Dave Chappelle has taken home the Grammy for best comedy album, marking his fifth win in the category.
The comedian won for his album “Dave Chappelle: What’s in a Name?” connected to the 2022 release of his Netflix special of the same name. This year, he was crowned the victor over competitors Wanda Sykes, Sarah Silverman, Chris Rock and Trevor Noah, who served as host at the 66th annual Grammy Awards.
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Chappelle’s victory is rooted in controversy, of course, as the surprise-released special consisted of a speech given at a naming ceremony at his alma mater, Washington D.C.’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts. At the time, the school planned a ceremony connected to its decision to rename its theater after him, which elicited a strong backlash due to his comments about the transgender community in his 2021 standup special “The Closer.”
During that ceremony, Chappelle announced that he did not want to have the theater renamed in his honor due to the controversy. “What’s in a Name?” captured the speech where he addressed the issues surrounding the incident at large, and discussed a prior Q&A with students at the school that got heated.
“All the kids were screaming and yelling. I remember, I said to the kids, I go, ‘Well, okay, well what do you guys think I did wrong?’ And a line formed. These kids said everything about gender, and this and that and the other, but they didn’t say anything about art,” Chappelle said. “And this is my biggest gripe with this whole controversy with ‘The Closer’: That you cannot report on an artist’s work and remove artistic nuance from his words. It would be like if you were reading a newspaper and they say, ‘Man Shot in the Face by a Six-Foot Rabbit Expected to Survive,’ you’d be like, ‘Oh my god,’ and they never tell you it’s a Bugs Bunny cartoon.”
In the end, Chappelle claimed that the Q&A affected him personally and that the students were overly critical of his “freedom of artistic expression.” “When I heard those talking points coming out of these children’s faces, that really, sincerely, hurt me. Because I know those kids didn’t come up with those words. I’ve heard those words before. The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it,” Chappelle said. “And it has nothing to do with what you’re saying I can’t say. It has everything to do with my right, my freedom, of artistic expression. That is valuable to me. That is not severed from me. It’s worth protecting for me, and it’s worth protecting for everyone else who endeavors in our noble, noble professions.”
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