Dave Chappelle launches fundraising challenge to settle high school theater renaming dispute

"Talk is cheap (unless I do it)," Chappelle wrote in an Instagram post

Dave Chappelle looks on during UFC 264: Poirier v McGregor 3 at T-Mobile Arena in July 2021 in Las Vegas. (Photo: Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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Dave Chappelle wants to let the public decide whether or not the theater at his high school alma mater should be named after him, and he’s created a fundraiser for the school to let people weigh in.

“Talk is cheap (unless I do it),” Chappelle wrote in an Instagram post on Friday.

His quip came after yet another week of controversy over the 48-year-old comedy legend and the views he expressed about transgender people in his latest Netflix comedy special The Closer, which began streaming in October.

Dave Chappelle looks on during UFC 264: Poirier v McGregor 3 at T-Mobile Arena in July 2021 in Las Vegas. (Photo: Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Critics have characterized some of Chappelle’s The Closer jokes as transphobic. Some students at Duke Ellington School for the Arts in Washington D.C., where Chappelle earned his high school diploma in 1991, vowed to stage a walkout after the school announced plans to rename its theater after him.

In response, the school has postponed renaming its theater after Chappelle until April of next year.

One student reportedly called Chappelle a “childish bigot,” while another was quoted telling him “your comedy kills” during a confrontational visit to Duke Ellington on Tuesday that the comedian hosted to hear the students’ input.

On his Instagram account on Friday, Chappelle issued a fundraising challenge to his critics and supporters while pointing out that Duke Ellington’s high school founder, Peggy Cooper Cafritz, is the one who requested to name the school’s theater after him.

“In April, I intend to honor that request,” Chappelle wrote on Friday. “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.”

“Whichever opinion donates the highest collective dollar amount, wins,” Chappelle continued. “If by April, those against the ‘Chappelle’ theater exceed the donations of those who are neutral or in favor of the theater being 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.”

Duke Ellington school administrators did not immediately respond Sunday morning to a request for comment from theGrio.

Chappelle tried to make peace with LGBTQ advocates during The Closer after spending years discussing his views about “the alphabet people” and their alleged anti-Black racism during his stand-up shows. The Chappelle’s Show star discussed the lessons he’d learned from the late trans comedian Daphne Dorman before she committed suicide in 2019.

But Chappelle also identified himself as “Team TERF,” an acronym for trans exclusionary radical feminist, during the special. And he defended controversial views Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling once expressed about trans women. Chappelle also made a joke comparing trans women’s private parts to plant-based meat products such as Beyond burgers or Impossible burgers.

Critics and audiences are extremely divided about Chappelle and The Closer, which has received a 40 percent rating from critics and a 95 percent audience score from regular viewers on Rotten Tomatoes.

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