Dave Chappelle: The Dreamer (2023) | Transcript

Dave Chappelle is back with his latest comedy special The Dreamer, premiering globally December 31, 2023 on Netflix
Dave Chappelle: The Dreamer (2023)

“The Dreamer,” which was shot in Chappelle’s hometown of Washington, D.C., at the Lincoln Theatre, marks Chappelle’s seventh special with Netflix.

Stan Lathan, who directed Chappelle’s six other specials for the streamer, returns to direct “The Dreamer.”

Chappelle’s previous Netflix specials include “The Age of Spin” (2017), “Deep in the Heart of Texas” (2017), “Equanimity” (2017), “The Bird Revelation” (2017), “Sticks & Stones” (2019) and “The Closer” (2021).

“Dave Chappelle: The Dreamer” premiered globally on Netflix December 31, 2023

 The trailer, published by Netflix on December 25, 2023, is narrated by Morgan Freeman, who also makes an appearance alongside Chappelle.

“What do you dream about? Not the dreams you have in your sleep: the ones you hold in your heart. Don’t be intimidated by the audacity of your dream — be inspired by it,” Freeman says in the trailer. “What happens to a dream deferred? Lucky for Dave, he doesn’t know.” Unchanged: “What do you dream about? Not the dreams you have in your sleep: the ones you hold in your heart. Don’t be intimidated by the audacity of your dream — be inspired by it,” Freeman says in the trailer. “What happens to a dream deferred? Lucky for Dave, he doesn’t know.”

Watch the trailer below.

* * *

In a deeply reflective and often humorous monologue, Dave Chappelle recounts his journey from a struggling comedian handing out tickets on the avenue to a celebrated artist returning to the stage 24 years after his first HBO special, Killin’ Them Softly. He shares personal anecdotes, including the influence of his late artistic father and comedian Norm MacDonald, and his encounter with Jim Carrey. Chappelle addresses the controversies surrounding his jokes about the transgender community, asserting his decision to pivot from such material while wryly introducing a new target: the handicapped. He recounts an assault at the Hollywood Bowl, weaving in a narrative about his friend and fellow comedian Chris Rock, who experienced a similar public altercation. Chappelle draws parallels between their experiences, highlighting the unpredictable nature of fame and public scrutiny. He shares insights into his marriage, the surreal aspects of fame, and the complex interplay of identity and public persona. Chappelle concludes with a poignant meditation on dreams, sharing stories of Lil Nas X and others, and expressing gratitude to Washington D.C. for shaping him. He leaves the audience with a reminder of the fluidity and shared nature of dreams, asserting his place in the world with a sense of both humility and command.

* * *


– Henry David Thoreau




[audience cheering and applauding]

[audience cheering]

[Dave] All right. Almost 24 years ago… it was the last time I was on the stage in this room.

[audience cheering]

I was taping my first one-hour special. It was called Killin’ Them Softly. My girlfriend was sitting in that row, pregnant. She’s now my wife. The baby that she was carrying, my first child… I smoke weed with that n*gga now…

And what I remember most about that night was the pressure. Before the show, I had to run out on the avenue and hand out tickets to anybody who would take ’em ’cause I couldn’t even fill the fucking room. And, boy, what a difference 24 short years makes.

And right before that time, my father had died. He never lived to see me do it. And when he died, I was inconsolable. I thought I’d never smile or laugh again. And the only thing that got me out of that space was a comedian friend of mine, the late, great Norm MacDonald. That’s right, shout out for Norm. And what Norm did, which I’ll never forget, as he knew that I was the biggest Jim Carrey fan in the world. I’m not gonna go into it, but Jim Carrey is talented in a way that you can’t practice or rehearse. What a God-given talent. I was fascinated with him. And Norm knew that.

He called me up, and he goes, “Dave, I’m…” He says, “I’m doing a movie with Jim Carrey…” “Do you want to meet him?” And I said, “Fuck, yes, I do.”

It was the first time I could remember, since my father died, being excited. And the movie was called Man on the Moon. I didn’t know any of this. In this movie, Jim Carrey was playing another comedian I admired. The late, great Andy Kaufman. Yes, and Jim Carrey was so immersed in that role, that from the moment he woke up, to the time he went to bed at night, he would live his life as Andy Kaufman. I didn’t know that.

When they said, “Cut,” this n*gga was still… Andy Kaufman. So much so that everybody on the crew called him Andy. I didn’t know that. I just went to meet him. When he walked into the room we were to meet, I screamed, “Jim Carrey!” And everyone said, “No!” “Call him Andy.”

And I didn’t understand. He came over and was acting weird. I didn’t know he was acting like Kaufman.

Just like, “Hey, how you doing?”

