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Dave Chappelle’s Pushback Against Cancel Culture Chills the Joke

Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

Dave Chappelle is in hot water again, testing the boundaries of public sensibilities so you don’t have to.

Netflix is defending his latest comedy special, “The Closer.” Critics, particularly in the LGBTQ community and their allies, want it taken down, charging his offbeat and often off-color monologue is transphobic.

I’m not surprised. This is Chappelle’s sixth special for Netflix and it quickly soared to the streaming service’s Top 5 list where it remained as I watched it — twice — this week.

By now Chappelle is more than a celebrity jokester. He’s a cultural force. He’s won five Emmy Awards and three Grammys, as well as the prestigious Mark Twain Prize.

His appeal, as with other topical comedians, comes from his ability to challenge the contradictions in society’s sacred cows and survive.

For him, that means plunging boldly into three areas that we tend to be the most nervous about discussing in mixed company or in front of the children: sex, race and politics.

 

For example, he defends “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling, who has been accused of transphobia for her fears of what she calls “the new trans activism.”

In the blog post, she recently explained that she has “five reasons for being worried about it” and decided to speak up. Among her reasons, she mentions her charity for women and children, being an ex-teacher, her interest in free speech, her concern about “the huge explosion in young women wishing to transition,” and her experience as a victim of sexual and domestic abuse.

I don’t share her alarm, by any means, but I do defend her right to express it without being viciously attacked, which only makes opponents of trans rights more determined. It also silences the honest discussions that need to take place so she and others can learn how trans individuals really feel — and live.

Of all the criticisms made against Chappelle, he recalled, “My least favorite said I was ‘punching down’ on them. What does that mean?”

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