Comedians often get away with a lot, and much of it flies under the radar. Such was not the case with Dave Chappelle, whose stand-up show in Minneapolis, USA, was cancelled this week and shifted to another venue, just hours before the comedian was set to perform. First Avenue, the venue it was set to be held at, announced that the show would not be taking place at their theatre, after receiving social media backlash for booking Chappelle, who has had his share of controversy this year after his Netflix special The Closer was criticised for transphobic jokes.
Comments like “Disgusting that you are allowing Dave Chappelle to perform at your venue when your guidelines specifically state no homophobic or transphobic language will be tolerated”, poured in on the venue’s social media accounts, resulting in them quickly cancelling the show.
While Chappelle had previously made a statement regarding the controversy, stating: “The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it. And it has nothing to do with what you’re saying I can’t say. It has everything to do with my right, my freedom, of artistic expression. That is valuable to me. That is not severed from me. It’s worth protecting for me, and it’s worth protecting for everyone else who endeavours in our noble, noble professions.”
Now while that response itself personally came across as entitled in its stubborn refusal to acknowledge, learn, and understand the thinking of the community that he used as the butt of his jokes, it has raised the question of how far is too far when it comes to comedy. Comedic relief is certainly a beautiful thing; it affords us the ability to laugh at the things we wouldn’t ordinarily find funny, and allows us to see things on the brighter side to find positivity where none exists.
But this tends to come at a cost. More often than not, comedians almost never know where to draw the line on sensitive issues such as race, gender, sexuality, and something as fragile as someone’s health. We must admit that is a tough job to do. Nevertheless, we as a society are changing for the better – and if this change means we start holding celebrities and comedians accountable for crude jokes that were last acceptable decades ago, then, according to the internet and the younger generation, so be it.
As a comment under First Avenue’s social media pointed out: “Celebrities who have been complaining about cancel culture are those who have built a career punching down on the marginalised in society and/or have taken undue advantage of the power that comes with their fame. These public reckonings have been a long time coming.”
It seems that the majority of social media users have taken to attempting to educate their favourite celebrities first and holding them accountable, before resorting to simply ignoring their content; emphasising the need for accountability in mainstream media, directing the media we consume to be more inclusive and considerate of modern times.