Dave Chappelle talks protesters after ‘devastating’ last-minute venue swap when Minneapolis club canceled him

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Dave Chappelle reportedly “teased” protesters outside the First Avenue club, where he was originally scheduled to perform but was canceled at the last minute. 

He then moved his act to a nearby stage at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis Wednesday night.

The comedian wondered during his act if the crowd gathered to protest his appearance would “still all be out there” outside First Avenue, but the local Star Tribune reported protesters had left when curtains called.

Chappelle, 48, also told his audience he thought the decision to move the show was “devastating,” and asked fans to continue supporting the nightclub known for being Prince’s hometown venue and being featured in the film “Purple Rain.”

“It’s an important place for our culture,” he said, via the Tribune.


Dave Chappelle reportedly “teased” protesters who stood outside First Avenue. The Minnesota club planned to host the comedian Wednesday night but canceled at the eleventh hour due to backlash.
(Getty Images)

A rep for Chappelle did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment

The comedian was set to perform Wednesday at First Avenue, but the show was canceled at the last minute following backlash. Chappelle has been at the center of controversy over his Netflix program, “The Closer.” 

Roughly 50 trans-rights protesters lined up outside of First Avenue to demonstrate against Chappelle’s gig before it was moved three miles away to another venue.


“I wasn’t expecting these kinds of numbers,” said Aaron Bell, a Chappelle show ticket holder who had been hit by an egg while standing in line. Onlookers believed the person who threw the egg was not part of the protest.

Industry leaders and comedy club owners voiced opinions on Chappelle’s latest cancellation as he continued to fight for artistic freedom following the Netflix program backlash. 

“I don’t feel like it’s right that people can tell other people what they can and cannot say,” Dani Zoldan, owner of Stand Up New York, told Fox News Digital. 

“If people don’t want to support him … if people are offended by some of his transgender jokes, they don’t have to support him. They don’t have to watch the Netflix special. They don’t have to buy tickets to their show.”

Protesters stood outside First Avenue alongside Dave Chappelle show ticket holders before the performance was canceled and moved to another venue Wednesday night.

Protesters stood outside First Avenue alongside Dave Chappelle show ticket holders before the performance was canceled and moved to another venue Wednesday night.
(John Reinan/Star Tribune)

“But to, you know, force management, who booked him in the first place, and put pressure on them to cancel is really unfortunate,” Zoldan added. “Comedians make jokes about everyone.”


“The Dave Chappelle show tonight at First Avenue has been cancelled and is moving to the Varsity Theater,” First Avenue’s announcement said. 

“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.”

The trio of performances in Minnesota was first announced Monday, and tickets to the first show sold out within minutes Tuesday. But some fans of the popular downtown venue voiced their opinions against the comedian, ultimately leading to the cancellation of the show.

In “The Closer,” Chappelle discussed controversies surrounding gender identity and has continued to defend his right to artistic freedom despite heavy backlash. 

First Avenue’s Twitter feed was bombarded with comments denouncing the initial decision to allow the comedian to perform after announcing Chappelle’s new shows.

Some cited the club’s code of conduct as enough reason not to book Chappelle. 

“The following behavior is not welcome at First Avenue venues: Acting or speaking in a discriminatory manner or using racist, sexist, ableist, transphobic, homophobic, xenophobic or other biased language, including intentional misgendering,” a venue policy states. 


A new Netflix comedy special from Chappelle was released under the radar earlier this month through the streaming giant and focused on a speech he gave at his alma mater after he declined an offer from the school to rename a theater after him following his transphobic joke controversy.

His lecture at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C., in November was the primary focus of the latest show, “What’s in a Name,” in which he recalled how the students reacted to transphobic jokes made in “The Closer” and how he had to defend his right to artistic freedom.

Chappelle graduated from the school in 1991 and returned in November for a surprise visit, during which students thought he would be apologizing for insensitive remarks made in the special.

Dave Chappelle's Minneapolis show was canceled at the last minute following community backlash for comments he made in the Netflix show "The Closer."

Dave Chappelle’s Minneapolis show was canceled at the last minute following community backlash for comments he made in the Netflix show “The Closer.”
(Mathieu Bitton/Netflix)


“When I heard those talking points coming out of these children’s faces, that really, sincerely, hurt me,” Chappelle said. “Because I know those kids didn’t come up with those words. I’ve heard those words before. The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it.

“And it has nothing to do with what you’re saying I can’t say. It has everything to do with my right, my freedom, of artistic expression. That is valuable to me. That is not severed from me. It’s worth protecting for me, and it’s worth protecting for everyone else who endeavors in our noble, noble professions.

“And these kids didn’t understand that they were instruments of oppression. And I didn’t get mad at them. They’re kids. They’re freshmen. They’re not ready yet. They don’t know.”

Despite his attempt to connect with the students and the general public, Chappelle last month declined the school’s naming offer for the last time. The building will instead be called the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression.

Fox News’ Larry Fink contributed to this report.

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