Dave Chappelle decided to cancel the plan of naming a student theater at Duke Ellington School of the Arts after him.
The Washington D.C. high school, which is Chappelle’s alma mater, had arranged a ceremony on Monday night with the intent to unveil the campus arts center with its new name — the Dave Chappelle Theater.
The school’s website for the event claimed Chappelle had earned the honor after such commitment and support for the school over the years and labeled the comedian as its “most noted alumni.”
Chappelle denied the honor of having theater named after him
In a surprise twist of events, Chappelle told the audience in attendance that he felt naming the theater after him would distract from the art that was to be created in the space.
According to The Washington Post, Chappelle denied the honor due to controversies from his Netflix comedy special, The Closer, released in October of last year. Some jokes in the stand-up routine had many calling out the comedian for being transphobic and insincere to those in the LGBTQIA+ community.
“But the Ellington family is my family,” Chappelle said regarding the situation.
The comedian has been a long-time donor to the school and claimed that Duke Ellington was the school that “saved his life.” Before the drop of The Closer last fall, he visited the school for a donor event and spoke about his feelings on having the theater named after him, saying it was the most significant honor of his life.
“I’ve been honored many ways, many times. This means the most,” he said.
“I used to skip school. I would hide in there when I was skipping class,” Chappelle continued. “Who would have thought that that theater would one day be named after me? But I understand it because sometimes when you love things, they love you back. And I loved that school.”
Dave Chappelle’s previous backlash over Netflix special
When it came to Chappelle’s stand-up special, many voiced their opinions on him seemingly taking aim at the transgender community at the bud of some jokes. The comedian specifically referred to himself as a “TERF,” which stands for a trans-exclusionary radical feminist.
The criticism that arose from the special caused a social media uproar and even had Netflix workers and executives commenting on the matter. One worker, in particular, software engineer Terra Field, created a viral thread on Twitter regarding her thoughts on Chappelle’s special as a member of the transgender community herself.
“Yesterday we launched another Chappelle special where he attacks the trans community, and the very validity of transness – all while trying to pit us against other marginalized groups,” Terra wrote.
Chappelle was even attacked on stage during a show at the Hollywood Bowl this past May, to which the comedian followed up the tackle with another comment that insulted many – “it was a trans man.” The comment yet again sparked backlash in regards to Chappelle’s default to insult the transgender community.
Due to all of his previous incidences, Chappelle decided to leave the Duke Ellington theater with a clean name, and it will now be called the Theatre for Artistic Freedom & Expression.