artistic freedom.
Netflix released a new comedy special with Dave Chappelle on Friday. The comedian performs at Radio City Music Hall on June 19, 2014, in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola)
“All the kids were screaming and yelling. I remember, I said to the kids, I go, ‘Well, OK, 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.”
He added, “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.
"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 graduated from the school in 1991, and returned in November for a surprise visit, where students thought he would be apologizing for insensitive remarks made in “The Closer.”
“When I heard those talking points coming out of these children’s faces, that really, sincerely, hurt me. Because I know those kids didn’t come up with those words. I’ve heard those words before. The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it,” Chappelle said.
Dave Chappelle had a $60 million deal with Netflix for four specials
“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.”
He added: “And these kids didn’t understand that they were instruments of oppression. And I didn’t get mad at them. They’re kids. They’re freshmen. They’re not ready yet. They don’t know.”
Some students at the school staged a protest just weeks after Chappelle pledged $100,000 to the arts school.
Chappelle was also uninvited to a charity event for the theater-naming after he as a prospect altogether if those who criticized him put their money where their mouths were and donated more to the school than his supporters.
“I’m 16 and I think you’re childish, you handled it like a child,” a student said, adding that Chappelle is a “bigot,” Politico Playbook reported at the time after speaking to attendees of the event.
Chappelle initially declined to have a theater at his Washington, D.C., high school named after him amid controversy over jokes about transgender people in his latest stand-up show (Mathieu Bitton – NETFLIX)
“My friend, with all due respect, I don’t believe you could make one of the decisions I have to make on a given day,” he responded, according to students recounting the event.
Despite his attempt to connect with the students and the general public, Chappelle last month declined the offer for the last time. The building will instead be called the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression.
Chappelle, who was among the main donors to the school’s theater, said he would be open to putting his name on the building in the future.
His on-stage woes took a violent turn a few months ago when the comedian was tackled by Isaiah Lee during a performance at The Hollywood Bowl on May 3.
The suspect was allegedly carrying a replica gun with a knife blade inside when he lunged at Chappelle, police said.