And I was like, “Hello… Andy?”

Now… in hindsight, how fucking lucky am I that I got to see one of the greatest artists of my time immersed in one of his most challenging processes ever? Very lucky to have seen that.

But as it was happening… I was very disappointed. Because I wanted to meet Jim Carrey, and I had to pretend this n*gga was Andy Kaufman… all afternoon. It was clearly Jim Carrey. I could look at him and I could see he was Jim Carrey.

Anyway, I say all that to say… that’s how trans people make me feel.

Here we go.

Now, if you guys came here to this show tonight… thinking that I’m gonna make fun of those people again, you’ve come to the wrong show. I’m not fucking with those people anymore. It wasn’t worth the trouble. I ain’t saying shit about trans people. Maybe three or four times tonight, but that is it.

Tired of talking about them. You wanna know why I’m tired of talking about ’em? Because these people acted like I needed them to be funny. Well, that’s ridiculous. I don’t need you. I’ve got a whole new angle. You guys will never see this shit coming. I ain’t doing trans jokes no more. Know what I’mma do tonight? Tonight… I’m doing all handicapped jokes. Well, they’re not as organized as the gays. And I love punching down. There’s probably a handicap in the back right now ’cause that’s where they make them sit.

“I came here to laugh at transgender people.”

“I didn’t know this n*gga was gonna make jokes about us.”

“Come on, y’all, let’s get the fuck up out of here.”

Yeah, it’s about time somebody let these handicaps have it. N*gga met their match tonight. Fuck ’em.

One time I was on Capitol Hill, and I seen a handicapped congressman. Madison Cawthorn, that’s his name.

[woman] Oh!

He’s a Republican from North Carolina. And he was shocked ’cause I saw him and I go, “Hello, Congressman.” He didn’t even know I knew who he was. He turned… Then I just walked away. I wanted him to see me do something he couldn’t do. I skipped. That n*gga was mad.

He’s no longer a congressman. I don’t know if you follow politics. I’m not trying to be funny, but he lost his seat…

He ran a bad race. Oh, buddy, yes, he did. You know what he did wrong? He was running for Congress again, and this motherfucker tried to be controversial. He was on all them right wing podcast talking all that shit.

He was like, “Washington is worse than Hollywood.”

I was at home, like, “What?”

He said, “These people are disgusting. They have orgies and sex parties and drug parties.”

And I was thinking, “This n*gga sounds like Juicy Smoo-yay.”

He’s lying! Now, I don’t doubt that they do this kind of shit in Washington, but I doubt he’s seen it with his own eyes. Because who the fuck invites a paraplegic to an orgy? So this n*gga can roll around and snitch on everybody?


I said there’s only one reason you gonna invite him to an orgy. And you know what that is.

“Have at it, guys, I can’t feel anything. Let’s get this bill passed for America. One at a time, folks!

Oh, buddy. Yep, yep, yep. The other handicaps are the new people I punch down on. To be honest with you, I’ve been trying to repair my relationship with the transgender community. ‘Cause I don’t want them to think that I don’t like them. You know how I’ve been repairing it? I wrote a play. I did. ‘Cause I know that gays love plays. It’s a very sad play, but it’s moving. It’s about a Black transgender woman whose pronoun is, sadly, n*gga…

It’s a tear-jerker. At the end of the play, she dies of loneliness ’cause white liberals don’t know how to speak to her. Sad…

Speaking of n*gga… I’ve also been working on a book, and this is true. I’m rewriting the American Classic, Huckleberry Finn, from N*gger Jim’s perspective. It’s called The Adventures of N*gger Jim. That’s how the book starts.

Huckleberry Finn walks up to him and goes, “You’re N*gger Jim.”

And he’s like, “Yo, I just said ‘Jim.'”

“What’s your name, little buddy?”

“Huckleberry Finn is my name.”

“What? Huckleberry? That’s your real name?”

“God-given.” [exhales]

“You know what? Just call me N*gger Jim, it’s fine.”

I don’t care if you are Black or White or whatever. If you ever meet a white person named Huckleberry, he has less money than you. That is the white trashiest name I’ve ever heard in my fucking life. If you have a name like Huckleberry, you’re doomed to fail. If I was in court and my lawyer came up like, “I am your attorney, Huckleberry Finn.” I’d be like, “Uh-oh, I’m going to jail.”

God forbid I ever go to jail. But if I do, I hope it’s in California. ‘Cause soon as the judge sentence me, I’ll be like, “Before you sentence me, I want the court to know… I identify as a woman. Send me… to a woman’s jail.”

As soon I get in there, you know what I’mma be doing.

