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Lenny Henry says Dave Chappelle would be ‘deserving’ Comic Relief host after stepping down

Lenny Henry says Dave Chappelle would be ‘deserving’ Comic Relief host after stepping down

Sir Lenny Henry has said that Dave Chappelle would be one of his choices to replace him as host of Comic Relief.

The comedian, actor and writer named the American comic, 50, alongside Doctor Who stars David Tennant and Ncuti Gatwa as celebrities he believes would be deserving of the gig.

Henry, 65, made the suggestion after announcing he was stepping down as host of the fundraiser, almost 40 years after founding the charity with director Richard Curtis in 1985.

When asked about who might succeed him in the role, he told Evening Standard: “Dave Chapelle, David Tennant, Ncuti Gatwa. There are so many people coming up that deserve our attention. There are a lot of people who could easily present Comic Relief.”

His choice of Chappelle may raise eyebrows as the comedian has caused controversy in recent years due to his frequent jokes about the trans community

In December 2023, Chappelle released a new special via Netflix that was filled with quips aimed at the trans community and disabled people. It followed another special, titled The Chaser, in which critics accused Chappelle of “transphobic” remarks, such as saying he was “team Terf” (trans-exclusionary radical feminist).

He was also widely condemned for claiming that the LGBTQ+ community was attempting to “destroy” the lives of celebrities such as JK Rowling by “cancelling” them.

The Closer controversy prompted a series of staff resignations and employee protests at Netflix, while CEO Ted Sarandos defended the decision to release Chappelle’s special.

Sarandos later admitted he “screwed up” in his defence of Chappelle’s special over his previous claims that on-screen content doesn’t cause real-world harm.

At the weekend, Saturday Night Live comedian Bowen Yang appeared to distance himself from Chappelle, who appeared on stage at the end of the latest episode.

Dave Chappelle has been criticised for jokes about trans community in controversial Netflix specials (Netflix)
Dave Chappelle has been criticised for jokes about trans community in controversial Netflix specials (Netflix)

Yang, who has been a cast member on the sketch show since 2019, stood noticeably apart from the crowd on the other side of the stage, with a video that went viral on X/Twitter showing him seemingly alerting co-star Sarah Sherman to Chappelle’s presence.

Henry, speaking about his decision to step down as host of Comic Relief, told Evening Standard: “When we first started Comic Relief back in 1985, I never dreamed we’d still be here today,” he added.

“I thought we’d probably do three shows and that would be it, but fast-forward nearly 40 years, and that enthusiasm and determination to step up and help others has never wavered.”

This year’s Comic Relief will feature sketches featuring presenters Alex Jones, Alison Hammond and Davina McCall, actor Dame Joan Collins, comedian Rosie Jones and music mogul Simon Cowell.