Lord, Spare Us The Aging Comedy Men

In the wake of Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special, elderly comedians are once again complaining that they have to do their jobs.

Jude Ellison S. Doyle
4 min readOct 23, 2021

Jon Stewart, forgotten by time and God himself.
Surely a coincidence that the sign behind him reads “T_RF FEST.” Photo by Ovidiu Hrubaru on Shutterstock.

First things first: What happened at Netflix last week was a labor dispute. Trans employees at the company, most notably Terra Field and B. Pagels-Minor, experienced undue retaliation for, essentially, asking to be treated with human dignity by their employer; both had concerns about the company’s decision to air a transphobic special by Dave Chappelle, but Field was suspended after taking those concerns public on Twitter, and Pagels-Minor was fired while organizing a walkout. The walkout nonetheless occurred on October 20.

Do you know what this conversation definitely doesn’t need? Rapidly aging comedy doofuses making it about their art, man. Nonetheless, that is exactly what we got, as Dave Chappelle spoke up to complain that trans people didn’t talk to him (Dave Chappelle’s negative reaction when trans people talk to him is documented quite vividly in his special) and former Daily Show host Jon Stewart chipped in to support his buddy.

“I know his intention is never hurtful — like, he’s just not that kind of person,” said Stewart, who once had 6,260 people sign a petition to get him to stop making jokes about “tranny hookers” on The Daily Show. “And if it is [hurtful], it’s certainly unintentional … He’s really a good man,” continued Stewart, who also had an entire blog, Your Moment of Transphobia, set up to document the sheer volume of transphobic jokes on his show.

Look: I do not know why trans people are the flash point for every entertainer’s fears of irrelevance in 2021. It’s the luck of the draw, I suppose. Yet the past few weeks have not been short on progressive icons tanking their legacies by declaring for Team TERF; Chappelle, then Stewart, and just a few days ago, Margaret Atwood started faving Glenn Greenwald and fretting about female erasure, making her one of many second-wave feminists and prominent female authors to jump on the “gender critical” band wagon.

The Handmaid’s-Tale-to-TERF pipeline, noxious though it is, has a recognizable logic. Feminists of a certain age were taught to define “woman” in one way — essentially, as the name of…

Jude Ellison S. Doyle

Author of “Trainwreck” (Melville House, ‘16) and “Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers” (Melville House, ‘19). Columns published far and wide across the Internet.