Tonight, Dave Chappelle will host “Saturday Night Live” for the third time, an appearance that is generating controversy before he even takes the stage.
The comedian has drawn increasing ire in recent years for making jokes aimed at transgender people, and the outcry grew louder last fall when Netflix released a Chappelle special, “The Closer,” in which he dubbed your comments.
Netflix sided with Chappelle, who went on a national tour after the special and largely ignored the controversy after addressing it in his act.
But his comments were criticized by fellow comedians, fans, trans advocates and some Netflix employees, and a Minnesota venue canceled a Chappelle show this year because of the controversy.
Given that context, it was surprising some “SNL” viewers. see him guest again on Studio 8H. Here’s a look at Chappelle’s recent history of trans jokes, and the resulting backlash.
August: In a series of stand-up shows in New York City Radio City Music Hall, Chappelle made jokes aimed at trans people for at least 20 minutes, Vulture reported. He made explicit jokes about trans people’s bodies and referred to trans people as “transgender,” among other comments, Vulture said.
These weren’t the first jokes Chappelle had made at the expense of trans people. But then he delivered them to New York prompting some backlash for the above comments.
“This joke and others in this section suffer from the same problems as his specials: they’re rooted in disgust and generalization,” Vulture wrote of a Chappelle joke about ISIS fighters horrified by transgender soldiers. “They’re just not good.”
August 26: Netflix released a stand-up special, “Sticks and Stones,” in which Chappelle performed more material about trans people, including content from his Radio City shows. In an epilogue to the special, she talked about her friend Daphne Dorman, a trans comedian, who she said got the most laughs from her jokes about trans people.
October 5: Netflix released Chappelle’s special “The Closer.” In it, he goes on an extensive tangent about transgender people and makes several jokes at their expense. He confuses a trans comic, makes explicit jokes about trans women’s bodies again, and defends TERFs, or radical trans-exclusive feminists.
She also referred to trans people as “transgender,” claims that “gender is a fact,” and later says Dorman killed herself shortly after she was criticized by other trans people for defending Chappelle after “Sticks and Stones” .
At the time Chappelle’s special aired, at least 33 states had introduced anti-transgender legislation, much of it aimed at trans youth.
October 13: Amid calls from LGBTQ advocates, fellow comedians, Netflix employees and social justice organizations to do the special, Netflix sided with Chappelle.
In a letter obtained by the Verge and Variety, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos told employees that the special will be available to stream.
“We don’t allow titles on Netflix that are designed to incite hatred or violence, and we don’t think ‘The Closer’ crosses that line… Some people find stand-up art mean-spirited, but our members enjoy it, and it’s an important part of our content offering,” Sarandos wrote.
Netflix suspended three employees for attending a virtual meeting of directors to discuss the special without notifying the meeting’s organizer in advance. Among them was Terra Field, a trans senior software engineer who had publicly criticized the special and Netflix. His suspension was later reversed.
October 19: Sarandos told Variety that she has “messed up” her communications with Netflix employees, but reiterated that she did not believe the special qualifies as “hate speech.”
October 20: About 65 protesters, including Netflix employees and trans advocates, participated in a march to protest Netflix’s support of “The Closer.” Protesters called on Netflix to hire more trans and non-binary executives and fund more trans and non-binary talent.
October 24: Three trans stand-up comedians told CNN they were disappointed by Chappelle’s jokes, though all three said they once looked to the famous performer as a comedic inspiration. While they all agreed that jokes about trans people aren’t inherently offensive, they said Chappelle’s set was steeped in the same hateful rhetoric and language used by anti-transgender critics.
“When you talk about the trans community, you’re not talking about them, you’re talking against them,” comedian Nat Puff told CNN. “And that’s the difference between saying something funny about the trans community and saying something offensive about the trans community.”
A fourth comedian, Flame Monroe, one of the only trans comedians whose material is streamed on Netflix, told CNN that he believes Chappelle should be allowed to joke about trans people, even though some of his comments initially rejected.
October 25: Chappelle addressed the critics at a show in Nashville, appearing alongside Joe Rogan, the podcast host who has come under fire for dismissing the effectiveness of vaccines and using racial slurs, among other controversies.
Chappelle posted videos on his official Instagram account from the set, in which he appeared to address the trans Netflix employees who participated in the walkout for “The Closer.”
“I seem to be the only one who can’t go to the office anymore,” he said.
“I want everyone in this audience to know that even though the media is framing it as me against this community, that’s not what it is,” Chappelle continued. “Don’t blame the LBGTQ (sic) community for any of this.” This has nothing to do with them. It’s about corporate interest and what I can say and what I can’t say.”
“For the record – and I need you to know – everyone I know in this community has been nothing but loving and supportive. So I don’t know what all this nonsense is about.”
July 12: “The Closer” was nominated for two Emmys, including “Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-Taped).” Adele later won the category.
July 21: A Minneapolis venue canceled Chappelle’s sold-out show hours before its doors opened, apologizing to “the staff, the artists and our community” after receiving criticism for hosting Chappelle.
“We believe in diverse voices and the freedom of artistic expression, but in honoring it, we lost sight of the impact this would have,” wrote First Avenue, the venue famous for appearing in the movie “Purple Rain ” by Prince.
Rural area he joked on Twitter: “Wait, I thought I canceled it (sic). Is it possible to cancel culture, isn’t that a real thing?”
November 10: After the New York Post reported that several “SNL” writers are boycotting Saturday’s episode, Chappelle’s representatives told CNN there are no issues with the writers or cast members. Current “SNL” staff includes non-binary cast member Molly Kearney and non-binary writer Celeste Yim.
Chappelle will take the stage live on Saturday at 11:30pm ET.