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Dave Chappelle’s ‘The Dreamer’ ignites new trans joke controversy

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Dave Chappelle has stirred new controversy – again – for his jokes about the transgender community in his latest Netflix special, “The Dreamer.”

In the opening monologue, Chappelle describes a journey through nostalgia for his early career. However, the reflection quickly veers into familiar territory with several remarks targeting transgender individuals through an anecdote about late comedian Norm Macdonald.

Macdonald offered Chappelle an unexpected invitation to the set of “Man on the Moon” to meet his comedy idol, Jim Carrey. The joyous occasion takes a curious turn, as Carrey’s dedication to method acting embodies him as Andy Kaufman throughout the encounter.

“I wanted to meet Jim Carrey, but I had to pretend this n**** was Andy Kaufman. All afternoon. And he was clearly Jim Carrey. I could look at him and I could see that he was Jim Carrey. Anyway, I say all that to say: That’s how trans people make me feel,” Chappelle said, ending the anecdote with a punchline.

The unexpected comparison, while generating laughter, became a focal point for the ensuing controversy. Despite declaring the intention to move on from trans jokes, Chappelle threw in a few more, citing fatigue with the ongoing criticism.

“I’m tired of talkin’ about them. And you wanna know why I’m tired of talkin’ about ‘em? Because these people acted like I needed them to be funny. Well, that’s ridiculous! I don’t need you,” Chappelle said before adding “a whole new angle.”

“You know what I’m gonna do tonight? Tonight, I’m doing all handicap jokes. Well, they’re not as organized as the gays, and I love punching down.”

Punchlines and backlash

Chappelle continued about his attempt to “repair” his relationship with the transgender community with a satirical play because he said he knows “gays love plays.”

“It’s a very sad play, but it’s moving. It’s about a Black transgender woman whose pronoun is, sadly, n****. It’s a tear-jerker. At the end of the play, she dies of loneliness ’cause white liberals don’t know how to speak to her.”

The special also discussed his 2022 Hollywood Bowl attack by an assailant wielding a knife-discharging replica gun. He recounted his attempt to lighten the mood with speculation that the attacker was a “trans man” based on an article he read.

He further quipped that the attacker “had a knife that identified as a gun” and “I triggered them because I had done LGBTQ jokes, and it turns out this fella was a ‘B.’

Despite the dark humor, Chappelle emphasized that his intention was not to offend. Yet, he continued with a joke that knowing the attacker was bisexual, he “could have been raped.”

Chappelle’s history of incorporating LGBTQ humor into his specials, particularly those involving the transgender community, is well-documented. From “Deep in the Heart of Texas” to “The Closer,” his jokes have sparked heated debates and accusations of insensitivity.

The comedian made insensitive comments in “The Closer,” including declaring himself “team TERF” and making explicit jokes about trans women’s bodies. The release of the 2021 special sparked protests and walkouts among Netflix employees. Though the streaming platform initially defended Chappelle, CEO Ted Sarandos later acknowledged mishandling the situation.

Chappelle responded by complaining about “cancel culture,” even though he continued performing to sold-out audiences and maintaining his partnership with Netflix.

“The Dreamer” is Chappelle’s seventh Netflix stand-up special, which Rolling Stone’s review said was “not just tired but [also] uninspired.”

More from So.Gay:

In a blow to trans rights, Ohio House overrides veto for trans healthcare, sports participation

California Attorney General deems forced outing ‘unconstitutional’

Proposed Florida bill gives $35K fine for speaking against transphobia

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