In their new Netflix stand-up special, SAP, Mae Martin takes a shot at fellow comics who have made transphobic jokes in their own routines. The nonbinary comedian doesn’t shy away from calling out Dave Chappelle by name—a bold move considering Netflix CEO Reed Hasting has said that the streamer would undoubtedly work with Chappelle again, despite the backlash to the comedian’s anti-trans jokes.
Speaking to Rolling Stone, Martin described the cultural climate that led them to speak out. “In the past couple of years, there’s been people mistakenly equating equality with some kind of infringement on their right to free speech,” they said. “I want to say to these heroes of mine, comedians who are starting to feel like the enemy has become this kind of woke left: you’re being tricked.”
Chappelle has blamed so-called “cancel culture” for the widespread criticism of his 2021 Netflix special, The Closer, in which he defended author J.K. Rowling for her frequent anti-trans comments and described himself as a TERF—a “trans-exclusionary radical feminist.” Like Rowling, he has only doubled down on his anti-trans views since then and has managed to win a Grammy, perform arena shows, and host Saturday Night Live despite having supposedly been “canceled.”
Martin said that while they felt conflicted about addressing comedians like Chappelle’s transphobia, they also felt it was crucial to present a counterargument “to the very loud people with huge platforms who are weighing in in bad faith about things that have real-life consequences.”
“I do care about it so deeply, and could so easily rant for hours about how annoyed I am. So if it’s in any way helpful for people to see someone speaking about their lived experience and cutting through the endless debate about whether trans people deserve to be happy, then hopefully it’s worth it,” they said.
They said they had tried not naming performers like Chappelle and Ricky Gervais in SAP when they were performing the show on the road ahead of filming the special. “It just felt like I was trying to be coy,” they explained. “I feel confident about what I’m saying, so I might as well just name them.”
“The main thing I wish is that straight allies with bigger platforms would be brave enough to weigh in as well,” they continued. “Because it’s easy to dismiss queer people as being constantly up in arms about something. But with the legislation, we’re seeing such terrifying real-life consequences. And they’re things that affect everybody — there’s such a parallel between trans rights and bodily autonomy for women and all kinds of things that I think it’s time we all got involved a little bit.”