Chappelle Is Not Transphobic

Monty Stites, Editor In Chief

“The Closer” by Dave Chappelle has been labeled by many groups and individuals as transphobic and harmful to the LGBTQ community. The hour of comedy is not hateful, but rather contemplative in many hilarious, and sometimes even depressive, ways while carrying on the tradition of transgressing the various moral majorities that is so characteristic of stand-up comedy. 


GLAAD, a LGBTQ media monitoring non-profit, posted this message on social media: “Dave Chappelle’s brand has become synonymous with ridiculing trans people and other marginalized communities. Negative reviews and viewers loudly condemning his latest special is a message to the industry that audiences don’t support platforming anti-LGBTQ diatribes. We agree.”


Firstly, Chappelle is not synonymous with ridiculing trans people because he doesn’t just ridicule trans people, he ridicules ALL people, especially those groups/communities who tend to take themselves too seriously. In his previous special released in 2019, titled “Sticks & Stones,” Chappelle jokes about topics including the “heroin addicted whites,” cancel culture, the Me Too movement, school shootings, suicide, abortion and LGBTQ, among others. 


Secondly, when GLAAD states that “The Closer” has “negative reviews and viewers loudly condemning” it, they aren’t entirely accurate. Taking a look at the critical reviews on Rotten Tomatoes as of Oct. 14, “The Closer” has a mean “tomatometer” score of 43 percent from seven reviews–not a large pool of data. Meanwhile the “audience score” has a mean score of 96 percent from more than 2,500 individual ratings–a respectable amount of data. 


So yes, Chappelle has received negative reviews on this recent special and both viewers and potential viewers have been making a fuss about it online. However, the special also has a very high audience rating from a large data set, suggesting that the vast majority of those who have watched it enjoyed it. 


Personally, I am among those who think that “The Closer” is a poignant and hysterical hour of observation and comedy. I’m also a sucker for large sample sizes in determining averages and therefore a 43 percent from seven reviews means nothing compared with 96 percent from over 2,500 reviews. 


A similar situation occurred with Chappelle’s aforementioned special “Sticks & Stones. As of Oct. 14, 2021, it has a mean “tomatometer” score of 33 percent from 17 reviews and a mean “audience score” of 99 percent from over 25,000 ratings. For Chappelle’s work, the audience score is always a greater metric for both quality and public reception. 

Before you formulate an idea of whether or not Chappelle’s “The Closer” is or is not “transphobic,” I urge you, watch it for yourself, and really listen to what he has to say. Only then can one form a full picture of what he means.