Six Comedians Standing By Dave Chappelle (And Two Attacking Him)

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When the news that a handful of trans employees (aided and abetted by a transfixed media) would be protesting Netflix over Dave Chappelle’s latest special, “The Closer,” it was noteworthy how many of his colleagues stayed silent. In 2019, A-list stand-up names like Jim Gaffigan and Bill Burr defended Chappelle against similar claims that he’s transphobic, with Gaffigan, in particular, calling his colleague “brilliant.”

This time out, however, few comics have been willing to voice support for the man many feel is the most talented comedian of his generation. Their silence has not gone unnoticed. Conor Friedersdorf, staff writer at The Atlantic spoke for many when he tweeted, “Just 5 years ago I would’ve expected the online debate about the Chappelle special to include many comedians out there who are opinionated about their craft. Has anyone else noticed how many of those voices are missing, now that the costs of conversation have increased?”

But while there are fewer comedians willing to stick their necks out for the sake of Chappelle and free comedic speech in general, some brave stand-up acts have bucked the trend. Here are six funnymen who have had Chappelle’s back in this latest controversy.

Damon Wayans

When a TMZ reporter asked the man who found stardom on both “Saturday Night Live” and Fox’s “In Living Color” what he thought of Chappelle’s latest special, Wayans minced no words. “I feel like Dave freed the slaves,” Wayans stated bluntly. “Comedians, we were slaves to PC culture. As an artist, he’s Van Gogh. He cut his ear off. He’s trying to tell us it’s OK.”

Wayans pointed out that Chappelle’s fearlessness against left-wing special interest groups like transgenders protects free speech for all. “I think [Chappelle’s] saying ‘With all that I have, I’m not afraid to lose it for the sake of freeness of speech. You can’t edit yourself,’” Wayans added, concluding, “Somebody needs to look us in the eye and go ‘You’re no longer free in this country. You’re not free to say what you want, you say what we want you to say. Otherwise, we will cancel you.’ That’s the discussion we need to have.”

Joe Rogan

He may be the biggest podcaster in the world now, but Rogan got his start in the gritty comedy clubs of Boston and New York. Never a slouch when it comes to championing free expression and debate, Rogan has especially stepped up to back Chappelle, a long-time friend.

Rogan shared on a recent episode of his show that he was in communication with Chappelle from the beginning of the Netflix blowup and said the 48-year-old legend was “riding out the storm.”

Calling Chappelle “a lovely person” and “one of the nicest people [he’s] ever met in my life,” the MMA commentator said, “[Chappelle loves everybody, He’s not a hateful soul. He’s just a guy who loves this artful called stand-up comedy and he tries his best to navigate this world of talking sh** about things and saying outrageous things that get huge laughs or placating really sensitive groups that feel like they are in a protected class.”

Rogan then said that cancel culture mobs “pile on” and “equate any jokes” against protected classes like LGBT groups with hate. “This is when they’re wrong,” Rogan said. “I’m telling you, Dave Chappelle does not hate anyone or anything. His jokes are just that. They’re just jokes.” Rogan added of “The Closer” overall, “Just pay attention to the overall message. It is in no way transphobic. It’s just not.”

Rogan has also put his money where his mouth is. In the midst of the controversy, he and Chappelle have embarked on a sold-out comedy tour.

Bill Maher

The host of “Real Time” on HBO has been on a tear lately, speaking up for the cause of free speech. But he reserved some especially fiery words for the trans Netflix employees attacking Chappelle.

“Everyone needs to Netflix and chill the f— out on this one,” he said during an opening monologue at the height of the hubbub. “Really? Dave’s special is offensive but not the show [“Squid Game”] where the Koreans murder each other for money?”

Maher went on, “”I think people jump to conclusions, people haven’t seen it. Just because people call Dave ‘transphobic’ doesn’t mean that he is. Also, Larry? Not a real cable guy.”