“Give me your fruit cocktail, bitch, before I knock your motherf*cking teeth out. I’m a girl, just like you, bitch. Come here and suck this girl’s dick I got. Don’t make me explain myself. I’m a girl”

You know, I have a great reputation in show business, but in comedy, I’m what’s known as a lazy comedian. Which is crazy ’cause I work all the time, but that’s not why they call me lazy. They call me lazy ’cause I do shows sometimes… Twenty thousand people be in the crowd, and I’ll tell a joke, and they’ll all look at me like I’m crazy. But three or four people will laugh really hard. And I’ll be on stage like, “Yeah, that’s good enough.”

Well, this next joke is one of those jokes that… You know what I mean? I like to tell it, but it never does good. But I’m gonna do it. Know what I don’t do good? I’m not good at impressions, but this is an impression. You ready? Okay. This is not gonna work. A’ight, this is my impression. It’s my impression… [exhales] of the dead people on the Titanic…

You didn’t let me finish. This is my impression of the dead people on the Titanic, as the submersible was approaching their ship.

That’s good enough. All right, here it goes. I… Okay, here it goes.

[trilling voice] Come join us in our watery grave.

[normal voice] Oh, buddy, that’s funny to me. Listen, that is a funny way to die. Twenty years from now, on my 70th birthday, I’m gonna take a submersible to see the submersible. Hopefully, by then it should work.

My wife hates that joke.

You know… Do you know there’s a strip club in D.C. called Camelot?

[audience whooping]

Is that still open?



I know what I’m doing after the show. I gotta tell you… the other day, my wife called me creepy. You know, I frequent strip clubs. It’s something I like to do. And my wife said I was creepy ’cause I go to strip clubs by myself. Is that creepy? I think that’s better than going with the fellas. That’s creepy to me.

“Hey, let’s all go to the strip club and get our dicks hard together as a group of friends. Drive home in a quiet car and not talk about any of the things we’ve seen or done.”

No, n*gga, I go by myself.

But my wife doesn’t understand why I go to the strip club. It has nothing to do with sex. I need a pinch of sexual energy in the room to relax, but it’s more about being out. I like the music. A few naked chicks in there makes me feel good, but I’m not trying to socialize or meet anybody. You know, sometimes I go to a strip club and I bring a book. I do, and I sit right by the stage ’cause the reading light is better.


One time I went to a strip club, and this is weird, I don’t know why… The stripper, for some reason, told me her real name. I know. So I left. She didn’t understand. She’s like, “Where are you going?” I was like, “Good night, Deborah.”

God bless her, but my wife is mistaken about my life. She told me once she thinks my job is fun. My job is a job. I’m fun. It’s too dangerous, man.

You know, all last year… I was touring with, arguably one of the greatest, if not the greatest living comedian, Chris Rock. Me and him toured all year last year.

And right before that tour started, Chris was involved in what we Blacks might even consider a goddamn 9/11. Chris got slapped in the face at the Oscars… by Will Smith, which was one of the craziest things I’d ever seen. In fact, if you watch it live on television, like I did, when it happened, I thought it was fake. I did, and I wasn’t sure. So, I waited ’cause unlike you, I know Chris. I waited 30, 40 minutes. As long as it’ll take him to get to another party. And I called him on FaceTime and he picked up. Soon as he picked up, he said, “Yous the only n*gga I’d answer the phone for.” Apparently, Obama and Oprah, everybody called this n*gga to see if everything’s all right…

And I thought it was fake. I didn’t know. So I asked. I go, “Well, you know.” He said, “What?” I said, “Did it hurt?”

He said, “Yes, n*gga, it hurt.”

And then I knew that it was real. And then, and only then, was I offended. I wasn’t just offended he got slapped. That was only half of it. The offensive part was after he slapped him, Will just sat down and enjoyed the rest of his evening. It was crazy. He was…


“Thank you.”

What the fuck is this?

And then all year we was touring, and I couldn’t wait to see what he was going to say in his special about this slap. I told him all year, but the night he taped his special… Chris is one of these guys who’s crafty. You never know what he’s gonna say until he says it. I went to see him tape his special. He taped it up the street, in Baltimore. Now, you guys are from D.C., so you know about Baltimore? We all know that through the years, D.C. has been through some very, very tough times. Sadly, Baltimore is still in a very tough time.

Not everybody in the world really can understand the depth of Baltimore. Baltimore is so desperate that… Tupac and his mother moved from Baltimore to Oakland for a better life. And Chris Rock went so hard on the paint. And I can’t believe he did this. He shocked a Baltimore crowd. I didn’t know that was possible. I started doing comedy here. Shocked ’em. And you know what he said that got ’em? He looked at the crowd… I didn’t expect him to say this. He looked the crowds. All Black. Baltimore Black…

Even if you rich and Black in Baltimore, you know them n*ggas is traumatized about something. Chris shocked them. This is what he said. He went to that crowd.

