Dave Chappelle, renowned for his bold and often controversial comedy, continues to navigate the complex terrain of transgender-related humor in his latest Netflix special, “The Dreamer,” which premiered on December 31. This follows the significant backlash he faced for his jokes about gender identity in his 2021 Netflix show, “The Closer.”
In “The Dreamer,” Chappelle revisits the previous controversy, reaffirming his stance on transgender issues. One segment that has gained particular attention on social media involves his recounting of a visit to Jim Carrey on the set of “The Man on the Moon.” Chappelle compares his experience of having to address Carrey as Andy Kaufman, whom Carrey was portraying, to his feelings about transgender individuals. This comparison has sparked varied reactions, with conservative commentators largely praising Chappelle, while others on the left have expressed disdain.
Chappelle’s humor in the special also extends to other sensitive topics, including a remark about shifting his comedic focus from transgender people to “handicapped” individuals, citing the latter group’s lack of organization compared to the LGBTQ+ community. Furthermore, he touches upon the idea of gender identity in the context of California prisons and recounts an onstage attack he faced in 2022 from an LGBTQ assailant, mocking the media’s response to the incident.
The special, however, has drawn criticism from various entertainment media outlets. Publications like Variety and Rolling Stone have criticized Chappelle’s continued focus on transgender topics, suggesting that his material in this area has become obsessive. Sean L. McCarthy, writing for The Daily Beast, expressed frustration over Chappelle’s persistent focus on the LGBTQ+ community, challenging the comedian’s choice of subject matter.
Chappelle’s response to the backlash from “The Closer” was firm, as he stated in 2021 that he was open to dialogue with the transgender community but refused to yield to demands. He attributed the attempts to cancel him to “corporate interests,” while claiming that he had received support from the LGBTQ community.
“The Dreamer” thus represents another chapter in Chappelle’s ongoing engagement with controversial topics, reflecting both his comedic style and the broader societal debate over the boundaries of humor and freedom of expression.