Venue cancels alleged comedian Dave Chappelle’s show over anti-trans ‘jokes’

Dave Chappelle wears a white button up shirt, dark suit jacket and has something sticking out of the jacket's breast pocket as he speaks into a microphone he is holding is his hand

Dave Chappelle’s sold-out show in Minnesota has been cancelled by the venue over backlash against the comedian’s anti-trans jokes. 

First Avenue in Minneapolis cancelled Chappelle’s performance on Wednesday (20 July) just hours before the comedian was set to step up on stage. Organisers decided to pull the plug on the show – which sold out all 1,550 tickets within minutes – because of backlash against Chappelle’s The Closer special. 

First Avenue announced on Instagram the now-cancelled show would be moving to another theatre after feedback from artists, staff and the community. The venue said it must hold itself to the “highest standards” and admitted it let down the community by booking the embattled comedian. 

“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,” First Avenue wrote. 

“The First Avenue team and you have worked hard to make our venues the safest spaces in the country, and we will continue with that mission. 

“We believe in diverse voices and the freedom of artistic expression, but in honoring that, we lost sight of the impact this would have.”


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First Avenue is the club featured heavily in Prince’s 1984 Purple Rain film and holds a special place within the community. Dave Chappelle has performed at First Avenue multiple times over his career, Deadline reported. 

First Avenue went on to outline what behaviours are not welcome at the venue, saying it has the “right to deny any person” who violates its code of conduct the “privilege of performing or attending” events. 

The code of conduct declared First Avenue doesn’t stand by “acting or speaking in a discriminatory manner or using racist, sexist, ableist, transphobic, homophobic, xenophobic, or other biased language, including intentional misgendering”.

Chappelle received searing backlash after spouting anti-trans views in The Closer, which debuted on Netflix in October. In the special, he described himself as “team TERF” alongside Harry Potter author JK Rowling, and made crude remarks about trans women’s bodies. 

Netflix employees and supporters staged a walkout at the company’s Los Angeles headquarters in protest of The Closer and to demonstrate solidarity with trans and non-binary people. 

Netflix staff, activists and supporters hold up signs in support of trans and non-binary people as they protest against Dave Chappelle's The Closer special and Netflix boss' defending the special

Netflix staff, activists and supporters gathered outside the streamer’s headquarters to protest Dave Chappelle’s The Closer. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty)

Yet, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos refused to remove the special from the streaming platform, make any changes to it or condemn it for “hate speech”

He told The New York Times in May performers need to “cross the line once in a while” to work out where the boundaries are. Sarandos claimed “nobody would say that what he [Dave Chappelle] does isn’t thoughtful or smart”, adding people “don’t agree with him”. 

“I think it’s very important to the American culture generally to have free expression,” Sarandos added. “We’re programming for a lot of diverse people who have different opinions and different tastes and different styles, and yet we’re not making everything for everybody.”

He added: “We want something for everybody but everything’s not going to be for everybody.”


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