Several videos were shared online showing the attacker rushing the stage and tackling Chappelle. The comedian fell to the floor as several theatregoers rushed to help.
The Los Angeles Police Department confirmed early Wednesday that they have arrested 23-year-old Isaiah Lee in connection with the attack, as reported by NBC. Lee has been charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon and his bail has been set at US$13,000.
According to the LAPD, the replica gun that Lee was armed with can eject a knife blade “when you discharge it correctly,” but it’s unclear if the weapon was used in the attack.
Lee was detained by the venue’s security team and taken to the hospital to be treated for “superficial injuries,” the LAPD said. He was attending Chappelle’s show as a member of the audience.
Chappelle, 48, was unharmed and returned to finish his set after the incident blew over. He joked to the audience that the attacker “was a trans man,” referencing how the comedian’s recent comments about gender identity have caused outrage in the transgender community. (The gender identity of the attacker has not been verified.)
No official motive has been established for the attack.
The incident happened just as Chappelle was closing his set, which was part of the Netflix Is a Joke comedy festival. He was in the midst of thanking earlier performers Chris Rock, Leslie Jones and Jon Stewart when Lee rushed the stage.
Rock was at the centre of his own on-stage attack when Will Smith famously slapped him at the 2022 Oscars for making a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith.
According to ABC reporter Stephanie Wash, Rock joined Chappelle on stage after Tuesday’s incident and joked, “Was that Will Smith?”
Another journalist, Sharon Carpenter, initially thought that the attack was pre-planned.
“He fell backwards onto his back, with his arms and legs up in the air. He was obviously in shock. We were all in shock. And I thought for a moment: ‘OK, is this a prank?’ because they had made some Will Smith jokes,” Carpenter said.
After the attack, Carpenter said that Chappelle tried to continue with the set, “but he was also pissed off about it … What was crazy too is that earlier in the night he made a joke about: ‘Oh, I heard people are getting slapped around here.’”
Buzzfeed reporter Brianna Sacks mentioned that Chappelle had spoken that night about how he increased his security team in the wake of backlash against jokes he’s made about the transgender community.
When Chappelle’s 2021 Netflix special The Closer was released, a number of the streaming company’s employees staged a walkout to protest, calling Chappelle’s jokes transphobic. Chappelle supported J.K. Rowling during the special, agreeing with her that “gender is a fact.”
While biological sex can impact one’s gender, many people do not identify within the gender binary of male and female, including transgender, non-binary, gender-queer and gender-fluid people.
The Hollywood Bowl said on its website that Tuesday’s show was meant to be a “phone-free experience,” with audience members being required to secure their phones in special pouches. One person who shared a video of the attack said they used a “forgotten” second phone.
Chappelle has not yet commented publicly on the attack.
A spokesperson for the Hollywood Bowl said they have launched an investigation into the incident.
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.