Dave Chappelle

Dave Chappelle has won the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album, for a speech he made defending artistic expression.

The comedian, aged 50, gained his fifth recognition from the prestigious academy on Feburary 5, for What’s In A Name – a 40-minute Netflix show taken from a speech addressed at his alma mater, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington D.C.

Released in July 2022, the special was taken from a speech he gave at his high school the month before, which was meant to be celebrating the renaming of the school’s theatre after Chappelle, in which he defended his previously criticised work, The Closer.

Chappelle chose to not have his name on the theatre, which he helped build, adding he wanted the new name to be the Theater of Artistic Freedom and Expression. This came after receiving criticism from current students at the school.

Dave Chappelle
Dave Chappelle unveils the new name of the theatre during the Dave Chappelle theatre dedication ceremony at Duke Ellington School of the Arts on June 20, 2022 in Washington, DC. CREDIT: Getty/Photo by Shannon Finney/Getty Images

In the Netflix special, Chappelle defended The Closer, which was criticised for its content about the transgender community, with Chappelle saying he’s “on team TERF,” which stands for ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminist’.

The material in The Closer prompted backlash from current students at his alma mater, who called Chappelle a “bigot” and “childish”. Since the ceremony, which was initially supposed to take place in November 2021, many students have criticised The Closer, making remarks which reportedly “sincerely hurt” Chappelle.

In the June speech featured in What’s In A Name, Chappelle said: “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.”

According to HuffPost Deputy Editor, Philip Lewis, he reportedly added in response to the backlash: “No matter what they say about The Closer, it is still [one of the] most watched specials on Netflix.” The Closer was awarded Best Comedy Album at the 2023 Grammys.

His win for What’s In A Name at the 2024 Grammys saw Chappelle beating entries from Wanda Sykes, Sarah Silverman, Trevor Noah and Chris Rock. Chappelle was not in attendance at the ceremony, so his award was accepted by presenter Rufus Wainwright.

Last month, comedian Kevin Hart told critics of Chappelle to “just not watch” him.

The post Dave Chappelle wins Grammy for speech defending artistic expression despite backlash appeared first on NME.


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