In 2021, Chappelle came under fire for the comments in his Grammy-winning Netflix stand-up special The Closer.
In the special, the comedian defended JK Rowling, who has also been criticised for her stance on trans rights, and said that he was “team Terf”, a term standing for trans-exclusionary radical feminist.
In a new interview with Variety, Sykes was asked if a joke in her new Netflix special defending trans people “balanced out” Chappelle’s set.
Explaining that she started doing stand-up in Washington DC with Chappelle, so the pair “go way back”, Sykes said: “Um, I don’t know about balancing it out, because I think what he said was so hurtful and damaging to the trans community.
“So yeah, the scale is still tipped, I will say, in their favour. 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.”
She explained that she hadn’t spoken to Chappelle about the subject, adding: “I mean, it’s not intentional – you know, I still love the guy. But I haven’t had a chance to talk to him. If our paths did cross, I totally would say something.”
Of being labelled a “woke comic”, Sykes said: “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!
“It’s not an insult at all. I mean, George Carlin, he was woke. Richard Pryor, woke. Bill Hicks, woke. It’s almost like they’re angry that we’re evolving. It’s sad, really.”
When Chappelle’s special was released, it prompted a series of staff resignations and employee protests at Netflix, while the streamer’s CEO Ted Sarandos defended the decision to release Chappelle’s special.
Wanda Sykes: I’m An Entertainer is on Netflix now.