lIt wasn’t long before Dave Chappelle’s sixth Netflix stand-up special The closer, which fell early Tuesday morning, to make critics and some fans shake their heads in the afternoon.
The 48-year-old was quickly held accountable by the LGBTQ community for venturing into the controversy surrounding rapper DaBaby, who inexplicably spewed homophobic comments during his performance at Miami’s Rolling Loud festival over the summer.
Chappelle also took a stand for Harry Potter author became anti-trans activist JK Rowling. “Basically she said gender was a fact, the trans community went fucking crazy, they started calling her a TERF,” he said, adding, “I’m Team TERF. I agree. I agree, dude, gender is a fact.”
And as he began to close the show, Chappelle began a story about his friend and fellow comedian, Daphne Dorman—a transgender woman he befriended after bonding over their shared humor and ability to be a candid conversation about identity.
He had previously referenced their friendship in his 2019 Netflix special Sticks & Stones, and credited Dorman for defending him against similar admonition after some of his jokes in the set were labeled transphobic.
The crowd heaved a slight sigh when Chappelle stated that Dorman had committed suicide in October 2019, a few weeks after she stood up for him online. “I don’t know what the trans community has done for her,” Chappelle said, “but I don’t care because I feel like she wasn’t their tribe. She was mine. She was a comedian in her soul.”
Chappelle ended the show by declaring that he would pause jokes about the LGBTQ community until he and the LGBTQ community could laugh together again. “I’m telling you, it’s done. I’m done with it,” he concluded. “All I ask of your community, in all humility: will you please stop beating my people down?”
And while some have expressed concern that Chappelle could use his relationship as a cheap ticket to get out of jail to validate his earlier comments, Dorman’s family believes there should be no offense as it certainly isn’t. .
Two of Dorman’s sisters told The Daily Beast that they were outraged by the suggestion that Chappelle’s set was transphobic or derogatory towards the LGBTQ community, saying they wanted to make it clear that they supported the comedian.
“Daphne was impressed by Dave’s courtesy,” Dorman’s sister Becky wrote in a text message. “She didn’t find his jokes rude, rude, obnoxious, obnoxious, whatever. She thought his jokes were funny. Daphne understood humor and comedy – she was not offended. Why would her family be offended?”
“Dave loved my sister and is an LGBT ally,” Dorman’s younger sister Brandy added in a text message. “His whole set was begging for an end to this situation.”
“Dave loved my sister and is an LGBTQ ally. His whole set begged for an end to this situation.”
“Right now I feel like he poured his heart into that special and no one noticed,” Brandy wrote in a separate Facebook post. “What he says to the LGBTQ family is, ‘I see you. Do you see me? I mourn my friend in the best way I know. Can you see me? Can you allow me?’…This was a call to come together, that two oppressed factions of our nation put down their keyboards and make peace. How sad that this message has been lost in translation.”
Dorman, an activist, software engineer, and aspiring actress from San Francisco, had met Chappelle on the comedy circuit; he recalled in a “hidden extra” from Sticks & Stones that Dorman had “laughed the hardest” at some of his jokes that many considered transphobic.
The two developed a friendship, with Chappelle offering to give Dorman tips as she launched her stand-up career, even inviting her to open a show for him while he was in San Francisco.
Happy with the shoutout in Sticks & StonesDorman confirmed in an Instagram post that she was the woman Chappelle was talking about, happily panicking that her photo appeared after the photo of former President Barack Obama.
But as opposition to Chappelle grew, Dorman felt moved to speak out. “To lose weight you have to consider yourself superior to another group. He doesn’t think of himself as better than me in any way. He doesn’t hit up or down. He’s punchlines. That’s his job and he’s a master of his craft, ” she wrote, a line Chappelle repeated in The closer.
Dorman committed suicide on October 11, 2019 at the age of 44, and The closer was released a few days before the second anniversary of her death. “To those of you who are mad at me, please forgive me,” she wrote in a latest Facebook post. “For those of you wondering if you’ve let me down, you haven’t. For those of you who feel like I’ve let you down, I did and I’m sorry and I hope you’ll remember me in better times and better light.”
Becky wanted to make it clear that her family does not blame Chappelle for Dorman’s death. “After she committed suicide, all I saw on social media was Dave Chappelle bashing,” she said. “I’ve responded to so many messages, something I don’t do. I noted to defend Dave.
“No one knows what life was like for my siblings and for me,” she added. “We are products of how we were brought [up]. Dave was the biggest bright spot for Daphne; she was in love for the first time. Blaming Dave is more than wrong. He helped her and let her be comfortable as he talked to him. She had many demons; Dave Chappelle was NOT one of them.”
Becky confirmed that Chappelle had put the finishing touches on setting up an education fund for Dorman’s young daughter over the summer, adding that she planned to watch the special later that evening. “I saw his first special and was very happy for my sister and even more after we talked about it [it] together,” she wrote.
“The man loved my sister and felt empathy for her human experience and yes, he makes horrible jokes that are funny too,” Brandy added in her Facebook post. “Newsflash, our whole family does that. Our funerals are laughter with tears, we mourn by remembering the times we laughed together, and yes, some inappropriate humor too… As often as Dave stands up for Daphne, we’ll be there for Dave. This man is our tribe and we mourn with him.”