Dave Chappelle stand-up gig cancelled by venue following backlash

“We hear you and we are sorry”

A Dave Chappelle stand-up gig in Minnesota has been cancelled by the venue hours before he was scheduled to perform.

The comedian’s sold-out show at First Avenue in Minneapolis on Wednesday (July 20) was pulled due to backlash from “staff, artists and our community”.

In a statement announcing the show would be moved to Varsity Theater, organisers wrote: “To staff, artists, and our community, we hear you and we are sorry. We know we must hold ourselves to the highest standards, and we know we let you down.

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“We are not just a black box with people in it, and we understand that First Ave is not just a room, but meaningful beyond our walls.

“The First Avenue team and you have worked hard to make our venues the safest spaces in the country, and we will continue with that mission.”

They added: “We believe in diverse voices and the freedom of artistic expression, but in honouring that, we lost sight of the impact this would have. We know there are some who will not agree with this decision; you are welcome to send feedback.”

Chappelle faced criticism for last year’s Netflix special The Closer, where some material was perceived as transphobic. In the special, he labelled himself a “TERF” and said “gender was a fact” in reference to the controversy around Harry Potter author JK Rowling.

Earlier this month, Chappelle’s speech addressing the backlash at Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington D.C. was released on Netflix. In the 40-minute special titled What’s In A Name, the comedian claimed those critical of his comments disregarded his “artistic nuance”.

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Chappelle said: “This is my biggest gripe with this whole controversy with The Closer: that you cannot report on an artist’s work and remove artistic nuance from his words. It would be like if you were reading a newspaper and they say, ‘Man shot in the face by a six-foot rabbit expected to survive,’ you’d be like, ‘Oh my god,’ and they tell you it’s a Bugs Bunny cartoon.”

At the end of the speech, Chappelle announced he was rejecting the offer to have the school’s theatre named after him. At his request, the space was instead named the Theatre for Artistic Freedom and Expression.

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