John Mulaney Gave Dave Chapelle Another Platform for His Transphobic ‘Jokes’
On Friday, thousands of people gathered at a Columbus, Ohio arena to see John Mulaney perform and found themselves ambushed by a surprise set from Dave Chappelle.
The audience was forced to lock up their phones so there’s no footage of Chappelle’s 15-minute set but some took to Twitter to share their experiences, saying he told the exact sort of anti-trans, anti-gay “jokes” you would expect.
y’all ever hear ~12,000 people laugh at a transphobic joke, while you’re a trans person in the audience who didn’t know the transphobic comedian would make a surprise appearance at the John Mulaney show? yeah. wasn’t fun. fuck you D.C.— rae (spookiest version) (@raegan_givant) May 21, 2022
okay so tell me why I just went to the John Mulaney show and Dave Chappelle was a surprise opener and made not only a transphobic joke but a homophobic one— maddie (@boobeoisie) May 21, 2022
the john mulaney thing happened in Ohio one day after the Ohio government debated HB454, which would forcibly detransition all trans youth, with discussion of detransitioning adults as well.— the selah system 🇵🇸☭ (@sintonal) May 21, 2022
Some people are choosing to defend Mulaney online, saying he couldn’t have known what Chappelle was going to say. But Chappelle’s transphobia has become a cornerstone of his comedy and thanks to the controversy around his recent Netflix special, which was jam-packed with transphobia and otherwise offensive “jokes,” that kind of content is arguably what he’s best known for right now. Inviting or allowing him to perform, along with the big hug audience members said the two exchanged afterward, is nothing short of an endorsement of Chappelle’s comedy from Mulaney.
This also isn’t the first time Mulaney has sprung a surprise Chappelle set on audiences. He did it just last month in Colorado.
This was a month ago, @mulaney saw DC sexually harass and verbally demean a disabled fan FROM THE STAGE and then invited him to another performance…this is even worse than him just randomly showing up https://t.co/4MQ2hEXv92— Tea Berry-Blue (@teaberryblue) May 23, 2022
Mulaney spent years carefully crafting a stage persona that was an enthralling blend of likable Nice Guy decency and acerbic cynicism. That image has been shifting lately, and that shift has been the source of a lot of debate. The disappointment some fans have expressed, mostly centered around Mulaney’s messy divorce, sparked online conversations about overinvesting in parasocial relationships. But this isn’t that. This is specifically about Mulaney’s work and fans’ reasonable expectations for what they’re paying to see.
It doesn’t feel like an exaggeration to say that Chappelle’s presence at this show is a kind of betrayal for many of Mulaney’s fans, who bought tickets to one very specific kind of show and were forced to watch something very different. Not all of Mulaney’s comedy is exactly “wholesome” but it’s certainly not hateful. You don’t buy a ticket to see the guy who created Sack Lunch Bunch expecting to be surprise-subjected to transphobia.
“don’t like chappelle’s transphobic material? don’t watch it” sure gets blown out of the water when he can just show up at a john mulaney show and fuck up your night— dr caitlin green (offense archaologist) (@caitlinmoriah) May 23, 2022
All in all, if this is the direction Mulaney is choosing to go in the next phase of his career, it’s disappointing. It’s also certainly an … interesting choice for him specifically, given the general makeup of much of his fan base.
John Mulaney deadass built his career thanks to queer teens/young adults turning his comedy into common quotes and memes, and he turns around and shits in their faces by bringing Dave Chappelle to one of his shows, tacitly endorsing his comedy and jokes— k a t h e r i n e ? (@sapphoswamp) May 22, 2022
do you think john mulaney really understands the ramifications and consequences of cutting himself off from the support of young queer people on tumblr who paste his jokes over anime characters— the joker for dinosaurs (KO-FI SKETCHES CLOSED) (@skarchomp) May 22, 2022
John Mulaney wouldn’t be shit without gay teenagers in 2014— 🌧️ Atlas Bunny/Butterscotch 🌧️ (@furbrains) May 23, 2022
(image: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for NRDC)
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