Wanda Sykes criticises old friend Dave Chappelle for ‘damaging’ jokes about trans people

Wanda Sykes has criticised Dave Chappelle for making “damaging” jokes about transgender people in his Netflix stand-up special.

In 2021, Chappelle came under fire for the comments in his Grammy-winning Netflix stand-up special The Closer.

In the special, the comedian defended JK Rowling, who has also been criticised for her stance on trans rights, and said that he was “team Terf”, a term standing for trans-exclusionary radical feminist.

In a new interview with Variety, Sykes was asked if a joke in her new Netflix special defending trans people “balanced out” Chappelle’s set.

Explaining that she started doing stand-up in Washington DC with Chappelle, so the pair “go way back”, Sykes said: “Um, I don’t know about balancing it out, because I think what he said was so hurtful and damaging to the trans community.

“So yeah, the scale is still tipped, I will say, in their favour. But I know I wanted to say something, because so much has been said on that platform. I definitely want to [say] something on the other side of it.”

She explained that she hadn’t spoken to Chappelle about the subject, adding: “I mean, it’s not intentional – you know, I still love the guy. But I haven’t had a chance to talk to him. If our paths did cross, I totally would say something.”

Sykes on stage in her new Netflix special (Aaron Ricketts/Netflix)
Sykes on stage in her new Netflix special (Aaron Ricketts/Netflix)

Of being labelled a “woke comic”, Sykes said: “That’s fine. That’s great. What makes me laugh is that they say that like it’s an insult: “Oh, they’re woke.” Thank you!

“It’s not an insult at all. I mean, George Carlin, he was woke. Richard Pryor, woke. Bill Hicks, woke. It’s almost like they’re angry that we’re evolving. It’s sad, really.”

When Chappelle’s special was released, it prompted a series of staff resignations and employee protests at Netflix, while the streamer’s CEO Ted Sarandos defended the decision to release Chappelle’s special.

Wanda Sykes: I’m An Entertainer is on Netflix now.