Dave Chappelle’s latest Netflix special, “Equanimity,” is being criticized for a segment in which he jokes about transgender men and women. The comedian has made jokes targeted at the transgender community in the past during stand-up sets, many of which have made caused controversy. In a first-person article published on Median, writer Tyler Foster slams Chappelle’s inclusion of transgender jokes in his new Netflix special, and the reason is incredibly personal.
Foster wrote Chappelle a letter in March 2016 after he saw the comedian’s first of four shows at the Neptune Theater in Seattle, Washington. The set included a “lengthy segment on trans people,” including complaints about how damaging Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out was to Chappelle’s memories.
“[Chappelle] trashed the notion that trans people experienced similar or worse types of discrimination as the black community,” Foster remembers of the set. “Finally, he closed the subject with an imagined scene about a trans woman ‘tricking’ a man into having sex, a familiar transphobic trope. Throughout, Dave used the slur ‘tranny’ instead of ‘trans.'”
Foster decided to write a letter to Chappelle criticizing his set. Chappelle received the letter and even wrote a note back to Foster in which he noted that Foster’s complaints were “well-received.” Chappelle called Foster a “very kind person” to write him a letter nudging him about the ill-advised transgender jokes.
According to Foster, however, his letter wasn’t enough to make Chappelle learn his lesson. The comedian made more transgender jokes during his residency at Radio City Music Hall in New York City last summer, even referencing a letter a fan wrote him about making trans jokes in the past. It has not been confirmed whether or not the letter Chappelle speaks of is the one Foster wrote.
Now Chappelle is seen making the same trans jokes again during “Equanimity,” including the Caitlyn Jenner bit which ends with Chappelle referring to her and saying, “Yuck.” When Chappelle references the letter in the special, he says it was written by a white trans person, neither of which Foster is.
Foster writes that the material in “Equanimity” is even more offensive than what he first saw in Seattle in 2016, especially since Chappelle admits to receiving a letter and being aware that his trans joke made at least one of his fans uncomfortable. And the fact that Chappelle flat out ignores a letter he says was written by a trans person is even worse.
“The entire segment talking about the letter was, and remains, a long set up to more of his trans material,” Foster writes. “Weirdly, the rewrite makes the bit even more dismissive, ignoring a complaint ostensibly from someone directly affected by the material rather than a bystander like myself.”
While Foster appreciates that Chappelle uses the term “trans” instead of “tranny” in “Equinimity,” he still finds the transgender jokes insensitive and offensive. Read his Chappelle criticism over on Medium.