Comedian John Mulaney has come under criticism this weekend, after reports that he surprised audiences at a show in Ohio last night with an opening appearance from local resident Dave Chappelle, who proceeded to do some of his patented late-era comedy—i.e., transphobic jokes—for a crowd of people who thought they were just there to see the guy on the posters.
There’s no footage of Chappelle’s part of the Mulaney show—it was one of those comedy shows where they make you lock your phone away in a little baggie or somesuch, we gather—but Variety has a collection of tweets from people distinctly unhappy that Mulaney decided to “treat” them to a few minutes of the embattled stand-up’s latest commentary. (TMZ notes that Chappelle apparently referenced the odd weapon wielded by his attacker at the Hollywood Bowl a few weeks back, joking that it was “a gun that identified as a knife.”)
At the bare minimum, the argument understandably goes, nobody who bought tickets for a John Mulaney show was expecting to have to deal with Chappelle, or to have to hear god knows how many people laughing at and applauding a guy who’s made multiple statements attacking their basic rights and identity over the last few years. (Or to see Mulaney give him a post-set hug, as he reportedly did.) There’s also a general sense of frustration that Mulaney, typically viewed as politically inert at worst, would lend his reputation and platform to Chappelle in such a manner.
Chappelle has, after all, been at the center of a roiling controversy about his stance on trans rights and trans people for years now, which reached a peak with his 2021 Netflix special The Closer, in which he doubled down on statements that, for instance, trans women aren’t “real” women. Despite widespread anger from inside and outside the company, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos came out hard in favor of Chappelle’s god-given right to get paid several million dollars to have his transphobic views platformed to millions of people, a stance somehow characterized as “free speech.”(Netflix recently issued an updated statement of company values, telling its workers, “If you’d find it hard to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you.”)
Per Variety, neither Mulaney, nor Chappelle, have responded to requests for comment. A few other comics have, though; notably, Tim Heidecker issued a note to his fans today, stating that “I pledge no anti trans weirdo surprise guests on my summer tour.”