The streamer released a 40-minute video, being deemed a stand-up special on the Netflix homepage, capturing Chappelle’s speech at his former high school for what should have been a theater renaming ceremony. In the video, titled “What’s in a Name?,” Chappelle lectures teenagers while defending his past transphobic jokes.
Chappelle returned to the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C. on June 20 to mark the performance arts theater there being named after him. Ultimately, Chappelle turned down the honor from his alma mater, claiming his name on campus could be distracting (via The Washington Post) to students who disagree with his political views. The arts center will now be known as the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression.
In “What’s in a Name?,” Chappelle calls his previous controversial Netflix stand-up special “The Closer” a misunderstood “masterpiece” and said he was “sincerely hurt” by the Duke Ellington School students after a tense Q&A held in November 2021 during which the adolescents voiced their concerns over his transphobic comments.
At the time, Chappelle called the students’ questions “immature,” per Rolling Stone. Chappelle then shared it wasn’t his idea to have the theater named after him, and issued a challenge to the Duke Ellington class members: “If you are in favor of the theater being named ‘Chappelle,’ I urge you to donate to the school, noting your approval. Whichever opinion donated the highest collective dollar amount, wins.”
There is no reference to the contest in “What’s in a Name?” but Chappelle does address his reasoning behind turning down the honor.
“Rather than give this theater my name, I would like to give these students my message,” Chappelle said in the video.
The comedian continued that the students’ comments have only fueled his desire to further make jokes at the expense of the LGBTQ+ community. “The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it,” Chappelle explained. “It has nothing to do with what you’re saying I can’t say. It has everything to do with my right and my freedom of artistic expression. It’s worth protecting for me, and it’s worth protecting for everyone else who endeavors in our noble professions. These kids didn’t understand that they were instruments of oppression.”