Dave Chappelle, the anti-transgender comedian, won the award for best comedy album at the 2023 Grammys, despite criticism and controversy over transphobic content in his Netflix special, “The Closer.” The Grammy was accepted on Chappelle’s behalf by presenter Babyface, while Harvey Mason Jr, the CEO of The Recording Academy, defended the decision for Chappelle’s nomination. “Our job is to evaluate the art and the quality of the art,” Mason stated. “We can make sure that all of our spaces are safe and people don’t feel threatened by anyone.”
Chappelle’s special, which was released in October 2021, faced backlash from artists and activists for its defense of rapper DaBaby’s homophobic rant and alignment with JK Rowling and “team TERF.” A Netflix employee walkout took place, leading to a statement from the company that it “understands the deep hurt that’s been caused.” However, Chappelle has continued to secure Netflix specials, and has referred to his critics as “transgender lunatics.”
The award for Chappelle’s controversial special has been met with disappointment and criticism, with many pointing out that this win is evidence that “cancel culture” does not exist. The award is also seen as a step backward from the Grammys’ recognition of transgender musicians, such as Kim Petras and Sam Smith, in the category for best pop duo/group performance.