In case you’ve somehow missed the last two weeks of uproar surrounding Dave Chappelle and his latest stand-up special, we’re far from the end of it. In fact, the fallout from The Closer, the comedian’s deal-sealing set for Netflix, has only grown in scope, severity, and complexity.
On Wednesday, October 20th, roughly one thousand people rallied outside of the streamer’s Los Angeles headquarters in support of an employee walkout protesting transphobic jokes made by the comedian in The Closer. During the action, Ashlee Marie Preston, one of the event’s organizers, claimed she’d invited Chappelle to sit down with employees to discuss his material and the actual harm it does to members of the LGBTQ community. “I invited Dave Chappelle to have a transformative dialogue about the harm that was committed. He chose not to show up,” Preston told TMZ at the rally. “That’s not cancel culture, that’s avoidance of accountability,” Preston added. However, in a follow-up with Chappelle’s team, reps for the comedian told TMZ he was never asked to speak with employees, but confirmed he was willing to meet with them and open a dialogue. It could be the case the invite was lost in transit, as Chappelle is currently in London supporting the overseas premiere of his untitled documentary and performing shows in the area.
Meanwhile, on this side of the pond fellow stand-ups and club owners are throwing their support behind Chappelle. Earlier this week, podcast powerhouse and vocal COVID vaccine skeptic, Joe Rogan, made an appeal to the character of the comedian and defended his controversial special. “It’s just making jokes. That doesn’t mean hate,” Rogan said in a recent episode of his show. “If you get down to Dave Chappelle’s real feelings, he’s a lovely person. He’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life. He loves everybody,” Rogan added.
Laugh Factory founder, Jamie Masada, joined Rogan in rallying behind Chappelle and encouraged fellow comedians to do the same in an open letter picked up by The Los Angeles Times. “What we are witnessing is an attack on the independence of comedy and the freedoms that make comedy the most organic, noncommercial form of entertainment,” Masada wrote. “If we don’t stand up for one another it won’t just be one of us that loses this freedom — it will be all of us — and once this freedom is gone, the doors of comedic expression will be sealed shut,” the comedy club owner continued. Oddly enough, it was on Masada’s Laugh Factory stage where Seinfeld star Michael Richards went on a stunningly racist rant after being heckled by an audience member and became one of comedy’s first casualties in a war with accountability that has raged ever since.
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