“We believe in diverse voices and the freedom of artistic expression, but in honoring that, we lost sight of the impact this would have,” the venue said in a statement.
The fallout from Dave Chappelle’s transphobic jokes continued this week, as a venue in Minnesota has canceled the comedian’s show and sent him to perform elsewhere.
Minneapolis’ revered First Avenue released a statement on Wednesday, Jul. 20 announcing that they were canceling Chappelle’s performance that was scheduled for that night. The concert was instead moved to Varsity Theatre, where Chappelle had other shows already lined up. He’s faced criticism since his transphobic jokes in his Netflix special The Closer, and that backlash continued on social media around his performance in Minneapolis.
First Avenue’s statement apologized to staff, artists, and community members for having booked Chappelle in the first place, takes pride in the venue having a reputation as safe and inclusive, and speaks to the impact of bringing him there.
“We know we must hold ourselves to the highest standards, and we know we let you down. 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,” the statement reads. “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.”
So far, it has seemed like despite the criticism, Chappelle couldn’t be canceled: Netflix has continued to bankroll his efforts (the platform just released What’s In A Name, a recording of a speech Chappelle gave at his alma mater the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, earlier this month), and his shows have kept selling tickets. But there have been chinks in his armor. Chappelle said last year that distributors and film festivals pulled their support for a documentary he created, and First Avenue’s cancelation this week sounds resolute. The actual impact on his career may not be clear until later.
But either way, Chappelle doesn’t seem to be budging. In What’s In A Name, he insisted that he’s going to stand up for what he feels is an assault on artistic freedom. “The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it,” Chappelle said. “And it has nothing to do with what you’re saying I can’t say. It has everything to do with my right, my freedom, of artistic expression.”