Dave Chappelle says he'll 'step aside' from school honor if critics donate more than his supporters: 'Talk is cheap'
Dave Chappelle is asking those who object to his former high school naming a theater after him to speak up with their checkbooks.
The comedian, 48, took to social media on Saturday to issue an ultimatum to both followers and detractors in the wake of backlash over his comments about the trans community in his Netflix special The Closer. In an Instagram post that featured a series of photos of Chappelle visiting the acclaimed Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Chappelle asked people to make donations to the institution nothing whether they object to or are in favor of school's theater being named after him.
"Talk is cheap (unless I do it)," he kicked off the post, which explained that while "having the theater named after me is a great honor," it wasn't his idea. Instead, he said it was at the request of the school's founder, Peggy Cooper Cafritz, and he intends to "honor that request" in April. But then, Chappelle explained the unique twist to his statement.
"If you object to my receiving this honor, I urge you to donate to the school, noting your objection. If you are in favor of the theater being named 'Chappelle,' I urge you to donate to the school, noting your approval." he wrote in text over the photo post.
Chappelle continued, explaining that "whichever opinion donated the highest collective dollar amount wins."
"If by April, those against the Chappelle theater exceed the donations of those who are neutral or in favor of the theater named Chappelle, I will gladly step aside. If not, I will happily attend the naming ceremony. And if you don't care enough to donate... please, shut the f*** up, forever," Chappelle concluded, signing the comment "Dave."
Earlier in the post, Chappelle spoke candidly about his feelings about the school, which he called a "glorious institution."
"Within those walls I found a context to explore my creativity seriously. Duke Ellington, in large part, prepared me to undertake this noble and difficult profession. It was a fine institution before any of its current occupants got there," he wrote. "God willing, it will be a fine institution long after their tenure is done. My only intent is to insure Duke Ellington the opportunity to train its artists, unfettered."
Video: Dave Chappelle slams students who labeled him a ‘bigot’ at alma mater
Chappelle made a visit to his former school shortly before Thanksgiving, Politico reported. The visit sparked a strong response from the student body. Addressing the Netflix controversy, one student reportedly called the comedian a "bigot" and added, “I’m 16 and I think you’re childish; you handled it like a child.” Chappelle reportedly responded, "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 is said to have later commented, “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. I’m sure that will change. I’m sure you’ll be household names soon.”
However, some students said that he softened as the engagement went on, particularly in response to any death threats the students were receiving when protesting his appearance. A student told Politico that Chappelle 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.”
Chappelle's earlier visit to his former high school was postponed in the wake of his comments about trans people in his Netflix special The Closer, which sparked threats of a walkout, Yahoo Entertainment previously reported.
In the special, Chappelle declared that “gender is a fact. Every human being in this room, every human being on earth, had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on earth. That is a fact." He went on to say that "In our country, you can shoot and kill a n*****, but you better not hurt a gay person's feelings."
Chappelle has earned support and criticism from a variety of other influential people. Last week, Kevin Hart, who has himself faced backlash over homophobic jokes, told the New York Times that Chappelle is a "good dude" without a "a hateful bone in his body."
"And I don't say that because it's hypothetical — I say that because I know him," said Hart, Yahoo Entertainment previously reported. "I know his world. I know that he embraces the LGBT+ community, because he has friends who are close to him from that community. I know that his kids understand equality, fair treatment, love. I know that his wife embeds that in their kids. I know why people embrace him."