Dave Chappelle attacked by man with replica gun at LA comedy festival

·4-min read
<span>Photograph: Gaelen Morse/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Gaelen Morse/Reuters

The comedian Dave Chappelle was attacked during a performance in Los Angeles, according to witnesses and videos of the incident posted online.

Footage showed someone running on stage and tackling Chappelle during his performance at the Netflix Is a Joke festival at Hollywood Bowl on Tuesday night. The incident took place as the comedian was closing the show and thanking earlier performers including Chris Rock, Leslie Jones and Jon Stewart.

Chappelle, 48, was apparently unharmed and returned to the stage to finish his set, joking to the audience that the attacker “was a trans man” – a reference to the uproar his comments about gender had caused in the trans community.

According to Brianna Sacks, a journalist for BuzzFeed News who tweeted about the incident, several security guards punched and kicked the attacker. Video later showed an unidentified man with a badly injured arm being put in an ambulance.

Sacks said that the Hollywood actor Jamie Foxx went on stage after the incident looking “absolutely shocked”, and that the musicians Mos Def and Talib Kweli performed as vehicles from the Los Angeles police department (LAPD) arrived behind the stage.

NBC News Los Angeles reported that the LAPD confirmed they had taken a man into custody and that he was armed with a replica gun “that can eject a knife blade” when discharged correctly. It is unclear if the man tried to use the weapon.

The attack came after an incident in which Rock was slapped by Will Smith on stage at the Oscars after he made a joke about the actor’s wife. The slap prompted some comedians to question whether it remained safe to perform publicly. Others have written about poor audience behaviours since lockdown.

Sharon Carpenter, an LA-based journalist who was also in the audience on Tuesday, told the PA news agency: “It looked like someone dashed from the side of the stage, lunged at Dave, and all I saw was Dave basically flying in the air.

“He fell backwards on to his back, with his arms and legs up in the air. He was obviously in shock. We were all in shock. And I thought for a moment: ‘OK, is this a prank?’ because they had made some Will Smith jokes.”

Carpenter said Chappelle tried to keep the show going and made jokes about the situation, “but he was also pissed off about it … What was crazy too is that earlier in the night he made a joke about: ‘Oh, I heard people are getting slapped around here.’”

According to the ABC journalist Stephanie Wash, Rock came on stage with Chappelle. “Chris Rock, who performed earlier, came on stage w/ him & joked: ‘Was that Will Smith?’” she posted on Twitter.

The British comedian Jimmy Carr was also among those at the show and expressed his relief that nobody was seriously injured. Carr, who was at the centre of his own controversy earlier this year for a routine about the Holocaust, posted a selfie taken with Chappelle, adding that he was “just happy everyone’s OK”.

Chappelle has previously faced a backlash over comments about transgender people in his Netflix comedy special, The Closer. The comedian said “gender is a fact” and gave his backing to JK Rowling, who has also attracted criticism for her remarks about the concept of biological sex. Netflix employees reacted with anger to his comments and organised a walkout over the streaming giant’s decision to air the special.

A spokesperson for Hollywood Bowl said an investigation had been launched into the incident. She added that it was “an active investigation and we are unable to comment further at this time”.