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 occurred during a show at Ohio State University’s Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Although there is no footage from the event, as attendees were required to lock their phones up beforehand, several audience members took to social media afterwards to criticize the show. According to attendees, Chappelle appeared as a surprise opener, and told jokes targeting the transgender community. Mulaney reportedly came onstage and hugged Chappelle at the conclusion of the opening 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 massive stadium of people laughed, and then john mulaney hugged him at the end
— rylan ☻ (@testosteronejew) May 21, 2022
y’all ever hear ~12,000 people laugh at a transphobic joke, while you’re a trans person in the audience who didn’t know the transphobic comedian would make a surprise appearance at the John Mulaney show? yeah. wasn’t fun. fuck you D.C.
— rae (spookiest version) (@raegan_givant) May 21, 2022
okay so tell me why I just went to the John Mulaney show and Dave Chappelle was a surprise opener and made not only a transphobic joke but a homophobic one
— maddie (@boobeoisie) May 21, 2022
Jokes about the transgender community have been a recent cornerstone of Chappelle’s stand-up. The comedian first drew controversy for anti-trans jokes in Netflix specials such as 2019’s “Sticks and Stones” and the 2021 special “The Closer.” “The Closer,” in particular, faced blowback from groups such as GLAAD and the National Black Justice Coalition for derogatory jokes Chappelle made about trans women, as well as extended bits where he defended previous anti-trans statements from rapper DaBaby and “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling. Earlier this month, after being tackled while performing at a Netflix is a Joke event, Chappelle drew further controversy when he joked that the assailant was a trans man.
Chappelle’s controversial and derogatory statements stand in contrast to Mulaney’s largely uncontroversial material. In his standup, Mulaney tends to stay away from political or social issues, focusing his attention on self-deprecating humor, anecdotes about his personal life and his struggles with alcoholism and addiction.
After Mulaney began trending on Twitter the next day as a result of the surprise Chappelle set, comedians started to react in turn.
I pledge no anti trans weirdo surprise guests on my summer tour.
— Tim Heidecker (@timheidecker) May 21, 2022
dave chappelle wont be dropping in on my shows, if that’s what was stopping you from buying tickets.
— Kyle Kinane (Charlotte NC 6/2-4) (@kylekinane) May 21, 2022
Representatives of Mulaney and Chapelle did not immediately respond to requests for comment.