Dave Chappelle closes the show at Minneapolis venue First Avenue
Attendees planning to see Dave Chappelle at Minneapolis’ iconic First Avenue should head to the University Theater tonight. On Wednesday evening, the venue originally scheduled to host the comedian announced it was canceling the show hours before it was scheduled to take place.
Apologizing to their staff, artists and the community, organizers at First Avenue said in a statement that they “have to hold themselves to the highest standards.”
“We’re not just a black box containing people, and we understand that First Ave is not just a room, but meaningful beyond our walls,” the site wrote. “The First Avenue team and you have worked hard to make our locations the safest in the country, and we will continue that mission.”
Those planning to attend the show were to receive an email informing them of the comedy event’s new venue, the Varsity Theatre, two and a half miles away.
“We believe in diverse voices and the freedom of artistic expression, but in honoring it, we lost sight of the consequences,” the site wrote. “We know there are some who do not agree with this decision; You are welcome to send feedback.”
The cancellation and change of venue came as activists staged a protest outside the venue, which is now being moved to the university theatre. MPR News local reporter Grace Bernstengel said she spoke to “sick 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 it could not confirm whether employees had walked off the job to protest the show.
Representatives for First Avenue and Chappell did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone’s request for comment.
Chappelle has faced backlash for his transphobic jokes, most notably featured in an October stand-up special called The Closer. Chappelle called herself a TERF and said Caitlyn Jenner winning the “Woman of the Year” award was like BET giving Eminem the “N— of the Year” award.
The Netflix special led to a walkout by employees at the streaming service, demanding that Netflix acknowledge the harmful impact content such as Chappelle has on the LGBTQ community and pressuring the service to release more LGBTQ content.
At the time, Chappelle seemed to enjoy the controversy. A representative for the comedian said in a statement that he “stands by his art” but was apparently open to discussing the issues with the special. Perhaps the closest thing to that kind of conversation is D.C. It happened about a month later during a controversial question-and-answer session with students from Chappell’s former high school. The school had planned to name its theater after the comedian, and students expressed their concerns about the decision. In light of his jokes, Chappelle responded by calling them “immature”.