John Mulaney faces backlash from LGBT+ audience members for surprise Dave Chappelle guest slot where he reportedly made ‘transphobic jokes’

John Mulaney (left), Dave Chappelle (right)

Comedian John Mulaney is facing backlash after surprising audience members with a guest opener from Dave Chappelle 

…who allegedly delivered some of the transphobic punchlines which have, of late, become his ‘comedic’ cornerstone.


During a stop as part of Mulaney’s ‘From Scratch’ tour on Friday (10 May), the comedian performed at Ohio State University’s Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio.


Unbeknownst to his audience, he had booked a surprise opening act in the form of Dave Chappelle.


Chappelle sparked huge controversy last year when, during a Netflix special, the comedian went on a rant about trans women, pledged his support for JK Rowling and DaBaby (you’d not be wrong for noticing a target trend here), and said that he considered himself a TERF (trans exclusionary radical feminist).


Chapelle has continued to prosper on the work front, despite the backlash and demands for him to apologize, but earlier this month when he was shockingly tackled onstage while performing at a ‘Netflix is a Joke’ event, he drew further controversy by joking that the assailant was a trans man.

Isaiah Lee, the man charged with attacking Chappelle, has since been charged with attempted murder for stabbing someone in a separate case. According to the DA’s office, the publicity surrounding the completely insane attack on Chappelle assisted the stabbing victim in identifying his alleged attacker.


However Chappelle’s guest appearance this week came as a shock to the crowd, not least to the LGBTQ+ attendees in the audience who bought tickets and were naturally not expecting him there on stage. 


There is no footage from the night, as folk were required to hand over their phones beforehand to avoid clips going on social media, but some did take to Twitter after to the show anyway. 



Of course, it’s not irregular to have guests on a comedy tour, and Chappelle is a working comedian, but the matching came as a shock to many as their comedic styles and brands are traditionally quite different.

Where Chapelle’s signature is to be intentionally controversial, sometimes derogatory, Mulaney’s act is typically uncontroversial and the comedian tends to stay away from political or social issues.

Mulaney’s brand of humor more often focuses on self-deprecating gags, anecdotes about his life and his personal struggles with alcoholism and addiction.


The problem here, quite obviously, is that nobody who paid for tickets to Mulaney’s show, in faith that they would have a good time, was expecting to see Chappelle and have a sh*t time. No one pays money and goes out of their way for something they are fundamentally against.


The annoying thing, if accusations of transphobic material are true, is that what could have been a positive opportunity for Chappelle show LGBTQ+ comedy-goers that accusations of him being ‘transphobic’ are simply untrue, instead ended up ruining some folk’s evening and potentially damaging another comics reputation in the process. 


He literally could have just not mentioned trans or queer people at all, given the history, and instead just told some funny jokes that everyone would enjoy. Take the piss out of people you’re confident all decent folk are agreed upon disliking – there’s a huge list to choose from.


For Mulaney, if you know that you have an active LGBTQ+ fanbase and if your name is, both literally and metaphorically ‘on the door’, why would you invite your fans down knowing they might leave feeling awful. It’s a violation of trust between artist and audience. 


Not one person who bought a ticket to that show expected to be, as the tweets suggest, surrounded by thousands of people laughing and clapping at their expense. People buy tickets to comedy nights to laugh. It is literally the job of the comedian to make people laugh. 

Some other comedians on social media were quick to jump on the topic shortly after it began trending, declaring that comedy goers could get tickets to their shows and not have to worry about a surprise appearance from Chappelle.


Funny though the tweets are, it actually is quite alarming that, in 2022, people need to check for ‘safe zone’ exemption clauses on public events simply so they can be confident that attending won’t result in their entire life being dismantled ‘in the name of comedy’ and in front of thousands of strangers.