Comedian Dave Chappelle told hundreds of black students at his alma mater that he “takes no responsibility” for his legacy, while his former teacher said the former Chappelle’s Show star has never apologized for his racist sketches from the 1990s.
D.C. University students were shocked to see Chappelle appearing at a stage set up in the athletic center, although he said he brought his wife, to “relax” about criticism of the school in Chappelle’s most recent stand-up comedy special.
“It was exhilarating, but it was also tiring,” Chappelle told the audience Thursday. “The world loves boycotts and rallies and that’s a circus. I don’t even want to be a part of it. This is the goal. To stay home.”
Chappelle received big cheers from the audience when he announced that he was a proud alum of the school, something he apparently forgot.
“I got to come up here just so you can shout at me for the rest of my life,” he said.
After his opening, the set became awkward, when one audience member got up and stood and shouted things like “You’re a racist pig!”
One university professor said Chappelle should have apologized.
“Chappelle did a sloppy job trying to put back together a little bit of his show but it was not enough,” said Roderick Hall, a professor of sociology and African American studies. “I would like to see him do this again. I would like him to apologize to this institution and make amends and return in a better way.”
The Chappelle’s Show was cancelled in 2003 after controversy about his high-profile guest stars including Bill Cosby and Reginald Denny. Cosby’s remarks at a 1997 stand-up show ignited the national conversation about the celebrity abuse allegations.
Chappelle also said the controversy over Cosby actually helped him get work after the show ended. “I was working in Chicago and I was told, ‘Hey, remember Dave? Me or one of your teachers and we can help you get in,’” he said.
Despite the controversy, Chappelle said he didn’t think he had tarnished the legacy of black people.
“I’m not ever gonna put that on myself,” he said. “I hate when people try to shame black history.”
“That’s why we have comics,” he said. “Just to make people laugh.”
Hall said his class had about 80 people attend the talk, and roughly half of them stood.
“Many people in this room had never seen anything like this and I was really impressed with how they related,” he said. “They didn’t really get it, but they were really excited to hear what Dave had to say.”
Hall said he thought Chappelle should have apologized.
“When you have something that resonates so strongly with the black community, you have a responsibility to explain yourself,” he said. “Some students really enjoyed it and applauded and moved out. Some people felt that [his remarks] glossed over the issues, but we all got to hear what Chappelle has to say.”