Man Who Attacked Dave Chapelle Identified

By RUSS BURLINGAME 

Law enforcement officials have identified the man who tackled comedian Dave Chappelle at the Netflix is a Joke festival as 23-year-old Isaiah Lee. Lee’s motivation for the headline-grabbing attack, coming weeks after Will Smith stormed the Academy Awards stage to slap host Chris Rock after an offensive joke, remains officially unexplained. The two most popular theories at present are that it’s either someone seeking attention, or that it was politically motivated as a result of Chappelle’s political jokes about race and gender. Lee has been arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon.
 

Chappelle has become increasingly controversial in recent years as a result of jokes that are widely seen as transphobic — a reality the comedian reportedly acknowledged by joking that his attacker “was a trans man” in the moments after he returned to the stage. For his part, Rock — who followed Chappelle on stage — joked “was that Will Smith?”

Lee is currently being held on a $30,000 bond. early reports from NBC News Los Angeles, the attacker was carrying “a weapon that police say can eject a knife blade when discharged correctly.” Now, TMZ — who first reported Lee’s identity — are saying he was brandishing a replica gun with a knife attached to it. It now seems that the weapon was definitely intended for use in the attack, and not just something Lee was carrying, because police tell the tabloid site that Lee had pointed the weapon at Chapelle. It is also unclear whether the attack was provoked by something Chappelle said on stage, or whether the suspect went to the show with the intent to attack the comedian. Police are investigating how Lee managed to get the weapon through the metal detectors at the venue.

Chappelle was attacked while doing a set on stage at the Hollywood Bowl. As seen on various videos posted to social media, a man rushed the stage and tackled the comedian, but was almost immediately wrestled away from Chappelle and reportedly beaten by the comedian’s security team. Fans on social media made it sound like the beating was pretty brutal (and celebrities like Jamie Foxx and Busta Rhymes are said to have joined security in subduing Lee), but according to the Los Angeles Police Department, the attacker was admitted to a hospital with “superficial injuries.” Chappelle was not harmed.

After taking a brief break backstage, Chappelle returned to the stage to finish his set, joking about his increased security following his controversial Netflix special The Closer. That special sparked outrage on a number of fronts, including a walk-out by Netflix’s transgender employees after CEO Reed Hastings backed Chappelle against criticism and protests by LGBTQ+ advocates.

Dave Chappelle slammed for joking a ‘trans man’ attacked him on stage

Dave Chappelle was slammed on social media for joking that a “trans man” attacked him on stage Tuesday night.

After a man armed with a fake handgun tackled Chappelle in the middle of a performance at the Hollywood Bowl, the stand-up comedian turned to his audience and declared, “It was a trans man!”

Several attendees shared videos of the attack, which took place during the Netflix Is a Joke festival, as well as Chappelle’s subsequent backlash-inducing comment.

“Leave the trans community alone FFS [for f–k’s sake] – bulls–t/words like this are why the trans community are the most victimised, assaulted and abused 😡,” one critic tweeted.

“If you think I’m going to feel sorry for that transphobe Dave Chappelle, please don’t. The moment security protects him from the attack, he immediately jokes it was a transgender man (it wasn’t) — but it’s clear he will continue to put a target on trans people regardless,” another wrote.

Dave Chappelle
Dave Chappelle was slammed for joking a “trans man” attacked him at the Netflix Is a Joke festival.
Jed Simon

“Dave Chappelle was attacked on stage and the first thing he does is make a joke blaming trans people. I’m glad he’s ok but f–k Dave Chappelle,” a third Twitter user agreed.

“Nothing about the Dave Chappelle attack is fun. The attack itself. The beatdown. The ‘trans man’ quip. The reaction on twitter. It all just sucks,” one more concluded.

The Los Angeles Police Department confirmed to Page Six early Wednesday that the man accused of attacking Chappelle, a 23-year-old named Isaiah Lee, was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon. A spokesperson said Lee was carrying a replica gun with a blade inside of it.

The incident occurred moments after Chappelle, 48, told the crowd that he needed to ramp up his security team in the wake of his remarks last year about the transgender community.

In his Netflix special “The Closer,” which was released in October 2021, the “Chappelle’s Show” alum sided with “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling as “team TERF,” an acronym for “Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist” that is used to describe people who believe a trans woman’s gender identity is not legitimate.

Dave Chappelle talking into a microphone.
Chappelle previously came under fire for his Netflix special “The Closer.”
Getty Images for Netflix

Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos rejected widespread calls to remove the special from the streaming service, citing Chappelle’s freedom of artistic expression.

The comic later released a video addressing the trans community, saying in part, “I am more than willing to give you an audience, but you will not summon me. I am not bending to anyone’s demands.”

 

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