Wanda Sykes Calls Dave Chappelle’s Transphobic Jokes ‘Hurtful and Damaging’

wandaxchappelle - Credit: Jon Kopaloff/GA/The Hollywood Reporter via Getty Images; Shannon Finney/Getty Images
wandaxchappelle - Credit: Jon Kopaloff/GA/The Hollywood Reporter via Getty Images; Shannon Finney/Getty Images

Wanda Sykes doesn’t mind if you call her a “woke comic.” Speaking to Variety ahead of the release of her I’m an Entertainer comedy special on Netflix, the comedian addressed controversy surrounding Dave Chappelle and his transphobic jokes.

During her special, Sykes called out some of the laws that aim to ban trans women from women’s restrooms

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“I knew that it’s such a delicate issue to talk about. I’m not trans, but they have my support, 100%,” the comic said. “I wanted to find something where I can shine some light on what they’re going through, to show how just stupid and hateful really it is.”

“I was in a woman’s bathroom one time, and I was like, ‘Who would want to come in here anyway? It was like, I kind of want to go check out the men’s room. Sometimes, it’s even cleaner.’ And that’s how that whole bit started,” she said. “I’ve always just been grossed out by bathrooms.”

Sykes asked if her joke in the special helped “balance out” the transphobia that Chappelle exuded in some of his recent specials, to which she said the “scale is still tipped in their favor.”

“I think what he said was so hurtful and damaging to the trans community,” she said. “But I know I wanted to say something, because so much has been said on that platform. I definitely want to [say] something on the other side of it.”

Chappelle has received backlash after he made transphobic jokes in several comedy specials.

In The Closer, Chappelle called himself a TERF (a trans-exclusionary feminist), insisted “Gender is a fact,” and said Caitlyn Jenner winning a “Woman of the Year” prize was like BET giving Eminem a “N— of the Year” prize. After that, Chappelle compared trans peoples’ genitals to plant-based meat substitutes. (The special’s airing led to protests by Netflix employees.)

In her conversation with Variety, Sykes shared that she had a long relationship with Chappelle, but that the two hadn’t had “a chance to talk” in a while. “If our paths did cross, I totally would say something,” she said.

Sykes also addressed how some comedians have been labeled as “woke comics” for their work. Sykes doesn’t care if people start calling her that.

“It’s pretty funny. If you want to give me the label of a ‘woke comic,’ that’s fine. That’s great. What makes me laugh is that they say that like it’s an insult: ‘Oh, they’re woke.’ Thank you!” she said. “It’s almost like they’re angry that we’re evolving. It’s sad, really.”

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