Los Angeles police have arrested the man who attacked comedian Dave Chappelle onstage during the “Netflix is a Joke” Festival. 23-year-old Isaiah Lee was charged with assault with a deadly weapon after the LAPD allege he jumped on stage at the Hollywood Bowl, pointed a replica handgun with a knife blade attached, and tackled Chappelle. Police are still investigating a possible motive.
The attack was videotaped by audience members who snuck cell phones to the venue. Witnesses say during his standup performance, the comedian had spoken about the recent Oscars incident in which Best Actor winner Will Smith slapped presenter Chris Rock over a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences investigated the incident and banned Smith from all its events, virtually or in person, for 10 years.
During his routine, Chappelle reportedly said both Smith’s and Rock’s actions had resonated with him. Some audience members also posted video of Chappelle joined on stage later by actor Jamie Foxx and by comedian Chris Rock, another festival performer. “Was that Will Smith?” Rock asked, as the audience laughed.
Chappelle appeared unharmed, and continued his set, joking that his attacker “Was a trans man.” Earlier in the set, he said he felt attacked by transgender people who criticized his past material as transphobic. For example, in his Netflix special “The Closer” last October, Chappelle joked about trans women and their genitalia.
Witnesses say Chappelle disappeared from view at one point during his routine. When he returned, he said, “I’ve been doing this 35 years. I just stomped a [n-word] backstage — always wanted to do that,” apparently referring to his assailant.
The LAPD did not give many details about the suspect; they say Lee was injured while security guards detained him. He was seen leaving the Hollywood Bowl on a stretcher, with apparent injuries, and being booed by Chappelle fans. He was treated medically and remains behind bars at the Hollywood jail with a $30,000 bail bond.
This is not the first incident in Hollywood since the “slap heard ’round the world” at the Academy Awards. In March, a man reportedly pulled out a gun at a Hollywood comedy club attended by former world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson. In that case, the club patron reportedly said it was a joke, not a threat, and told Tyson he was a fan. The ex-boxer is said to have responded to him with a handshake and a hug.
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