He said… “I refuse to be a victim.”

The crowd said… [gasps]

And I was backstage looking like, “N*gga watch the tape.”

I know it’s fucked up, but I tell you the truth, you know, everything’s funny. Everything’s funny ’til it happens to you. Three months. A mere three months after that terrible attack that Chris Rock endured… I was on stage at the Hollywood Bowl. And a lunatic… jumped out of the crowd and attacked me. I got to tell you, if it happens to you, you don’t know what happened. It was like slow motion. I don’t know this n*gga… I just looked and said, “Oh, my God. I’m being attacked.”

And this motherfucker was ragged. He jumped me like, “Aah!”

I’m old, but I’m fast. I caught this motherfucker’s head with my hand and pulled his hoodie over his eyes. I can still feel his head in my hand. It was spongy. He had been growing dreadlocks. Not the beautiful dreads that Rastafarians grow. These were accidental L.A. homeless dreads. This shit had leaves and sticks and bottle caps and shit in it. Some kind of grease. I was like, “Ugh!” Like this. And then I fell down. He knocked me all the way on the ground. I was like, “Man, this is a bad situation. I don’t know if I’m going to die or what’s gonna happen.”

But in that moment of vulnerability, you know what occurred to me that it never occurred to me before in my life? In that moment, it occurred to me that bodyguards… should not wear dress shoes to work! Travis! This n*gga, Travis, came out slipping and sliding in some kind of beautiful loafer and fell flat on the back.

I said, “Oh, my God. Now both of us are down. I gotta handle this shit myself.”

I popped right back… And the kid that knocked me down, he popped up. And we looked at each other and realized, same time, I was bigger than him. And that motherfucker took off running. I started to chase him, and I said, “Eh, fuck him.” I picked the microphone up. Said, “I’m gonna finish this show now.” That’s right.

For three months before that, I had been making fun of Chris Rock. And people would ask me all the time. They say, “Dave, what would you do if you were Chris Rock and Will Smith slapped you in the face?”

And to this day, the answer is the same. “I don’t know what I would have done.” I’ve never been in a situation that extreme. But I do know now what Will Smith would not have done. And that is, enjoy the rest of his evening.

Man, listen. We gave that kid a good wallop. We was whooping his ass. Not “we.” I was on stage trying to think of a joke to tell, but they was beating this n*gga up right behind me. Everybody could see it. Everybody could see it. I’m sitting up there trying to think of what to say. I’m tongue tied. Me, of all people, can’t think of anything to say. Look at my karma. Just that moment, of all the people in the world, Chris Rock walks from backstage. Walks up to me in front of 20,000 people, grabs the mic out of my hands and looks at the crowd and goes, “Was that Will Smith?”

Man, motherfuckers fell out of their chairs, laughing. I was standing there looking stupid. I was fucking furious. ‘Cause I’m thinking in my mind, “N*gga, this is my attack. You got attacked three months ago. Now you have jokes?”

So, I snatched the mic back from Chris and tried to get one off, but my shit did not go good at all. I didn’t know… I was like, “It was a trans man.” And the crowd was like… “Boo. This is L.A., we like trans people. Boo.”

I know, I felt so bad. I felt so bad. But I know why he did it. You’d have to be there to understand, but, man, when that guy tackled me, it was like a movie or something. You gotta picture this. Picture a famous person you like. Every famous person you could imagine was at that show. It was, like, the biggest night that Hollywood had ever seen. And when that guy tackled me, he cleared the bleachers. I had to watch the tape afterwards to know this happened, but as soon as he tackled me, Jamie Foxx was the first motherfucker that jumped out of the crowd. He was wearing a white cowboy hat, like, he knew this shit was going to happen. Never seen this n*gga in a cowboy hat before. And Jamie started chasing that motherfucker around like Any Given Sunday. And that kid was fast. His shit was juking and shaking. And it broke Jamie’s ankles, and he just kept running. Then Jon Stewart, from the Daily Show, ran from backstage and jumped at this motherfucker like Super Jew. He was, like… The kid’s seen Jon coming, so he jumped back and Jon went flying that way. This kid was fast. Then he turned around, he sees the emergency exit, he starts running for the emergency exit. Just before he got to the door, motherfucking Puff Daddy from Bad Boy Records jumped in front of the door. That n*gga was like, “Eh-eh, eh-eh.”

Boy… Puffy got that motherfucker. Then every celebrity ran out ’cause every celebrity saw themselves in me, and they started beating the fuck out of that kid. And I know Chris was backstage looking like, “Nobody helped me.”

