Dave Chappelle’s Sticks and Stones may not be literally breaking our bones, but Pete Buttigieg thinks the comedian’s words are “straight up hurting people.”
As Out has reported, the comedian’s Netflix special included a barrage of transphobic and anti-queer jokes that upset many in the LGBTQ+ community. During the hour-long special, Chappelle says that trans people are “confusing,” implied that Kevin Hart should be allowed to say “faggot” if he pleases, and asked whether or not Lebron James would have to go to the WNBA if he “changed his gender” to female and in order to “score 800 points a game.”
In an interview with Good Luck America on Snapchat Discover, Buttigieg said Chappelle’s comments are out of order.
“I haven't seen the special, but I will say that there comes a point where you’re just straight up hurting people,” the South Bend, Ind. mayor said. “I don’t know what goal you're hoping to achieve. As much as there has been a lot of political correctness, there’s also this weird way in which it’s become fashionable to attack political correctness that I think has become its own weird correctness out there.”
During the discussion, host Pete Hamby specifically cites Chappelle as one in a number of comedic provocateurs who push the envelope by performing routines geared toward upsetting people. Buttigieg said it’s important to find a balance.
“Two things are true: One is that part of how comedy works is it challenges our conventions, it challenges our sensitivities and that’s part of what it can contribute,” he said. “Another thing that’s also true is hurtful things and hateful things often come at us in the form of humor. And we just have to learn how to handle both of those things.”
“When a piece of art that is out there to challenge conventions and does something that’s really harmful, then it’s time to turn it off,” he continued. “But we get to have those debates.”
The debate has raged on, with Sarah Silverman among the comics coming to Chappelle’s defense. In a September interview with the Los Angeles Times, Silverman, who has a track record of advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, characterized the controversy as part of a “mutated McCarthy era” where comedians have to walk on eggshells.
“It’s art,” she said. “It’s not politics.”
The continued controversy surrounding his Netflix special may actually be fueling ticket sales to his other stand-up shows. Chappelle’s surprise performance at Houston’s House of Blues last week quickly sold out, prompting the addition of not one but two more nights at the venue. He repeated the feat in San Antonio, where tickets to his pop-up show sold out in less than a half-hour. Some resale sites had them listed for as much as $400, as KEN5 reported. Two more dates were added this week.
But even as the blowback lines Chappelle’s pockets, Buttigieg maintained that all of us must pay attention to whether what we say and do is “helping” or “hurting” other people.
“Is what we are doing every day, whether you’re a politician or a comedian or an artist or a business person or whatever, are you doing more good than harm out there?” he asked. “And if you’re not, it’s time for some reflection and time for some adjustments.”
Last month, Buttigieg called out comedian Kevin Hart for dismissing the importance of gay rapper Lil Nas X’s coming out during a video clip from HBO’s The Shop: Interrupted, which many observers likened to gaslighting. As an LGBTQ+ person, the presidential candidate said he took issue with the fact that Hart “found it necessary to interrupt Lil Nas X, jump in, and let everybody know that he doesn’t care.”
“A lot of gay people hear that and hear something that might not be that different than what some folks hear when they hear somebody say, ‘I don’t see color,’” he told The Breakfast Club radio show.