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First Avenue surprised comedy fans Monday when the fabled downtown Minneapolis venue announced controversial stand-up comic Dave Chappelle was booked to perform just days later on Wednesday.
Tickets for the show are $129.50 and go on sale at 10 a.m. Tuesday through Axs.
Soon after the announcement, First Avenue’s social media followers responded with nearly universal criticism for booking the comedian who in recent years has made a series of jokes the LGBTQ community says are transphobic.
The nightclub shut down comments on Facebook, but not on Twitter, where dozens of people used profanity in their responses to express their anger. Local musician Katy Vernon posted the reply “Nope” along with a GIF of Jenna Fischer’s character Pam from “The Office” rolling her eyes.
Several other Twitter users pointed to the code of conduct on First Avenue’s website, which outlines behaviors not welcome at the venue including: “Acting or speaking in a discriminatory manner or using racist, sexist, ableist, transphobic, homophobic, xenophobic or other biased language, including intentional misgendering.”
First Avenue general manager Nate Kranz declined to comment when asked about the criticism.
In his 2019 Netflix special “Sticks and Stones,” Chappelle drew fire for telling his audience “you are never, ever allowed to upset the alphabet people” and revealing Comedy Central wouldn’t allow him to use a gay slur on “Chappelle’s Show,” his breakthrough sketch comedy show that ran for three seasons from 2003 to 2006.
Chappelle doubled down on his views in “The Closer,” which debuted on Netflix in October. In the special, he declared himself a trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF) alongside “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling. “They canceled J.K. Rowling – my God,” Chappelle said in the special. “Effectually she said gender was fact, the trans community got mad as s—, they started calling her a TERF … I’m team TERF.”
Some Netflix employees staged a walkout of the company’s Los Angeles headquarters in protest of “The Closer,” but Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos refused to make any changes to or remove the special from the streamer. In an October interview with Variety, Sarandos said “I want people to understand … that, going forward, it should be really clear that I support artistic freedom and the creators that work at Netflix.”
Chappelle’s specials are among Netflix’s most-watched content and the streamer reportedly spent $24.1 million on “The Closer,” which Chappelle has said will be his final stand-up special for the foreseeable future.
The comic has a history with First Avenue. Chappelle performed eight shows there in November 2013, when he emerged from an eight-year period spent largely out of the public’s view. He returned for a six-show run in the summer of 2016.
In November, Chappelle performed across the street at Target Center. It was part of a 10-city arena tour that featured a screening of a documentary about Chappelle’s efforts to host outdoor comedy and music shows in rural Ohio during the first summer of the pandemic. The evening also featured several other comics and an unannounced impromptu concert featuring Justin Bieber, Usher and eventually Chappelle himself.