Dave Chappelle has courted controversy in recent months with a stand-up special that many activists deemed to be discriminatory against transgender people

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Dave Chappelle has courted controversy in recent months with a stand-up special that many activists deemed to be discriminatory against transgender people – Copyright AFP/File Natalia KOLESNIKOVA

A man who attacked controversial comic Dave Chappelle on stage as he performed a live stand-up set in Los Angeles has been arrested and charged with assault, police said Wednesday.

The comedian was finishing a set during the “Netflix Is A Joke” comedy festival at the Hollywood Bowl on Tuesday night when a male audience member climbed on stage and threw him to the ground.

The attacker, who police said was armed with a replica gun that works like a knife, was swiftly detained by security guards, and Chappelle was not injured.

Chappelle, 48, has recently attracted protests for jokes seen to be transphobic, but the motive for this attack was not immediately known.

It comes just weeks after actor Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on stage live during the Oscars, in a widely condemned action that had raised immediate fears of copycat attacks.

“First, he tackled Dave, and Dave put up a bit of resistance. So the dude tried to run off,” said Brandon Brown, a Los Angeles film worker who was in attendance on Tuesday evening.

“There were probably 15 people that were almost immediately all over the stage.

“The venue seemed pretty secure. It seems like a pretty damning indictment of their security detail.”

The Los Angeles police department confirmed the incident to AFP and said the assailant was carrying a replica gun that can discharge a knife blade. It was not clear if the attacker tried to use this weapon.

He has been identified as Isaiah Lee, 23, and charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon, LAPD spokeswoman Lizeth Lomeli said.

Asked what his motive might be, she said this was part of the police investigation.

Video footage shows the attacker being taken away on a stretcher. The man was taken to a hospital for treatment, Lomeli said.

Attendees said security had been more visible than usual at the Hollywood Bowl, and audience members were required to place their cellphones in sealed bags during Chappelle’s show.

Hollywood Bowl officials did not immediately respond to AFP request for comment.

Chappelle, winner of the 2019 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, has been accused of taking particular aim at the transgender community in his comedy specials, notably in October’s “The Closer,” which drew protests by activists who said it encouraged discrimination.

In March, US comedian Chris Rock was assaulted by Smith on stage at the Oscars for making a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith, the actor’s wife, moments earlier.

After the assault Tuesday night, Rock, who was performing at the same venue, appeared with Chappelle on stage, as both comics attempted to make light of the situation.

Actor Jamie Foxx also appeared on stage immediately following the attack.

Chappelle “was making sure that everyone knew it wasn’t part of the show,” said Brown.

Rock — according to CNBC and other news outlets — quipped: “Was that Will Smith?”

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