MINNEAPOLIS — First Avenue canceled Wednesday's Dave Chappelle comedy show, citing public backlash surrounding the controversial comedian.
The Wednesday act will now move to Varsity theater, which says they will accept all First Avenue tickets originally purchased for the day. Two additional shows were already scheduled for Thursday and Friday at the venue.
In a statement posted to Twitter, First Avenue said in part, "We believe in diverse voices and the freedom of artistic expression, but in honoring that, we lost sight of the impact this would have. We know there are some who will not agree with this decision; you are welcome to send feedback."
Ticket sales for Varsity Theater's Thursday and Friday performances have been online since Tuesday.
A petition to bar the comedian from performing at First Avenue had earlier circulated on Change.org, saying, "Dave Chappelle has a record of being dangerous to trans people, and First Avenue has a duty to protect the community. Chappelle's actions uphold a violent heteronormative culture and directly violate First Avenue's code of conduct. If staff and guests are held to this standard, performers should be too."
Chapelle has become the subject of backlash in the last year for comments he made in his Netflix special "The Closer" about transgender people.
In a statement made in October 2021, the media watchdog group GLAAD said that "anti-LGBTQ content" violates Netflix's policy to reject programs that incite hate or violence. GLAAD called on Netflix executives to "listen to LGBTQ employees, industry leaders, and audiences and commit to living up to their own standards" in relation to Chapelle's comments.
At that time, a top Netflix executive said the special didn't cross "the line on hate" and would remain on the streaming service, despite the fallout.
Speaking with KARE 11 before First Avenue canceled Chappelle's appearance, Minneapolis City Council President Andrea Jenkins said she took more issue with Chappelle's prior comments about the trans and gender-nonconforming communities than with the venue's choice to book him.
Speaking to Chappelle directly, Jenkins, who is transgender, said, "Dave, I think you’re a brilliant comedian. I think you have an enormous platform and the things you say can have a positive impact on race relations or they can have very deadly, deleterious impacts on communities. The things that you say about trans and gender nonconforming communities is harmful, dangerous and deadly."
Still, Jenkins said she's willing to work with Chappelle "to understand how we can be more inclusive, more accepting and more knowledgeable about the trans and gender-nonconforming" communities.
"I would be the woman to help him write his next comedy special," she said.
We've provided First Avenue's full statement, below:
"The Dave Chappelle show tonight at First Avenue has been cancelled and is moving to the Varsity Theater.
To staff, artists, and our community, we hear you and we are sorry. 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 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. We know there are some who will not agree with this decision; you are welcome to send feedback.
If you are a ticket holder, look for an email with information on your ticket(s) transferring to the show at Varsity Theater."
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