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Dave Chappelle took aim at Jussie Smollett at a Thursday performance in Charlotte, N.C.
Chappelle joked that a report that the gay Empire actor faked an attack against himself "made him so mad he wanted to break a dollhouse over the star's head," an attendee of the standup set at the Belk Theater, Jeff Taylor, wrote in NewNowNext.
The joke referenced a tweet from Kevin Hart, whose resurfaced statement that he would slam a dollhouse over his son's head if he suspected he might be gay led to his stepping down as host of this year's Academy Awards. Chappelle defended Hart at his Thursday performance, saying he was "obviously joking" and likely now laughing at the controversy surrounding Smollett.
Chappelle had used Yondr -- a pouch that locks away mobile phones -- for attendees at the venue, so there is no audio or video recording of the set available yet.
While the audience was thus disconnected from the internet, Chappelle read breaking news about Smollett to the crowd, involving sources who said the Chicago Police Department was investigating whether the gay actor conspired with two men to fake an attack on him in the early hours of January 29. These reports were denounced by police soon afterward, which was not mentioned by Chappelle during his set.
However, the report did spur Chappelle to devote some time Thursday in his hour-long performance to questioning Smollett's claims, which he said even Scooby Doo, the cartoon detective dog, would have been skeptical of. Smollett told police he was attacked by two men who hurled racist and antigay slurs at him, screamed "MAGA," beat him, poured an unknown liquid on his body, and hung a rope around his neck.
Smollett never said his attackers were wearing MAGA hats -- a refrence to President's Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan -- with ski masks, but Chappelle included this rumor in his listing of the actor's claims. Smollett did say one of his attackers asked, "Aren't you that f*ggot Empire n*gger?" Chappelle said it sounded more like a statement he himself would say, rather than an Empire viewer.
In his Charlotte set, Chappelle expressed anger multiple times that the Smollett case may discredit other victims of hate crimes, and joked that he hoped that "the gays" would receive the lion's share of the backlash.
Chappelle also addressed the past criticism he's received from "the alphabet people," his term for the LGBTQ community. The comedian has received backlash from the transgender community, in particular, due to transphobic jokes in his Grammy Award-winning Netflix specials.
However, the comedian dismissed this criticism as internet anger that he believed is not indicative of how most LGBTQ people feel the real world. When he sees trans people, he said, "They're just like, 'Heyyyy!'" Chappelle said, miming an enthusiastic greeting with a smile and a limp wrist.
Chappelle also relayed a conversation he had with his son Sulayman, who expressed frustration that others habitually sided with a transgender friend in disagreements. "Yo, son, they get on my nerves, too," the comedian said he confided to his son, as reported by the Charlotte Observer in its coverage of the event. Chappelle then delivered a message to his transgender critics.
"Just because [you're trans] doesn't make you right about every goddamn thing," he added. "You right about a lot of [expletive], but I mean ... just give these people their rights so I can say funny [expletive] again."
The Charlotte Observer reported that Chappelle's set was met with "raucous laughter" from the crowd. The comedian also acknowledged the insensitive nature of his remarks -- with a caveat.
"If I ever get in trouble for the things I say, I'll say it right now: I'm going to apologize," he said. "Just know: I'm not sorry."