Some attendees who were looking forward to watch John Mulaney’s stand-up show in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday night were taken aback when Dave Chappelle opened the show with an anti-trans and anti-gay joke during a 15-minute surprise performance.
Many fans took to social media to express their anger at being “ambushed” by Chappelle, who has a history of mocking the LGBTQ community. Attendees told BuzzFeed News they were also disappointed with Mulaney for giving Chappelle another platform to malign an ”already marginalized” community.
“I’m just a little disappointed in [Mulaney],” Morgan, 21, who attended Friday night’s show, told BuzzFeed News. To protect her privacy, she did not want to provide her last name.
“It hurts to know that Chappelle’s transphobia wasn’t enough of a deterrent to keep him off the show," Morgan said. "I probably wouldn’t have gone, or I would’ve at least skipped the openers, if I knew Chappelle would be there.”
Phones and recording devices were prohibited at the event, so several attendees took to Twitter to express their displeasure after the show ended.
One attendee tweeted that Chappelle "ambushed" them at Mulaney's show with his anti-trans jokes, which the audience laughed at. The attendee claimed that Mulaney also hugged Chappelle at the end.
Chappelle, who was recently attacked onstage during his comedy show in Los Angeles, made a joke about the gender identification of his attacker’s weapon, according to Morgan. (The suspect was armed with a replica gun that could eject a knife blade, police said.)
“He made a joke about when he was attacked, how the guy had a knife that looks like a gun. Or the other way around. He then said that maybe it was a knife that identified as a gun. It reminded me of the ‘I [sexually] identify as an attack helicopter’ joke that transphobes make,” Morgan told BuzzFeed News.
Madison McAlear, 21, who also attended last night’s show, said that Chappelle’s set felt like conservative Facebook humor.
“He had a bit where he pulled out twin boys from the crowd and said they were jerking each other off and were gay with one another, which was weird,” McAlear told BuzzFeed News. “He only had about 15 minutes of stage time before John Mulaney came up, and I could feel every millisecond of it pass by. It dragged on for so long, it was exhausting.”
Many said they were upset and disappointed with Mulaney's decision to allow Chappelle to perform despite his history of making anti-trans and anti-gay jokes.
“[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.,” one attendee wrote.
“[Chappelle] was punching down on an already marginalized and institutionally abused community,” McAlear told BuzzFeed News. “It was embarrassing seeing a revered man in his craft become so tacky and boomer-esque.”
She added that the reaction to Chappelle’s set was mostly positive, though she was pleasantly surprised to hear audible shouts of disagreement after.
“It, unfortunately, makes sense — it was a low-hanging fruit of a joke in a red state like Ohio,” McAlear said. “In the end, he told the upset audience members to relax. The obvious grasp at trying to receive backlash and act shocked that he did receive … it was embarrassing.”
Mulaney is currently on a national tour for the first time since making headlines for his very public divorce from Anna Marie Tendler, who was the subject of many of his comedy routines. He began dating actor Olivia Munn soon after their split and a stint in rehab, and last year, he and Munn welcomed their first child together.
Though Mulaney himself did not make anti-trans jokes last night, people pointed out that he has many fans within the LGBTQ community, including some who were in the audience at Friday's show.
“The fact that John Mulaney, who has a very prevalent amount of young LGBT fans, had Dave Chap[p]elle open for his show tonight is just deeply disappointing and upsetting,” one person said on Twitter.
“My heart goes out to every trans person in that audience last night. Of which I’m positive there were many,” said another.
“I have a lot of trans friends, and I’m gay myself, so I was really disappointed that Dave was allowed to perform, given that he has a history of transphobic jokes,” Morgan told BuzzFeed News.
Some Mulaney fans also spoke about feeling let down over what they said was the comedian’s recent “fall from grace.”
But McAlear said that she’s still holding out hope for a statement from Mulaney addressing the criticism directed at him over Chappelle’s jokes.
“I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but it is nice that a lot of people in my conservative state [Ohio] don't agree with Chappelle’s TERF ideas,” she added.
Representatives for Mulaney and Chappelle did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.