|Dave Chappelle / Instagram
A NOT-SO WELCOME HOMECOMING — DAVE CHAPPELLE made a surprise stop by D.C.’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts on Tuesday in the latest chapter of the running saga with his alma mater.
sure glad Dave Chappelle can defend himself from being cancelled by the all-powerful (checks notes) high school student cabal https://t.co/4AvhdIBeS8— Terra Field (@RainofTerra) November 25, 2021
A NOT-SO WELCOME HOMECOMING — DAVE CHAPPELLE made a surprise stop by D.C.’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts on Tuesday in the latest chapter of the running saga with his alma mater, as retold by Politico Playbook
But if the self-proclaimed GOAT hoped to smooth things over amid the backlash over his jokes about transgender people, he was in for a surprise of his own.
Some 580 students packed into an auditorium to hear their school’s most famous alumnus discuss the uproar triggered by his Netflix special “The Closer.” With a camera crew in tow, Chappelle took the stage to a raucous reception of cheers and some boos — and the hourlong session went south from there, we’re told.
During a Q&A session, one student stepped to the mic and called Chappelle a “bigot,” adding, “I’m 16 and I think you’re childish, you handled it like a child,” according to two students present. The comments were confirmed by Chappelle’s spokesperson CARLA SIMS.
NO APOLOGIES: Chappelle responded, as recalled the next day by the students, “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.” That peeved some students who were hoping for an apology or some semblance of one from Chappelle.
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?”
Sims, the Chappelle spokesperson, responded: “They are complaining that he talked and said the n-word. If anything, Dave is putting the school on the map.” Chappelle has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Duke Ellington and brought A-list celebrities such as BRADLEY COOPER and CHRIS TUCKER to its campus.
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.”
Sims said that person “couldn’t even entertain the idea of a conversation.”
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.” Students had to lock their phones in special pouches beforehand to prevent recordings.
A spokesperson for the school said that about eight students came forward to ask questions.
“During the conversation with students and staff, Chappelle specifically invited the voices of discontent to ask questions, however as a result, the supporters of Chappelle became the silent majority,” said Duke Ellington spokesperson SAVANNAH OVERTON.
“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.”
NO HARD FEELINGS: According to the students, Chappelle seemed to soften up as he wound down. Turning to the camera, he spoke out against death threats some students have received since protesting him. The school has responded by increasing security and barring students from leaving campus for lunch.
“His whole tone changed,” one of the students said. “He said, ‘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.’”
“He was really kind,” the student added. “If [only] he [had] acted that way the whole time. … There was no reason to be mean to us. He was just laughing at kids.”
A PARTING GIFT: Sims said Chappelle was expecting forgiveness from students, not to offer an apology of his own. The school postponed an event to name its theater after him amid concern about student reactions to his special.
“He said these kids deserve an F for forgiveness,” Sims said. But, “Give them some space to grow. They are going to say things that are immature.”
On his way out, Chappelle gave three tickets to each of the students for the screening of his documentary “Untitled” at Capital One Arena that night and 600 Thanksgiving meals for students and staff.
Correction: This item has been updated to reflect new information regarding the status of an event for Duke Ellington with Chappelle to raise money and rename the school’s theater.