Dave Chappelle is out to continue to make some points, as evidenced In his latest special for Netflix. The special, entitled What’s In A Name? takes from the previously unreleased speech that he gave while appearing at the naming ceremony for the new theater at the Duke Ellington School For The Arts. The theater was slated to be named after him, in light of his alumni status and also in consideration of his being a part of the group that raised the most money for the new building. Chappelle wasn’t overly received with warmth at the June ceremony, due to the continued backlash from his jokes that focused on the transgender community in his previous special, The Closer.
The 40-minute speech begins with Chappelle stating that the new theater won’t bear his name. It would later be called The Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression. The comedian references a Q&A session that he attended at the school in November 2021 at the height of the controversy, which saw students criticizing him for persisting in making jokes that target transgender people. Chappelle would detail what happened in the speech but double down on defending himself. “The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it,” he said. “And it has nothing to do with what you’re saying I can’t say. It has everything to do with my right, my freedom, of artistic expression. That is valuable to me.”
He would criticize the media’s role in reporting the situation without nuance, comparing it to reporting that a large rabbit shot a man in the face, but leaving out the detail that it was a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Chappelle would wrap up the speech by stating that those students who had criticized him were “instruments of oppression” influenced by older figures. “I didn’t get mad at them,” he said. “They’re kids. They’re freshmen. They’re not ready yet. They don’t know.”