Dave Chappelle‘s “artistic expression” is still coming back to bite him as a sold-out show in Minneapolis was canceled just hours before he was set to perform due to a wave of backlash on social media, some of which came from staff members at the venue.
Well, really, all that happened was Chappelle’s show was moved from some theater to another. So, the controversy surrounding the comedian didn’t so much “bite” him—it just kind of nibbled at him a bit.
First Avenue, which, according to Variety, was “the iconic venue that provided the setting for Prince’s ‘Purple Rain,’” announced Wednesday that Chappelle’s stand-up show would no longer be taking place there and, instead, would be moving to Varsity Theater. The venue also posted an apology to its Instagram account addressed to those who expressed outrage and disappointment that Chappelle had even been booked to perform there in the first place.
“To staff, artists and our community, we hear you and we are sorry,” First Avenue wrote in the statement. “We know we must hold ourselves to the highest standards, and we know we let you down. 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 statement reads. “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. We believe in diverse voices and the freedom of artistic expression, but in honoring that, we lost sight of the impact this would have.”
Apparently, when First Avenue announced the show, the comment section under its post quickly filled with fire and brimstone as commenters expressed their outrage citing Chappelle’s series of Netflix stand-up specials where he persistently made ignorant observations about the LGBTQ community and, particularly, trans people.
“Disgusting that you are allowing Dave (Chappelle) to perform at your venue when your guidelines specifically state not homophobic or transphobic language will be tolerated,” one comment read.
We already know this is a story that will have people on the other side of the coin groaning about “cancel culture.” Now, I’ve already made my opinion on “cancel culture” well known—which is to say it doesn’t exist and I just really wish people would stop whining about it.
Chappelle has a First Amendment right to say whatever he wants on stage. People also have a First Amendment right to oppose him and call for him to be boycotted. Venues also have a right to protect their brands by canceling his shows or refusing to book him. This largely fictitious thing people call “cancel culture” isn’t an attack on free speech—it’s a result of everyone exercising their right to free speech. You literally couldn’t dismantle “cancel culture” without infringing on someone’s rights.
And, again, the show—for which tickets quickly sold out—wasn’t even really canceled, it was just moved to a different venue, which will also host additional Chappelle shows on July 21 and 22.
Similarly, students at Chappelle’s alma mater, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C., recently protested against a theater at the school being named for the comedian, but the decision was still made to honor Chappelle, who ultimately made the decision against having it named for him and, instead, he named it the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression. During a speech at the school featured in Netflix’s What’s in a Name?, Chappelle said he was “sincerely hurt” by the backlash coming from people who are also sincerely hurt by the things he’s said on stage.
At the end of the day, Chappelle has spent six Netflix specials in a row complaining about not being allowed to tell jokes he’s actually being paid hundreds of millions of dollars to tell.
Dave will be fine, people. He’s entitled to say what he wants. He’s not entitled to a venue.
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