Dave Chappelle declines to have high school’s theater named after him over backlash to comedy special

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Comedian Dave Chappelle said Monday night that he declined to have a theater at his Washington, DC, high school named after him amid controversy over jokes about transgender people in his latest stand-up show, according to reports.

The Duke Ellington School of the Arts had planned a dedication ceremony Monday honoring Chappelle and his “ongoing commitment and service to the school and advocacy for the arts.”

Dave Chappelle arrives at Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington to accept the 22nd Annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
(Owen Sweeney)

The building will instead be called the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression.

Chappelle, who attended the ceremony, said he was “sincerely hurt” by backlash from students to his controversial Netflix special “The Closer” when he visited his alma mater in November.

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“I took a lot of cold shots in business… but that day, they hurt me,” Chappelle told those gathered, according to USA Today.

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The comedian defended his special and his right to free speech.

Dave Chappelle graduated from Washington DC's Duke Ellington School of the Arts in 1991.

Dave Chappelle graduated from Washington DC’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts in 1991.
(Google Maps )

“No matter what they say about ‘The Closer,’ it is still (one of the) most watched specials on Netflix,” he said. “The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it. It has nothing to do with what you are saying I can’t say. It has everything to do with my freedom of artistic expression “

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Comedian Dave Chappelle performs at Radio City Music Hall on June 19, 2014, in New York City.

Comedian Dave Chappelle performs at Radio City Music Hall on June 19, 2014, in New York City.
(Mike Coppola)

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He said, when confronted by the students about the special, they “said everything about gender… they didn’t say anything about art.”

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Chappelle, who was among the main donors to the school’s theater, said he would be open to putting his name on the building in the future.

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