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‘He Handled It Well’: Dave Chappelle Opts Out of Having Theater at Former High School Named After Him Following ‘Closer’ Backlash

Comedian Dave Chappelle will forgo putting his name on a new performing arts theater at his former high school following the fallout from his controversial Netflix comedy special “The Closer.”

Instead, the space will now be known as the “Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression,” the Hollywood veteran told WRC-TV. The decision was made public Monday night during the theater dedication ceremony at Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington D.C., for which the “Sticks & Stones” star was in attendance. 

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 20: Dave Chappelle performs onstage during the Dave Chappelle theatre dedication ceremony at Duke Ellington School of the Arts on June 20, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Shannon Finney/Getty Images)

“Because to me, that’s what I would want for myself, and that’s what I would want for every student that goes to this school,” Chappelle said about the significance behind the new title. “And I do feel like if that’s threatened, then the society at large is threatened. Then if artists feel stifled, then everyone’s stifled,” he added. “I feel like artists have a responsibility to really be true to their art right now.”

During the event, the longtime funnyman addressed criticisms the student body held, making it clear that he was “sincerely hurt” by the backlash, HuffPost editor Philip Lewis wrote on Twitter.

The comedian also added that “No matter what they say about ‘The Closer,’ it is still [one of the] most-watched specials on Netflix,” before declaring it a “masterpiece.” 

As previously reported, Chappelle, who came under fire for his commentary on the LGBTQ+ community, was uninvited from a fundraiser event that was held at his alma mater in honor of the new theater after students expressed feeling “uncomfortable” that they were being made to show the star support amid his controversy. 

Chappelle noted that “these kids didn’t understand that they were instruments of artistic oppression” and “The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it.”

Online, critics applauded the star’s decision, including one Instagram user who wrote, “He handled it well. Now he won’t have to worry about the kids protesting it.” Another person added, “Love Dave. Always thinking to ensure his point gets across yet remaining blameless.”

“A BAR!” exclaimed a third supporter. “Naming it after the entire point they’ve been missing.”

Chappelle is Duke Ellington’s most recognizable alum and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the school over the years, bringing along several of his famous friends, including Bradley Cooper and Chris Tucker.

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