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‘I Know Why People Embrace Him’: Kevin Hart Defends Dave Chappelle Following Backlash Over Comedy Special, Talks Academy Awards Fallout

Kevin Hart recently opened up about cancel culture after Dave Chappelle received backlash for seemingly transphobic jokes in his Netflix comedy special “The Closer.”

“That man don’t have a hateful bone in his body. And I don’t say that because it’s hypothetical — I say that because I know him. I know his world. I know that he embraces the LGBT+ community, because he has friends who are close to him from that community. I know that his kids understand equality, fair treatment, love. I know that his wife embeds that in their kids. I know why people embrace him. He’s a good dude,” Hart said in a Nov. 23 New York Times profile. 

Kevin Hart (left) defends Dave Chapelle (R) amid comedy special backlash. Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images, Samir Hussein/WireImage

Hart was questioned about Chappelle’s comedy special because Chappelle has since addressed the issue and defended himself and Hart for jokes Hart made a few years ago. In fact, the backlash Hart received back then was so great that he stepped down from hosting the Academy Awards that year in 2019.

Hart explained the big lesson he learned about himself during that time. “I can only relate because of what I went through. The difference in what I went through: I learned a lesson in ego. My ego blinded me where I couldn’t see what the real thing was about. My ego had me thinking: You want me to apologize? I already did. This is 10 years ago. Why are you asking like this is me, now, when I said these things?”

Hart truly believes in the goodness in himself and his friend and instead blames the industry itself. “That’s my brother. My relationship with Dave is one that I value, respect and appreciate. In our profession, it’s a crab-in-a-barrel mentality. There’s this perception that there can only be one star or one funny guy, and we’re always pitted against each other. When you have that confidence and security to embrace another talent and stand by another talent, it says a lot about who you are. Chappelle’s operating at a different frequency, man, and I couldn’t be prouder of him.” 

Hart wants comedians to support one another instead of constantly scouring their material and accusing each other of doing something wrong. “I think the media have an amazing way of making what they want a narrative to be. Within this conversation attached to Dave, nobody’s hearing what his attempt is. They’re hearing a narrative that’s been created. So the conversation is now amplified into something that has nothing to do with the beginning of what it was. That’s where it gets lost. Everybody needs to come down off the soapbox and get to a place of solution.”

It’s clear to Hart and Chappelle that older jokes or who they were in the past can come back to bite them. However, the culture of looking for anything incriminating is exhausting and hurtful in and of itself. “You can’t say that. ‘It’s just a joke,’ right? I understand why people would want that to be the case. But it’s not the case. If there is a joke, there’s an attempt to be funny. You can find a joke tasteful or distasteful. If you’re a supporter of a performer, then you’re probably OK with whatever’s happening. And if you’re not a fan, you’re infuriated and you’re outraged. Rightfully so — you have every right to be. You also have a right to not support it. But the energy that’s put into wanting to change or end someone, it’s getting out of hand.”

Hart went on to say that he isn’t a hateful person and that he has apologized in the past for jokes he has made that hurt people, including the LGBTQ+ community. He does believe that being in the spotlight makes him more on display for praise, but also for ridicule. “The one thing you have to be conscious of now is that words have impact. You have a choice to make, as a person who has a platform, when you speak. If you want to say things, that’s your right. With those things you choose to speak on, there can come backlash.”

With everything that’s been going on and with Chappelle, a good friend, trying to create a conversation about it, Hart has chimed in, too. Cancel culture has changed the way he approaches his comedy in a lot of ways and even anything he says while in the public eye. “I’m much more aware today than I was yesterday, and I’m conscious of the things that I say. I’m making sure that I’m on the side of understanding. That doesn’t take away my ability to be myself. It just means that in being myself, let’s just make sure we’re respectful in our approach,” Hart said. 

Hart is currently promoting his thriller on Netflix, “True Story,” where he stars along with Wesley Snipes.


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