♪ Everybody Hates Chris! ♪

Look, it was way more intense than what you guys might have read. I don’t know what you read, but the kid, while we was beating on him, reached in his waistband, pulled out 22-caliber pistol. That shit was mayhem. Everybody started screaming, “Oh, my God, he’s got a gun.”

And then I got scared. I was in the back, but I was scared. ‘Cause I knew that everybody that was with me, was armed. Yes, if they had shot and killed this kid on stage at the Hollywood Bowl… like I pay you to do, Travis… But Travis G-ed up. Travis wrestled the gun out of the kid’s hand. Then he took it like this and tried to chamber the round and he couldn’t. So he pulled the trigger and it wasn’t a gun. A knife blade popped out of the front. I guess this kid was going to stab me. That’s some scary shit.

So the next night, even though I didn’t have a show, I said, “I got to get back on stage.” I went and did a show. And someone in the audience screamed out, “Dave, what happened with the attack?” And I didn’t know there was a journalist in the room. All I said was that this n*gga had a knife that identified as a gun. I got six more weeks of bad press for that joke. I didn’t even do nothing to this n*gga. That’s not right. That was not right.

And then the New York Post went to the jail and interviewed my attacker like he was some kind of hero. And I read that interview. It turns out the entire attack was my fault. Yes, I triggered him. I didn’t mean to. I had done jokes about the homeless. It turns out… this young man was homeless. And, I mean, there’s no way I could’ve known this. But I will say… for a homeless guy, this n*gga had incredible seats…

Oh, and they said I triggered them because I had done LBGTQ jokes. And it turns out this fellow was a B. That was the headline in the article that said, “Dave Chappelle’s alleged attacker is bisexual.” I said, “alleged attacker”? This motherfucker definitely attacked me. I’ll show you the tape. He’s allegedly bisexual. I’ll need to see him suck somebody’s dick before I believe the rest of this article…

I read that shit in the paper. I was horrified. I was like, “Bisexual? I could have been raped!”

No. You know what, though? It’s not funny because… Because after all that madness ensued, I went to the hotel room. I was by myself, and I opened the door, and my wife was in there alone. She was sobbing. Like sobbing. I said, “My God, what’s wrong with you? Bitch, did you get attacked, too?” And she’s crying. She said, “Oh, my God, Dave.” She said, “If you had died tonight… me and the kids would have nothing.”

Then I knew it was serious. So I sat down on the bed next to her. I reached in my pocket, I pulled some keys out that she’d never seen before. She’s like, “Oh!” “What are those keys?” And I gently placed them in her hands. I said, “Sweetheart, those are the keys to my safe deposit box. God forbid anything ever happen to me. But if it does, don’t even worry about it. You and the kids have everything you need in that box. I’ve already taken care of it.”

And she was looking at them keys. And I could see her mind realize what we were actually talking about. And then she just started crying harder. And to be honest with you, that made me cry a little bit, too. And we hugged each other real tight.

Do you know this bitch looked in the box while I’m alive and well? Who does that? Oh, my God. And then she was mad at me. She said, “Goddamn it, David. I opened that box.” I said, “You did?” She said, “Yes, I did, and there was nothing in there.” I said, “Nothing?” She said, “Nothing except your stupid joke book.”

I was like, “Phew.” I said, “Well, sweetie, look. If you tell those jokes exactly how they’re written, you and the kids should be fine. They’re really good jokes.”

She’s like, “Good jokes? What is this shit?” “‘Come join me in my watery grave.'” No. You gotta roll your throat.

[trilling voice] Come join me in my watery grave.

Oh, boy. Oh, boy. I have been married a long time. I have. You know, I talk a lot of shit about my wife, but I love her very much. In fact, you know, you guys wouldn’t believe this about me. I’m a jealous husband. It’s true. Let me tell you something. One time I thought my wife was cheating on me. Yes, n*gga. Yes. That was one of the worst days of my fucking life. I couldn’t take it. And I’m embarrassed about it now, but I can talk about it. You know what I did? It’s fucked up. But I did do this. I waited. I waited for her to fall asleep. And I waited a long time. She’s Asian. I couldn’t tell if she was asleep or not. I was looking at her…

And when I was sure she was asleep, you know what I did? I stole the iPhone. Took it downstairs, started trying out passwords to see if I could open it. I couldn’t figure out the password. Then I remembered, it’s an iPhone. This shit has facial recognition. I was just like… And that shit opened right up…

And I saw a text message in there from a fellow named Earl. I don’t know anybody named Earl. I woke her up out of her sleep. I said, “Wake the fuck up! Who the fuck is Earl?” She said, “What are you talking about?” “Don’t you play dumb with me, bitch!” “I done open your phone. Who is Earl?” She’s like, “Oh, my God, David.” “That’s gay Earl from the hair salon.” I said, “Word. What am I, a dummy? How am I supposed to know this n*gga is gay?” And she was calm. She said, “Read his texts and look at his pictures.” I started reading them texts. Hmm. “This fellow sure does spell girl with a ‘u’ a lot.” And I switched over and looked at his pictures and I couldn’t believe it. This fellow looked gay in still pictures. His mouth was open in every shot.

