Dave Chappelle declines school theatre honour

·2-min read
Dave Chappelle turned down an honour from his old school credit:Bang Showbiz
Dave Chappelle turned down an honour from his old school credit:Bang Showbiz

Dave Chappelle has declined the honour of having his old high school theatre named after him.

The 48-year-old comic shocked students at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington D.C. on Monday (20.06.22) night when he explained at the dedication ceremony that the building would be named the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression, rather than the Dave Chappelle Theater as planned.

Dave explained that although he thought the backlash against his Netflix special, 'The Closer' - for which he was accused of transphobia - lacked nuance and wasn't specifically about his work, he didn't want his name on the building to distract from students focusing on the meaning of their own art.

Noting the criticism had "sincerely" hurt him, he said: “I saw in the newspaper that a man who was dressed in women’s clothing threw a pie at the Mona Lisa and tried to deface it. And it made me laugh and I thought, ‘It’s like The Closer'.

“You cannot report on an artist’s work and remove artistic nuance."

Dave admitted he had decided over the weekend not to have his name on the school.

He added: “The Ellington family is my family.

“The idea that my name will be turned into an instrument of someone else’s perceived oppression is untenable to me."

The naming ceremony had originally been planned for last November but was delayed because of the controversy.

One student branded him "childish" and a bigot after he invited pupils who disagreed with him to speak during an assembly.

With some students wanting the school to reverse their decision to rename the performance theatre after Dave, the comic challenged both his supporters and critics to raise money for the education establishment - and if his opponents raised more, he'd gladly forego the naming honour.

Dave's supporters ultimately raised the most.