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Comedian Dave Chappelle said Monday night that he refused to have a theater at his Washington, D.C. high school named after him amid controversy over jokes about transgender people on his latest stand-up show, according to informations.
The Duke Ellington School of the Arts had scheduled a dedication ceremony for Monday honoring Chappelle and his “continuing commitment and service to the school and the advocacy of the arts.”
The building will instead be called the Theater of Artistic Freedom and Expression.
Chappelle, who attended the ceremony, said he was “sincerely hurt” by the student reaction to his controversial Netflix special “The Closer” when he visited his alma mater in November.
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“I took a lot of cold blows in business … but that day they hurt me,” Chappelle told those gathered, according to USA Today.
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The comedian defended his particularity and his right to freedom of expression.
“No matter what they say about ‘The Closer,’ it’s still (one of) the most-watched specials on Netflix,” he said. “The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it. It has nothing to do with what you say I can’t say. It has everything to do with my freedom of artistic expression.”
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He said, when confronted by the students about the special, they “said it all about the sex…they didn’t say anything about the art.”
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Chappelle, who was a major donor to the school theatre, said he would be willing to put his name to the building in the future.