Dave Chappelle addresses trans joke backlash, goes in on Trump voters in special


In his third standup special this year, Dave Chappelle calls out "poor whites" who voted for Donald Trump in a message that's incredibly timely after Congress approved a sweeping tax bill. USA TODAY

Corrections and clarifications: An earlier version of this report incorrectly characterized when Carolyn Bryant Donham made her confession.

Dave Chappelle is at the top of the comedy game.

Don‘t believe it? Just tune in to  (out Dec. 31), which opens with the comedian waxing about his No. 1 status in that wink-and-nod manner that‘s come to be his trademark. 

After a nearly 13-year break from TV, Chappelle has come back swinging,  in November 2016, earning the show its highest ratings in three years at the time, and releasing multiple standup in 2017. 



But the status of leading funnyman has its drawbacks — the higher up the cultural ladder, the closer the level of scrutiny. Which Chappelle has learned. Maybe.

The comedian riled many in the LGBT community with flat jokes about gay and trans people in his specials released in the spring. and Twitter condemnation ensued. 

In Equanimity, he attempted to atone in his roundabout way — or at least let the live audience at the Warner Theater in Washington, where the set was taped, know he had heard the critiques — by reading a letter from a trans fan who chastised the jokes. Trying to pull the long bit together, Chappelle explained his difficulty empathizing with the “talk of how one feels inside” led by white men, noting that the majority historically hasn‘t cared about the feelings of minority men and women. 

It‘s a salient point but not exactly a compact soundbite, nor an apology. Yet, it is where Chappelle is most adept, pointing out the absurdities of racial relations in America.

In a long, final sketch, he more successfully recanted the wishes of good luck he gave President Trump in his SNL monologue, which were also delivered to mixed results at the time. A year after the election, Chappelle, like many Americans, has had time to process and pontificate.

He wove a nuanced comparison between Trump‘s presidency and Emmett Till, the 14-year-old black boy lynched in Mississippi in 1955 after a white woman, Carolyn Bryant Donham, accused him of assault, which she confessed was not true decades later. But instead of plain rage, Chappelle made a hopeful case that without Donham, the episode would not have been a mobilizing wake-up call that the country needed. And ergo, with Trump, America may be forced again to confront its demons and come out better for it.  

At least in his hometown of D.C., a few blocks from the White House, it was a thoughtful, upbeat message the audience was looking for in a top comic. 




Dave Chappelle is joining Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in the 'A Star Is Born' remake, an individual with knowledge of the project told TheWrap. USA TODAY



Read or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2BZhMLB

Leave a Comment