When his audience seemed nervous to applaud or agree, Maher hung tough. “Well, get used to this,” he told them, “because we’re going to be talking about it a lot here. We can’t be afraid to speak in America.”

Jon Reep

The red-headed stand-up with the Southern drawl may be as famous for his roles in shows like “East Bound and Down” as he is for his numerous comedy specials, but Reep wasn’t afraid to show Chappelle love when he spoke with The Daily Wire.

Dissecting the special with an expert’s eye, Reep told me Chappelle “probably could have cooked [his new act] a little longer, made it a little bit funnier here and there.” But, overall, he said he enjoyed the show and has “always been a fan of Dave Chappelle.”

On the subject of comedy and speech suppression, Reep shared that as a comedy professional, he hates where the world is today. “Comedians should be able to take risks and say anything we want without any sort of canceled culture coming after us,” he said. “If you don’t like it, then just leave or say ‘I don’t like it.’ There’s no need to get guys fired or dropped by their sponsors. I don’t like that as an American who believes in free speech. I feel like we should be able to say anything we want.”

Rob Schneider

After creating some of “Saturday Night Live’s” most iconic characters, starring in movies like “Deuce Bigelow” and “50 First Dates,” and spending decades performing stand-up, perhaps nobody knows the risk speech suppression poses to comedy than Rob Schneider. He kept his support for Chappelle simple and to the point, tweeting on October 15, “Thank you, Dave Chappelle! Thank you for your incredible humanity. May God bless you and your family. Love, Rob.”

Garrett Morris

As an original cast member on Saturday Night Live, Morris knows what it means to break comedy barriers and blaze new trails. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he called Chappelle a “comic genius” and his special “brilliant.”

When interviewer Seth Abramovitch, tried to claim that Chappelle was “really going after trans people,” Morris wasn’t shy about setting the record straight.

“They were going after him,” he countered. “’The Closer’ was a response to something.”

Morris then said that trans groups and individuals shouldn’t expect to be treated with kid gloves in a free country. Rather they should expect to sometimes be the target of jokes like everyone else.

“Everybody can be the butt of a joke,” Morris said, “And why should it be that if we joke about you, it’s sacrilege? You sit in the audience and laugh at jokes about everybody else. If we make a joke about trans [people] or gays, suddenly it’s sacrilege. And that’s what I got from that.”

He concluded, “I don’t see what’s wrong with that, with all due respect. I see [Chappelle’s special] as nothing but a man saying publicly, ‘This is what I do.’ And if you can’t understand that this is comedy coming at you, then don’t live in a society that’s multicultural.”

And Two Who Have Joined The Mob…

Not every comedy professional has chosen to stay silent or support Chappelle, however. Some big comedy names (not nearly as big as Chappelle, of course) decided to join the cancel culture mob. Here are two of the biggest:

Michael Ian Black

At the height of the outcry (which, reminder, according to media reports amounted to “dozens” of protestors) Black tweeted, “One of the things Chappelle could have chosen to not do is everything he’s doing right now.

But given that Netflix has never offered Black a comedy special for millions of dollars, perhaps we can chalk this one up to professional jealousy.

Hannah Gadsby

Netflix has given Gadsby, whose work is often described more as spoken word than stand up, a special, but there’s no question its only drawn a fraction of the audience as Chappelle’s offerings.

When Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos defended his platform’s decision to air “The Closer” by pointing out that the company has also given a voice to LGBT comedians like Gadsby, she unleashed a barrage of resentment.

In a statement posted to Instagram, she said to Sarandos, “Just a quick note to let you know that I would prefer if you didn’t drag my name into your mess. Now I have to deal with even more of the hate and anger that Dave Chapelle’s fans like to unleash on me every time Dave gets 20 million dollars to process his emotionally stunted partial world view.”

Chappelle quickly struck back, saying in a live Nashville performance shortly after “The Closer” controversy blew up that he’s happy to speak to trans Netflix employees. But first, they have to admit that Gadsby “isn’t funny.”

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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