Despite protests, Dave Chappelle’s high school is finally dedicating a theater to him

A bald man wearing a plaid yellow shirt and speaking into a microphone.
Dave Chappelle at the 2021 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cleveland.
(David Richard / Associated Press)

After a recent visit to his former high school in Washington, D.C., took a tense turn, Dave Chappelle is going back for more.

On Monday, Duke Ellington School of the Arts is dedicating its theater to one of its most famous alumni after students at the school criticized the comedian in November. Some students’ concerns about Chappelle’s latest Netflix special, “The Closer,” previously prompted the school to delay renaming its theater after the performer.

In December, the school announced that it would move forward with the dedication in the name of “art as a free and open form of expression to both reflect and challenge society.”


“The debates among some Ellington students largely mirror those that exist across Washington, D.C., and the country as a whole,” the school said in a statement in December.

“The varying viewpoints expressed by students reflect differences of opinion across a wide variety of socioeconomic factors, including class, race, and gender expression.”

It’s unclear whether Monday’s event, “The Excellence of Ellington: An Evening With Dave Chappelle,” will feature a performance from the night’s honoree. The school did not immediately respond Monday to an inquiry from The Times.

Dave Chappelle dropped by D.C.’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts earlier this week and received a less than glowing reception from some students.

Nov. 26, 2021

The dedication comes several months after Chappelle returned to his alma mater in the fall to discuss his Netflix special “The Closer” and reportedly received a cold welcome from students. At the time, the comic was under fire for transphobic remarks he made during the special. Chappelle has doubled down on his material and continued to be accused of promoting antitransgender rhetoric.

In the wake of the controversy and despite many of its own employees openly protesting the special, Netflix has not wavered in its support of Chappelle, who headlined the streaming giant’s comedy festival earlier this year.

During his last trip to Ellington, Chappelle was reportedly told by one student that he handled the backlash to his Netflix special “like a child,” while another reportedly shouted, “Your comedy kills,” from the audience of about 600. According to Politico, Chappelle swiftly dismissed the students’ criticisms.


The Duke Ellington School of the Arts will proceed with naming its theater after alum Dave Chappelle, despite backlash over his recent Netflix special.

Dec. 1, 2021

On Sunday, the school invited its “donors, sponsors and friends” to attend “An Evening With Dave Chappelle,” which will include “an unveiling, theater dedication, and a production filled with surprises for Dave and the audience.”

“The naming comes in appreciation for his ongoing commitment and service to the school and advocacy for the arts,” the event description reads.

“Ellington’s co-founder Peggy Cooper Cafritz was a fierce believer in the transformative power of the arts and it was her hope that Chappelle would use his platform to bring more resources and attention to the school.”

The ceremony, which kicks off around 7 p.m. Eastern, is part of the school’s “Million Dollar Challenge” to raise $2 million for “pre-professional arts training” not funded by the local school district. Tickets to the dedication range from $250 to $450.