Oswalt shared on social media that after finishing his standup show at McCaw Hall in the Seattle Center on Friday, he got a text from his friend of over 30 years — Chappelle — asking him to come to the nearby Climate Pledge Arena and be a last-minute part of his Dave Chappelle and Friends show. Oswalt did — and faced backlash for it amid Chappelle's Netflix transgender controversy.
"I saw a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time this New Year’s Eve," Oswalt wrote Sunday on Instagram amid the criticism. "We’ve known each other since we’re teens. He’s a fellow comedian, the funniest I’ve ever met. I wanted to post a pic & an IG story about it — so I did. The friend is Dave Chappelle. Thirty four YEARS we’ve been friends."
That said, "We also 100% disagree about transgender rights & representation," Oswalt wrote. "I support trans peoples’ rights — ANYONE’S rights — to live safely in the world as their fullest selves. For all the things he’s helped ME evolve on, I’ll always disagree with where he stands NOW on transgender issues. But I also don’t believe a seeker like him is done evolving, learning. You know someone that long, see the struggles and changes, it’s impossible to cut them off. Impossible not to be hopeful and open and cheer them on."
Oswalt called himself "an LGBTQ ally" and "a loyal friend," acknowledging, "There’s friction in those traits that I need to reconcile myself, and not let cause feels of betrayal in ANYONE else. And I’m sorry, truly sorry, that I didn’t consider the hurt this would cause. Or the DEPTH of that hurt. I’ve been messaging a lot on IG today, and the back and forth has really helped guide me in the writing of this."
He ended by admitting that he also "(naively) deleted" some of the criticism that appeared in the comments of his post showing behind the scenes photos with Chappelle — and said he regrets it.
"So easy to think someone ELSE needs growth and miss the need in yourself," he wrote. "Gonna keep trying."
On New Year's Day, Oswalt shared photos from the night before, writing, "Finished me set ... and got a text from @davechappelle. Come over to the arena he’s performing in next door and do a guest set. Why not? I waved good-bye to this hell-year with a genius I started comedy with 34 years ago. He works an arena like he’s talking to one person and charming their skin off. Anyway, I ended the year with a real friend and a deep laugh. Can’t ask for much more."
While he deleted some of the criticism from Instagram, he noted, there is still a lot to go around, including these via Twitter:
I understand valuing your long friendship,but I’m surprised you wouldn’t know your posts here & on IG hurt people that deserve better. Read through those saddened vs. those defending… that would be enough to make me uncomfortable.
— Tauna (@tauna79) January 1, 2022
Yo my dude. You’ve been such an inspiration to me especially when it comes to exposing the pain of loss. Chappelle has hurt the trans community consistently. You are such a champion for doing the right thing. This is really sad to see.
— Shannon McGrew 🎃🍭 @ Screaming Into the Void (@shannon_mcgrew) January 1, 2022
did you watch his special? his "my transphobia is okay because I have a trans friend" story was all about exploiting said trans friend.
— Doors In The Labyrinth (@joshloughrey) January 1, 2022
As a trans person and a fan of your work, this is extremely disappointing.
You've been open about your journey towards more empathetic comedy, so I ask you: please think about how this makes your trans fans feel.
— Cassie Stole Your Apes (@CassieCeleste) January 1, 2022
Wow. Starting 2022 by unfollowing @pattonoswalt. Didn’t see that coming.
— Brooklyn Stinson ☮ (@abandonedladder) January 1, 2022
Oswalt's wife, actress, Meredith Salenger, also addressed the backlash on social media, saying they "understand where [people are] coming from."
— Meredith Salenger (@MeredthSalenger) January 1, 2022
Chappelle's Netflix comedy special The Closer was released in September and the star faced allegations of transphobia and homophobia over his remarks in it. They included Chappelle stating that "gender is a fact" and making fun of the genitalia of trans women. He also declared himself "team TERF," or "trans-exclusionary radical feminist," and defended Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling who has faced allegations of transphobia for years.
Some Netflix employees staged a walkout as the company backed the controversial comedian. Chappelle said he "stands by his art," and has mocked the controversy in subsequent shows and joked about being canceled.