And then I knew she was telling the truth. And then I felt, like, dumb. I said, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Okay? I’m sorry. Here. Take your phone. I’m sorry. Just go back to sleep. I am sorry. I just… I guess I’ve just been insecure ’cause of all this cheating I’ve been doing. Good night.”

She didn’t let me leave. Said, “Since you wanna wake a bitch up…” Then she pulled my phone from under her pillow. I said, “What the fuck?” She said, “Who is this bitch in this picture?” I said, “How’d you open that phone?” She said, “Easy. All I had to do was mash my nose and go like this, and it opened right up.” I said, “What the fuck?” She said, “Who is this bitch?”

I said, “Give me that. Girl, relax. That ain’t no bitch. This is my friend. Deborah.”

I’m gonna close the night with a long story. Do you mind?

All right. It’s a long one. So pretend that I’ve finished. ‘Cause I gotta go get a cigarette. All right? I’m not done, but just act like it. I’d prefer standing ovations since we’re acting. Thank you very much. Good night.

Thanks for not giving me a standing O, motherfuckers. This is the worst. It’s all right. I just wanted to smoke. You like that, don’t you?

Okay. Before I did Killin’ Them Softly, when I was 22, HBO gave me the biggest opportunity of my life at that time. They gave me a half-hour special, but this shit was not like a special, you know what I mean? It was like, generic. It didn’t even have a title. It just says “Dave Chappelle.” And I shot it in San Francisco, at a place called Broadway Studios, which is on the second floor of a building. And beneath Broadway Studios is a nightclub. And the special was only supposed to be 30 minutes. And I got ready. I practiced. I did all the shit I was supposed to do. And the night that I taped, 20 minutes into my 30-minute set, I’ll never forget this music. Music started blasting from the nightclub underneath. You could hear it real loud and it fucked my whole show up, and I was devastated. I was a young man. I really believed in what I was doing. And I thought that my dream had been killed. So when I got off stage, I ran down the steps to the alley behind Broadway Studios, where the control trucks are parked, and I kicked that motherfucking door open. And I started yelling at all the producers. I was nobody in show business. Just a guy that believed in myself.

I said, “Man, you fucked everything up.” “That fucking music. What the fuck were you thinking?” And there was a guy who was a big-time producer. I ain’t saying no names. He stood up and he said, “Hey, kid, sit the fuck down.” He said, “We didn’t ruin anything.” He said, “We made a deal with that nightclub to not play music, and they didn’t honor the deal.” And I said, “Who didn’t honor the deal?” And he pointed to a guy. I’ll never forget it. It was an old white man sitting in a Ford Taurus by himself. And he said, “That guy right there.” I didn’t waste no time or ask no questions. I went to that Ford Taurus and I beat on that window, I said, “Open the door, motherfucker. I want to talk to you.”

That old man looked at me for one second and wisely drove the fuck off. And left me in the alley cussing at anybody who would listen. And two minutes later, literally 120 seconds later, it couldn’t have been any more than that, the doors of the kitchen in the alley of that nightclub underneath Broadway Studios swung open. And that old man was standing there, that same old man with reinforcements. He had two big goons with him, and he looked at me… He was calm as a cucumber. He said, “You, come here. I want to talk to you.”

I didn’t know anything about streets at this age. But I found out later in my life that these men were Russian mobsters. I don’t know what you guys know about the Russian mob, but these are the n*ggas that killed Denzel in Training Day.

All the producers knew what I was up against. They said, “Dave, do not go in there.” And I said, “Fuck y’all.” And I walked right into that kitchen and they closed the doors behind me, and it got the dark as fuck in there, and I knew. I’m not dumb. I knew I was in a bad situation. But you have to understand, I believed in what I was doing, and I didn’t give a fuck. Just kept cussing at these motherfuckers. Tell them how they ruined my life. And that old man couldn’t believe that I was talking all of this shit. And as soon as I took a breath, he stopped me gently. He said, “Hey, kid, listen. Your friends lied to you.” He said. “We made a deal. But your friends never paid me.”

