The holidays just ended, meaning you may have done something you don’t do that often: spend time with people who don’t share your worldview. They can be family, they can be old friends, but whatever the case, you have to wrestle with the fact that they have opinions you may strongly oppose. Over the New Year’s weekend, Patton Oswalt found himself in such a predicament over his longtime friendship with “cancelled” (but not really) comedian Dave Chappelle.
On New Year’s Eve, Oswalt joined Chappelle for a surprise set in Seattle after the two realized they were doig shows in close proximity to each other. He posted a photo of the two, calling him a “genius that I started comedy with 34 years ago,” saying he “ended the year with a real friend and a deep laugh.”
Of course, Chappelle had a tumultuous 2021: He released a new Netflix special, The Closer, which was instantly condemned for its plethora of trans jokes. He inspired a revolt at the streamer, with employees even walking off the job in protest. Chappelle refused to apologize and even trash-talked some high schoolers after they called him out.
So when people saw Oswalt, an outspokenly progressive comedian, gushing about Chappelle with no mention of his controversies, there was enough of a pushback that Oswalt responded. Oswalt didn’t throw Chappelle under the bus. Instead, he grappled with a long, deep friendship with someone with whom he passionately disagrees on at least one major issue.
“I saw a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time this New Year’s Eve,” he wrote. “We’ve known each other since we’re teens. He’s a fellow comedian, the funniest I’ve ever met. I wanted to post a pic & an IG story about it — so I did. The friend is Dave Chappelle.”
He then delved into their history. “Thirty four YEARS we’ve been friends,” Oswalt wrote. “He’s refocused and refined ideas a lot of us took as settled about race & history & Life On Planet Earth and spun them around with a phrase or punchline. We’ve done bad & good gigs, open mikes & TV tapings.”
Then Oswalt discussed their differences: “But we also 100% disagree about transgender rights & representation. I support trans peoples’ rights — ANYONE’S rights — to live safely in the world as their fullest selves. For all the things he’s helped ME evolve on, I’ll always disagree with where he stands NOW on transgender issues.”
Oswalt was open to the idea that Chappelle could always change his mind, while comparing him with the friends he’s cut off in the past over disagreements such as this one:
“But I also don’t believe a seeker like him is done evolving, learning. You know someone that long, see the struggles and changes, it’s impossible to cut them off. Impossible not to be hopeful and open and cheer them on. Also, I’ve been carrying a LOT of guilt about friends I’ve cut off, who had views with which I couldn’t agree, or changed in ways I couldn’t live with. Sometimes I wonder — did I and others cutting them off make them dig their heels in deeper, fuel their ignorance with a nitro-boost of resentment and spite? I’m an LGBTQ ally. I’m a loyal friend. There’s friction in those traits that I need to reconcile myself, and not let cause feels of betrayal in ANYONE else. And I’m sorry, truly sorry, that I didn’t consider the hurt this would cause. Or the DEPTH of that hurt. I’ve been messaging a lot on IG today, and the back and forth has really helped guide me in the writing of this. I (naively) deleted a lot of posts in the comment thread — critical ones from LGBTQ writers AND s*it-posts by TERF/anti-trans orcs looking for clicks & giggles. I wanted a “nice comment thread” about the pic with my friend. Ugh. So easy to think someone ELSE needs growth and miss the need in yourself. Gonna keep trying.
On a lighter note, Oswalt also ended last year on a high note: a prediction he made about Boba Fett, the subject of the latest Disney+ Star Wars series, miraculously came true.