Dave Chappelle kicked off his 10-city live comedy tour in San Francisco to a sold-out crowd and a screening of his new “Untitled” documentary, which he previously claimed was being rejected by film festivals due to recent controversy over his Netflix comedy special “The Closer.” Since debuting on Netflix October 5, the special has been met with furor for remarks slammed by the LGBTQ+ community for being transphobic and anti-gay.
But judging from the Thursday night appearance at SF’s Chase Center, Chappelle isn’t changing his tune despite the fierce reaction from audiences — and if the arena-sized standing ovation was any metric, he has plenty of fans to support him.
“Man, I love being canceled,” Chappelle said to the crowd of 19,000. “It is a huge relief. It’s like getting Capone on tax evasion.” (Via Rolling Stone.)
The documentary (formerly known as “This Time This Place” but now billed as “Untitled”) focuses on Chappelle’s efforts to host a series of outdoor comedy shows during the pandemic last summer in Ohio with the help of Jon Stewart, Tiffany Haddish, and Chris Rock. The film also details his efforts to provide onset testing and hire nursing staff, and contains footage showing Chappelle’s furious response to the murder of George Floyd.
At the end of the night, following musical performances, Chappelle returned to the stage — and to the ado surrounding “The Closer.”
“For the past three or four weeks,” he said, “they’ve been saying in the news that I’ve been canceled. It doesn’t matter. The point is, no matter what they say, we are together.”
The comedian said that the last time he felt at such a crossroads was when he decided to quit “Chappelle’s Show.” (The sketch comedy series ran two complete seasons beginning in 2003, and an abbreviated one in 2006.) “I’m going through something,” Chappelle said. “It might be history.”
Earlier, at a show co-headlined by New Orleans last week, Chappelle said the fallout from “The Closer” — which saw a Netflix staff walkout supported by LGBTQ advocates and protesters at the streamer’s Hollywood headquarters on October 20 — was “the worst three weeks of my life.”
But in an Instagram video the comic released on October 25 in response to the controversy, he doubled-down on remarks in the special. “I said what I said,” Chappelle said in the social media post. “And boy, I heard what you said. My God, how could I not? You said you want a safe working environment at Netflix. It seems like I’m the only one who can’t go to the office.”
Chappelle denied claims that he was invited to speak to transgender employees at Netflix. “If they had invited me I would have accepted it, although I am confused about what we would be speaking about,” he said in the October 25 post.