And when he said that, I realized I was locked in a kitchen. I realized he was telling the truth, which would make me wrong. And the moment, the very moment that I realized I was wrong, for the first time, I was afraid. You see, it’s a funny thing if you believe you’re absolutely right. You can get drunk off the feeling of how right you are. That’s why gay people are so mean…

But I didn’t buckle. You guys would’ve been very proud of me. I was scared, but I didn’t buckle.

I said, “Well, then, sir, I owe you an apology. But I believe that no matter what reason that music was playing, it ruined my life.”

And that old man looked at me with sympathy in his eyes. And he walked over to me and he gently placed his hand on my cheek. Which I gotta tell you, it is a very emasculating thing to do. I was standing there looking at this n*gga’s hand on my cheek, like… And he said, “You are a real man.”

And he tapped me on my cheek. Real soft. And just like that, the doors open back up. The light from the alley flooded into the kitchen, and I just walked out alive. I lived to fight… another day. And in that moment, I learned one of the most valuable lessons of my life, and I have to share it with you. And that lesson is this. In your life, at any given moment, the strongest dream in that moment wins that moment. I am a very powerful dreamer. Yeah, I’m not lying.

I dreamed tonight, this very night, as a 14-year-old boy, and I am living it as a 50-year-old man. My dreams are very strong. Today, I walked all around Washington. I used to be poor in this city, and all day, people just said, “Hey, Dave. Hey, Dave.” Like they knew me personally, and I felt like I knew them.

And I say to myself, “My God, Dave, what a powerful dream.”

But then, sometimes… Sometimes… I feel regular. I just feel like myself. Maybe I’ll smoke some weed and be at some nightclub and feel shy. But I’ll look across the nightclub, see some guy that no one’s ever heard of. But this n*gga worked all week and got bottle service, and this bitch is bringing Moët and sparklers to ’em. I picture, in my mind, he’s Persian. He’s doing some kind of weird Persian dance. He got six bitches at his table because he got so much liquor. And they all just saying, “Go Cena! Go Cena!” And I was looking across the room like, “Oh, my God. I’m in that guy’s dream.” I can hear him telling his friends. “Hey, how was the club last night?” “That shit was fantastic. I had bottle service. I seen Dave Chappelle across the club, looking at me like, ‘Who is that?'”

And that’s the trick to life. You have to be wise enough to know when you were living in your dream. And you have to be humble enough to accept when you’re in someone else’s. That’s why… That’s why I don’t judge between Will Smith, and Chris Rock. Because you guys look at them as big ideas, but I look at them as fellow dreamers. I can’t judge between them because I see myself in both of them.

I am Will Smith. I am the man that cannot take it anymore and will slap the shit out of the next person that says a cross word to me or somebody that I love.

And I am Chris Rock. I am the man that can get slapped in front of the whole world and keep my composure so I don’t fuck anything up. T

hat… is what… men do. Men make boundaries. Men enforce boundaries. And men tests boundaries. And no man test more boundaries than a trans man…

When I see a fellow dreamer, I give them my utmost respect, even if I don’t understand what their dream is. I know a dreamer when I see one. And I’ve met many powerful dreamers in my life. None more powerful than a man who calls himself… Lil Nas X. I met this n*gga at a party. I had no idea who he was. But the minute he walked in that party, I knew I was in his dream. Everybody in the party was another dreamer. Everyone was famous. But when that n*gga walked in, he was dressed like C-3PO. He was shining.

And everyone was like, “Oh, my God, there he is. That’s Lil Nas X!”

I didn’t know who he was. For some reason, out of all of them dreamers, he walked right up to me. And he said, “I tried to get you in my video.”

I didn’t know what the fuck he was talking about. I said, “What?” “What video?” And he was just looking at me like… “You know what video,” and walked away.

And I watched him walk away. I said, “Man.” I said… “This n*gga’s having a very powerful dream.”

You know what it reminded me of? It remind me of when we was in grade school. Remember, the teacher would ask everybody what they want to be. “Timmy. Timmy, what do you want to be when you grow up?” Timmy acted like he had an idea. He’d stand up and he’d say, “I want to be a fireman.” And the teacher would say, “Timmy, that is a beautiful dream.” But Timmy didn’t mean it. Timmy said he wanted to be a fireman because deep down, Timmy is attracted to fire. And by the time he’s 14 years old, this n*gga is a full-blown pyromaniac, playing with kerosene and matches like a goddamn expert. Then one night he goes downtown with his buddies fucking around with fire, burns a warehouse down. He doesn’t know it, but there’s 13 migrant workers from El Salvador in that motherfucker. They get trapped and then they die in the fire. Isn’t that a tragedy? Well, it was an accident. He’s only 14 years old. But he’s Black. So they try him as an adult. Timmy ends up spending the rest of his life in jail. Dream deferred.

