When comedian Dave Chappelle showed up for a surprise visit to his high school alma mater this week, the students there expected him to apologize for his recent statements about transgender people that have landed him in hot water. And Chappelle expected their forgiveness.
But when the students heard no apology from Chappelle, the comedian also failed to hear what he'd been hoping for when he showed up with a camera crew in tow at Washington D.C.'s Duke Ellington School of the Arts on Tuesday, Politico reported.
The whole matter is the latest installment of a feud between Chappelle and his school that began after fallout from Chappell's Netflix special, "The Closer." In that special, Chappelle drew criticism for defending author J.K. Rowling and agreeing with her that there is a biological difference between men and women.
Though Chappelle brought in a camera crew, the 580 students who attended the hourlong Q&A session had to leave their cellphones elsewhere to prevent recording the event. Nevertheless, Chappelle's spokesperson Carla Sims confirmed statements that students and one parent made to Politico anonymously for fear of retribution by the school. And the event did not go well.
One student reportedly took to the microphone and called Chappelle a "bigot" and said, "I'm 16 and I think you're childish, you handled it like a child."
"My friend, with all due respect, I don't believe you could make one of the decisions I have to make on a given day," Chappelle responded, which annoyed some students, according to Politico.
"I'm better than every instrumentalist, artist, no matter what art you do in this school, right now, I'm better than all of you," Chappelle also reportedly said. "I'm sure that will change. I'm sure you'll be household names soon."
After another student shouted, "Your comedy kills," Chappelle came back with "[plural N-word] are killed every day," adding, "The media's not here, right?"
The father of one student told Politico, "As a parent, I have to say I have a real problem. ... He was being dead serious and using the N-word on the record. What kind of judgment is the school showing to allow that?"
"They are complaining that he talked and said the N-word. If anything, Dave is putting the school on the map," Chappelle's spokesperson Sims told Politico. In the past, Chappelle has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the school and brought in celebrities such as Bradley Cooper and Chris Tucker, the site noted.
Some students said they were afraid to speak up at the event because Chappelle answered all criticism with taunts and jokes, including making fun of a student who walked out of the event early, saying she "couldn't even entertain the idea of a conversation."
"He could tell we were nervous," one student told Politico. "It was a huge power imbalance of this grown man and his camera crew — and these 14- to 18-year-olds without their phones, just high school kids."
Supporters of Chappelle also were unhappy since Chappelle specifically requested people who were "discontent" to ask questions, leaving his backers left out, Duke Ellington spokesperson Savannah Overton Williams, told Politico.
Some students said, however, that Chappelle grew warmer toward the end of the hour, addressing death threats students have received for protesting its theater being renamed after him.
He said, "This is my family and whether they know it or not I love these kids. ... I don't want to hear about any threats to these kids. These kids don't deserve that."
"He was really kind," the student said. "If [only] he [had] acted that way the whole time. ... There was no reason to be mean to us. He was just laughing at kids."
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