Dave Chappelle performed Thursday night (February 14) to two sold-out audiences in Charlotte, North Carolina, informing the crowd from the beginning, "We have a lot to talk about."
I attended the first of the two performances and watched the comedian, fresh off a Grammy win for Best Comedy Album, make good on his opening comment, covering a span of topics that included the Kevin Hart Oscars controversy, his own critics in the transgender community, and the Jussie Smollett case.
He informed the crowd of breaking news, which was inaccessible to those of us in attendance, as he had employed the use of Yondr to lock up people's phones: Smollett had, in Chappelle's words, faked the attack against him to stay on Empire.
Chappelle joked that it made him so mad he wanted to break a dollhouse over the star's head, referencing one of the jokes that brought criticism to Hart.
At showtime it had just been reported that sources said there was reason to believe the attack was faked, but Chicago police tweeted out in response that there was "no evidence to say that this is a hoax." Fox also denied the rumor that he was being written off the show. It seems Chappelle had not received that information.
He questioned a number of elements of Smollett's story, saying he was skeptical from the beginning, despite wanting to believe him. Even Scooby-Doo, he joked, would have questioned the veracity of the actor and singer's account.
Chappelle suggested Smollett wouldn't be going to Subway late at night, asking if he didn't have people who could do that for him. He also said it seemed odd to him that someone would be wearing both a ski mask and a "Make America Great Again" hat, as some reporting claimed the two alleged attackers were wearing. Smollett has said that he never claimed the men were wearing MAGA hats.
Chappelle also wondered who would have rope with them in Chicago, and why he waited so long to report the incident to police, as well as why he would keep the noose around his neck. Smollett has said he didn't want to call police at first, and that he left the rope around his neck because he wanted them to see it when they arrived.
Smollett said one of the men asked him, "Aren’t you that faggot Empire nigger?"
Chappelle doubted that too, saying it sounded more like something he would say, and asked how anyone could get through watching that show if they hated gay people, due to its high level of LGBTQ representation.
He didn't buy that Smollett's alleged attackers would have shouted, "This is MAGA country!" either, as Smollett claims, saying that's not how white, Trump supporting racists talk, instead saying things like, "This is America."
He repeatedly expressed his anger that, in his belief, Smollett had lied about the attack, saying it would hurt the credibility of real victims of anti-gay and racist violence, and joked that he hoped "the gays" take the brunt of the blow back.
He noted that Kevin Hart, who won't be hosting the Oscars after all due to unearthed homophobic tweets and jokes, was probably watching the news laughing to himself. Hart had reached out to offer support to Smollett and was chastised by many who said it was an example of why he should have been more responsible with his platform.
Chappelle defended Hart, saying he was "obviously joking" when he said he would break his daughter's dollhouse over his son's head if he showed signs of being gay. He said that "believe it or not," he has plenty of gay friends who have told him how difficult it was to be open about their identities, but Chappelle said none of them ever related a story of abuse that severe.
Besides, he said, he would have to get him a dollhouse in order to break it over his head. This despite Hart's joke saying it would be his daughter's dollhouse that he'd be using.
Chappelle also addressed his critics in the LGBTQ community, which he called "the alphabet people," noting that transgender people in particular were upset with him. He said he didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings and felt bad when he did, but that he thinks people are only really mad at him "on the internet."
He said he's been told to look out, because transgender people are out to get him, but that whenever he seems a trans person, they greet him with a "Heyyyy!!!"
Chappelle told a story about his son befriending a young trans girl, whom the community, including the comedian himself, felt moved to protect. But one day his son said he was frustrated because whenever he and his friend disagreed, everyone sided with the trans child because there was an overall desire to protect her. He recalled telling his son "they" get on his nerves too.
He continued in that vein, saying just because someone is gay doesn't make them right about everything, and that he wants LGBTQ people to get their rights so he can go back to being funny.
The comedian also recalled being asked by Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen if he could ever host the Oscars, and telling them if Hart couldn't do it, he was certainly disqualified for the things he's said.
He closed out the set—which ran roughly an hour and brought out some groans and rumblings from the audience but mostly laughs and cheers—with this message: "If I ever get in trouble for the things I say, I’ll say it right now: I’m going to apologize. Just know, I’m not sorry."
Today, two suspects, Nigerian brothers, were arrested in connection with the attack on Smollett. They are being treated as "potential suspects," and one of the men worked on Empire, police report.