[mimics buzzer sound]

“What about you, Billy? Billy? Billy, What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Billy stands up and he says, “I want to be president of the United States.” And the teacher says, “Oh, my God, Billy. Billy, that is a wonderful dream.”

And Billy means that shit. Billy does everything right. That motherfucker gets his grades up, he joins student government. He even does extracurricular activities like show choir just to make his resume look good. He’s on track to be president. But junior year, he wipes. When he’s 16, he gets his girlfriend pregnant, and has to drop out of high school to make ends meet. But lucky for him, the local Walmart’s hiring. By the time he’s 20 years old, this motherfucker makes assistant manager at Walmart. He’s the youngest one in the district. He says, “Oh, my God, if I can keep this up for four more years, I could be a manager. If I can keep this up for six more years after that, I could even be a regional manager and have as many as three Walmarts under my control.”

And he’s a big-picture guy. He sees where this path is going. So he kills himself.

[mimics buzzer sound]

“What about you? What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“I don’t wanna say. Because I don’t want the other kids to laugh at me.”

“Who cares if they laugh? Your dream is yours. Own your dreams so they can come true. Say it loud and proud. What do you want to be when you grow up, Lil Nas X?”

That n*gga stood up in front of the whole class.

“I want to be the gayest n*gga that ever lived. I want to do a music video, slide down a stripper pole, all the way to the depths of hell, and suck the devil’s dick at ten o’clock on BET while all the kids are awake and can see me.”

Shockingly, that was the only dream that worked out.

That’s why I’m here. Tonight. In the city where I built the dreams that I live. ‘Cause I wanted to tell you all that they came true. And I wanted to thank you all for making the man that I am today.

Yes, I am living a very powerful dream. Every time I come to this city and I stand in front of you, I realize that, “My God, man, this is not my dream at all. It’s yours, and I am honored to be in it.”

Thank you very much, Washington D.C. I’ll see you next time.

♪ Well, you can tell everybody ♪
♪ Yeah, you can tell everybody ♪
♪ Go ahead and tell everybody ♪
♪ I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man ♪
♪ I believe every lie that I ever told ♪
♪ Paid for every heart that I ever stole ♪
♪ I played my cards and I didn’t fold ♪
♪ Well, it ain’t that hard If you got soul ♪
♪ This is my world ♪
♪ Somewhere I heard that life is a test ♪
♪ I been through the worst But I still give my best ♪
♪ God made my mold Different from the rest ♪
♪ Then he broke that mold So I know I’m blessed ♪
♪ This is my world ♪
♪ Stand up now and face the sun ♪
♪ Won’t hide my tail or turn and run ♪
♪ It’s time to do what must be done ♪
♪ Be a king when kingdom comes ♪
♪ Well, you can tell everybody ♪
♪ Yeah, you can tell everybody ♪
♪ Go ahead and tell everybody ♪
♪ I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man ♪
♪ Well, you can tell everybody ♪
♪ Yeah, you can tell everybody ♪
♪ Go ahead and tell everybody ♪
♪ I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man ♪
♪ Yes I am, yes I am, yes I am ♪
♪ I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man ♪
♪ I got all the answers To your questions ♪
♪ I’ll be the teacher You can be the lesson ♪
♪ I’ll be the preacher You be the confession ♪
♪ I’ll be the quick relief To all your stressin’ ♪
♪ This is my world ♪
♪ It’s a thin line between love and hate ♪
♪ Is you really real Or is you really fake? ♪
♪ I’m a soldier standing on my feet ♪
♪ No surrender and I won’t retreat ♪
♪ This is my world ♪
♪ Stand up now and face the sun ♪
♪ Won’t hide my tail Or turn and run ♪
♪ It’s time to do what must be done ♪
♪ And be a king when kingdom comes ♪
♪ Well, you can tell everybody ♪
♪ Yeah, you can tell everybody ♪
♪ Go ahead and tell everybody ♪
♪ I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man ♪
♪ Well, you can tell everybody ♪
♪ Yeah, you can tell everybody ♪
♪ Go ahead and tell everybody ♪
♪ I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man ♪
♪ Well, you can tell everybody ♪
♪ Yeah, you can tell everybody ♪
♪ Go ahead and tell everybody ♪
♪ I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man ♪
♪ Well, you can tell everybody ♪
♪ Yeah, you can tell everybody ♪
♪ Go ahead and tell everybody ♪
♪ I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man ♪
♪ Yes I am, yes I am, yes I am ♪
♪ I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man ♪


This is protected by the red, the black and the green at the crossroad with a key.

* * *

You can access our transcripts of the previous Dave Chappelle’s stand-up comedy shows here


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