A standup comedy show by Dave Chappelle in Minneapolis, Minn., was canceled on Wednesday seemingly following complaints over the comedian’s transphobic material.
The show was originally scheduled to be at First Avenue where Prince’s film Purple Rain was set in 1984. However, only hours before Chappelle would have made his appearance on stage, the venue made an announcement of the show’s cancellation on its Instagram.
“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. 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,” First Avenue wrote.
The venue’s statement continued:
“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. We know there are some who will not agree with this decision; you are welcome to send feedback."
Chappelle has received criticism in the past for his transphobic jokes, but the recent controversy that led to the show’s cancellation arose out of Netflix’s 2021 stand-up special in The Closer. In the Emmy-nominated special, Chappelle made lewd comments about trans people and asserted that “gender is fact.”
Following the special, hundreds of Netflix employees staged a walkout. A trans employee, who also was a leader for the company’s resource group for trans workers, was sacked by the company for allegedly leaking information about Netflix to the press.
The show was canceled at First Avenue and was relocated to the Varsity Theater in Dinkytown. Already hosting shows on Thursday and Friday, the new venue was now taking on the sold-out Wednesday show, and guests would be given the option to transfer their previous tickets for the show at the new venue.
On Wednesday, protesters gathered at the Varsity Theater calling out Chappelle, according to local paper the Star Tribune. As fans lined up for the show, the protestors were debating with them and chanting “trans rights matter.”
At the protest, one participant, Badger, referenced the violence faced by trans people and told the paper, “Joking about [trans people] and dehumanizing them only adds to the danger.”
Last year was the deadliest year on record for trans and gender-nonconforming Americans.