AceShowbiz - Dave Chappelle has backpedaled on naming a theater against him after plans for him to become the venue's eponym were affirmed despite his recent controversy. The comedian shocked everyone with the decision while he attended the dedication ceremony at his alma mater Duke Ellington School of Arts on Monday, June 20.
The 48-year-old, who graduated from the prestigious school in 1991, made the announcement during the lavish ceremony held in Washington, D.C. He attributed the decision against the naming of the theater after him to the backlash he received from students regarding his Netflix special, "The Closer".
While noting that criticisms against him weren't productive, he also stated that he didn't want his name to be on the theater if that would distract students. He said he made the decision on Friday. The theater will instead be called the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression.
Dave was criticized by members of Duke Ellington's student body in November 2021 when he visited the campus. At the time, some students confronted him about his dismissal of the criticism he's received from LGBTQ+ individuals. "I'm 16 and I think you're childish, you handled it like a child," one of the students said.
At the Monday night ceremony, Dave admitted that the criticism from the students "sincerely hurt me." He recalled, "I took a lot of cold shots in business… but that day, they hurt me." He stated, "The Ellington family is my family."
Still, Dave defended the special, calling it a "masterpiece." He argued, "No matter what they say about 'The Closer', it is still (one of the) most watched specials on Netflix. The more you say I can't say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it. It has nothing to do with what you are saying I can't say. It has everything to do with my freedom of artistic expression."
Dave said he opted not to reject, but rather "defer" the renaming of his school's theater in order to emphasize "the nuance of art" as well as "my right, my freedom of artistic expression" by instead renaming it the Theater of Artistic Freedom and Expression. The decision was met with applause and a standing ovation from the audience.
The school had initially made plans for a naming ceremony with Dave last year, but the dedication was postponed after the comedian came under fire for his jokes in "The Closer" which offended the LGBTQ+ community. Duke Ellington, however, remained firm on its decision to honor him with naming the theater after him, until the "Chi-Raq" star himself decided against it.