Chapelle's alma mater school, Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington D.C, had initially decided to rename the school’s theatre after the comedian. The decision of the school was harshly criticized following the controversy from The Closer where he was accused of making transphobic jokes.
Back in November, Chappelle held a session with the student body of Duke Ellington after The Closer was released and he was met with complaints from the LGBTQ+ community. Amid the fallout, a fundraising event that he was scheduled to attend was canceled after students promised to walk out in protest.
Chappelle spoke candidly about the encounter with the students in his new special and how it impacted his relationship with his alma mater.
“All the kids were screaming and yelling, I remember, I said to the kids, I go, ‘Well, ok, well what do you guys think I did wrong?’ And a line formed. These kids said everything about gender, and this and that and the other, but they didn’t say anything about art."
“When I heard those talking points coming out of these children’s faces, that really, sincerely, hurt me,” he added. “Because I know those kids didn’t come up with those words. I’ve heard those words before. The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it."
Chappelle also argued that the students didn’t judge his performance with “artistic nuance” but used talking points they heard on the news.
“And these kids didn’t understand that they were instruments of oppression,” he argued. “I didn’t get mad at them. They’re kids. They’re freshmen. They’re not ready yet.”
At the conclusion of his speech, Chappelle declined to have his name placed on the theatre, to avoid any further controversy. Then, he unveiled the new name for the space—the Theatre for Artistic Freedom and Expression—adding “and when and if you’re ever ready, you can put my name right over the top of that.’
What’s In a Name is currently streaming on Netflix.