Attendees who had planned to see Dave Chappelle at Minneapolis’ iconic First Avenue will need to head back to the Varsity Theater tonight. On Wednesday evening, the place originally planned to host the comedian announced that it would cancel the show a few hours before the scheduled time.
Apologizing to their staff, the artists and the community, First Avenue organizers said in a statement that they must “hold themselves to the highest standards”.
“We are not just a black box with people in it, and we understand that First Ave is not just a play, but meaningful beyond our walls,” the venue wrote. “The First Avenue team and you have worked hard to make our locations the safest spaces in the country, and we will continue that mission.”
Those planning to attend the show were to receive an email with information about the comedy event’s new venue, the Varsity Theater, two and a half miles away.
We hear you. Tonight’s show has been canceled at First Avenue and is moving to the Varsity Theater. See our full statement for more. pic.twitter.com/tkf7rz0cc7
— First Avenue (@FirstAvenue) July 20, 2022
“We believe in diverse voices and freedom of artistic expression, but in honoring this we lost sight of the impact it would have,” the venue wrote. “We know that some will not agree with this decision; you are welcome to send comments.
The cancellation and venue change comes as activists staged a protest outside the venue, which has now moved to the Varsity Theatre. local journalist Grace Birnstengel with MPR News said she spoke with “upset employees” at the venue on Tuesday, some of whom were planning to call in sick the night of the show. A representative for First Avenue said he could not confirm whether the staff had called out of work to protest the show.
Representatives for First Avenue and Chappelle did not immediately respond to rolling stone‘s requests for comments.
Chappelle has long faced backlash for his transphobic jokes, particularly those featured in an October stand-up special, titled The closest. Chappelle called herself a TERF, and said that Caitlyn Jenner winning a “Woman of the Year” award was like BET giving Eminem an “N— of the Year” award.
The Netflix special led the streaming service’s employees to stage a strike, demanding that Netflix recognize the harmful effects Chappelle can have on the LGBTQ community while pushing the service to release more LGBTQ content.
At the time, Chappelle seemed to enjoy controversy. A statement from the comedian’s rep said he “stands to his craft” but was ostensibly open to discussing the issues with the special. Probably the closest thing to that kind of conversation came about a month later during a contentious Q&A session with students at Chappelle’s former high school in DC. The school planned to name its theater after the comedian, and as students voiced their concerns. in light of his jokes, Chappelle responded by calling them “immature”.
Last June, Chappelle returned to high school to once again address students as the theater was officially named the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression. “Rather than give my name to this theater, I would like to give my message to these students,” Chappelle said in a speech that now serves as his latest Netflix release, What’s in a name?