Dave Chappelle waded briefly into the Israel-Hamas conflict at a show in Boston last week, drawing cheers from some audience members and causing others to walk out as he decried the humanitarian crisis unfolding at the Gaza Strip, according to news reports and a spokeswoman for the comedian.
The set was on Thursday, the first of a pair of shows Mr. Chappelle held at Boston’s TD Garden, and no jokes or commentary about the war had been planned, said the spokeswoman, Carla Sims.
Mr. Chappelle’s remarks were first reported by The Wall Street Journal, which said that some audience members had cheered Mr. Chappelle as he spoke about the conflict while others walked out. The Los Angeles Times reported that perhaps 200 people in the roughly 17,000-person audience had departed toward the end of the show.
“As a comedian and satirist, he has to navigate the complexities of competing truths, presenting perspectives that can be both thought-provoking and challenging,” Ms. Sims said of Mr. Chappelle.
People were not allowed to access their phones during the performance, and there was scant evidence of exactly what transpired during the set. But Mr. Chappelle was at one point drawn into the topic of the war by audience members and then focused on it for roughly eight minutes, according news reports and a person who listened to a recording of the set.
After initially declining to engage, Mr. Chappelle, who has not hesitated to address controversial issues in recent years, raised concerns about the way a group of Harvard students had been treated after writing an anti-Israel letter. At that point an audience member yelled that he should shut up, according to reports and the person who heard the recording.
Mr. Chappelle, apparently taken aback at an effort to silence him at his own show, told the person that he should shut up, according to news reports and the person who listened to the tape. He said the attacks of Oct. 7 were horrific and alsocriticized Israel for its role in displacing more than 1 million people, and withholding food, water and fuel. The comedian added that people on both sides of the conflict needed to self-reflect and consider how they were treating each other.
He eventually acknowledged that the person who had told him to shut up had been right to be angry, according to the person who heard the tape. But he encouraged people to talk to one another and emphasized that everyone should remember that human beings had been killed in the conflict.