Students at Dave Chappelle’s high school alma mater voiced how they felt about the comedian amid controversy surrounding his Netflix special. They didn’t hold back or mince words when vocalizing their true feelings to the comedian. And he didn’t back down in his responses.
Here’s what went down…
On Tuesday (Nov. 23rd), Dave Chappelle made a “surprise” visit to his alma mater, D.C.’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts for an hourlong Q&A session amid controversy surrounding LGBTQ+ jokes he made in his Netflix special, “The Closer.”
Politico reported it was a surprise visit, however, it was previously reported Dave Chappelle had planned on hosting a fundraiser at the school on Nov. 23rd. Deadline reported it was postponed due to a threat of a student walkout because students voiced they were uncomfortable with the comedian’s remarks about trans people.
The fundraiser was moved to April, so his appearance was a surprise in a sense.
With a camera crew in tow, Chappelle took the stage in front of 580 students where he was met with a mixture of cheers AND some boos. The session reportedly went south from there. Yikes.
By the way, the students had to lock their phones in special pouches beforehand to prevent recordings. As with many of his live shows, he has the audience members’ phones confiscated.
About eight students out of the 580 students in attendance asked questions. They weren’t only asking questions. They also shared exactly how they felt about the famed comedian.
One student stepped up to the microphone and called him a “bigot” adding, “I’m 16 and I think you’re childish, you handled it like a child.” The student was reacting to the way Chappelle handled the backlash he received over the LGBTQ+ jokes he told in “The Closer.”
“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 two anonymous students who spoke with Politico.
Politico shared more of what happened and Chappelle didn’t back down to the negative comments made by the students:
In response to another antagonistic question, Chappelle roughly told the student body of artists: “I’m better than every instrumentalist, artist, no matter what art you do in this school, right now, I’m better than all of you. I’m sure that will change. I’m sure you’ll be household names soon.”
The students recalled that another student in the audience shouted at him, “Your comedy kills,” and Chappelle shot back, “N—— are killed every day.” He then asked, “The media’s not here, right?”
ONE DISTURBED PARENT: The two students we spoke to declined to go on the record out of fear of retribution from the school. The father of one of the students, who also declined to speak publicly to protect the identity of his daughter, said, “As a parent, I have to say I have a real problem. … He was being dead serious and using the n-word on the record. What kind of judgment is the school showing to allow that?”
It’s reported many of the students declined to speak up in fear of how he would react.
The two students who spoke to Playbook said they were afraid to speak up at the assembly because Chappelle often laughed at students’ questions or responded with jokes. At one point, after a student left the assembly room, Chappelle singled her out by saying, “Of course she left early.”
Some students were equally put off by Chappelle.
“He could tell we were nervous,” said one of the students we spoke with. “It was a huge power imbalance of this grown man and his camera crew — and these 14- to 18 year-olds without their phones, just high school kids.”
They’re children, Roland.
— Jamilah Lemieux (@JamilahLemieux) November 25, 2021
Savannah Overton – a spokesperson for the school – told Politico the comedian “invited the voices of discontent to ask questions, however as a result, the supporters of Chappelle became the silent majority. Our principal was approached by several students after the assembly who were disappointed that they were not able to voice their support for Chappelle in this forum.”
Carla Sims, Chappelle’s spokesperson, confirmed the comments.
Towards the end of the Q&A, it was said Chappelle seemed to “soften up as he wound down.”
“This is my family and whether they know it or not I love these kids. … I don’t want to hear about any threats to these kids. These kids don’t deserve that,” Chappelle said.
Some of the students have been receiving death threats for protesting the comedian. The school responded to the threats by increasing security and barring students from leaving campus for lunch. Before wrapping up, Chappelle gave the students tickets to a screening of his documentary “Untitled.” He paid for 600 Thanksgiving meals for students and staff.
Over the years, Chapelle has donated millions of dollars to the school. He even gave one of his EMMY awards to the students and gave the school a shoutout during his acceptance speech.
A theater at the school is set to be named after the comedian in his honor. The naming was postponed due to the students pushback. However, the school claims it was postponed in order to address community concerns and to create a “teachable moment” around artistic freedom and responsibility.
The theater will still be named for Dave Chappelle in April.