Wanda Sykes criticizes Dave Chappelle’s anti-trans jokes: ‘So hurtful and damaging’

Wanda Sykes smiles in a black patterned suit.
Wanda Sykes discussed the state of comedy in a new interview.
(Richard Shotwell / Invision / Associated Press)
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Wanda Sykes has declared her support for the transgender community and criticized Dave Chappelle‘s transphobic material in a recent interview reflecting on the state of the comedy industry.

In a Q&A with Variety, Sykes explained her decision to speak out against legislation targeting trans people and other members of the LGBTQ+ community in her latest Netflix stand-up special, “I’m an Entertainer,” and took pride in being labeled a “woke” comedian.

Asked if she believes her “comedy about the topic perhaps balances out” the anti-trans rhetoric in Chappelle’s 2021 Netflix special, Sykes said, “I don’t know about balancing it out, because I think what he said was so hurtful and damaging to the trans community.”


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“So yeah, the scale is still tipped, I will say, in their favor,” she continued. “But I know I wanted to say something, because so much has been said on that platform. I definitely want to [say] something on the other side of it.”

The “Other Two” star added that she hasn’t spoken to Chappelle, whom she has known since they “started doing stand-up together in D.C.,” in the wake of the controversy surrounding his special “The Closer” — which drew widespread criticism and sparked an employee uprising at Netflix.

“It’s not intentional ... I still love the guy,” Sykes said. “But I haven’t had a chance to talk to him. If our paths did cross, I totally would say something.”

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In “I’m an Entertainer,” Sykes jokes about the unhygienic horrors of women’s restrooms and gladly invites her “trans sisters into the ladies’ room” in hopes that cisgender women will clean up their act to impress “new members coming in.” The bit is intended to serve as a rebuke of laws prohibiting trans people from using bathrooms that match their gender identities.

“I’m not trans, but they have my support, 100%,” Sykes told Variety.

“I wanted to find something where I can shine some light on what they’re going through, to show how just stupid and hateful really it is. I was in a woman’s bathroom one time, and I was like, ‘Who would want to come in here anyway?’ ... And that’s how that whole bit started. I’ve always just been grossed out by bathrooms.”

Elsewhere in the special, the veteran comic also condemns legislation criminalizing drag shows in public and in front of minors and banning books from schools “to protect the kids” — arguing that lawmakers concerned about children’s safety should instead focus on banning assault weapons.


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“Until a drag queen walks into a school and beats eight kids to death with a copy of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ I think you’re focusing on the wrong s—,” she quips in the special.

While speaking with Variety, Sykes mocked those who weaponize the word woke in an attempt to tear down socially conscious comedians.

“It’s pretty funny,” she said.

“If you want to give me the label of a ‘woke comic,’ that’s fine. That’s great. What makes me laugh is that they say that like it’s an insult: ‘Oh, they’re woke.’ Thank you! Yeah, I read some stuff from time to time. Yeah, I know a few things. It’s not an insult at all. I mean, George Carlin, he was woke. Richard Pryor, woke. Bill Hicks, woke. It’s almost like they’re angry that we’re evolving. It’s sad, really.”