During a Friday performance on his “From Scratch” tour, comedian John Mulaney surprised his audience — and drew criticism from some fans — when Dave Chappelle appeared as the opener and told transphobic jokes.
Chappelle’s opening set took place during a show at Ohio State University’s Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Although there was no footage from the event as attendees had to lock their phones beforehand, several members of the public later took to social media to criticize the show. According to attendees, Chappelle appeared as a surprise opener and told jokes targeting the transgender community. Mulaney reportedly took the stage and hugged Chappelle at the end of the first set. Some fans in the crowd expressed their disappointment after the show on Twitter:
my favorite part of tonight was when dave chappelle ambushed us at the john mulaney show, told a bunch of transphobic jokes, a huge stadium of people laughed, and then john mulaney hugged him at the end
— rylan ☻ (@testosteronejew) May 21, 2022
Ever heard about 12,000 people laugh at a transphobic joke, when you’re a trans person in the audience who didn’t know the transphobic comedian was making a surprise appearance on John Mulaney’s show? Yes. was not fun. fuck you dc
— rae (scariest version) (@raegan_givant) May 21, 2022
ok so tell me why did i just go to the john mulaney show and dave chappelle was a surprise opener and made not only a transphobic joke but also a homophobic one
— Maddie (@boobeoisie) May 21, 2022
Jokes about the transgender community have been a recent cornerstone of Chappelle’s stand-up comedy. The comedian first sparked controversy for anti-trans jokes on Netflix specials such as 2019’s “Sticks and Stones” and 2021’s special “The Closer.” “The Closer,” in particular, has faced groups such as GLAAD and the National Black Justice Coalition for derogatory jokes Chappelle made about trans women, as well as extended snippets where he defended anti-trans statements. Earlier this month, after being tackled at a Netflix Is A Joke event, Chappelle sparked further controversy by joking that the attacker was a trans man
Chappelle’s controversial and disparaging statements stand in contrast to Mulaney’s largely uncontroversial material. In his stand-up, Mulaney tends to steer clear of political or social issues, focusing his attention on self-deprecating humor, anecdotes about his personal life, and his struggles with alcoholism and drug addiction.
After Mulaney started following Twitter the next day following Chappelle’s surprise set, the comedians began to react in turn.
I promise not to have any weird anti-trans surprise guests on my summer tour.
—Tim Heidecker (@timheidecker) May 21, 2022
Dave Chappelle won’t come to my shows, if that’s what’s stopping you from buying tickets.
— Kyle Kinane (Charlotte NC 6/2-4) (@kylekinane) May 21, 2022
Representatives for Mulaney and Chapelle did not immediately respond to requests for comment.