Mae Martin Begrudgingly Name Drops Dave Chappelle for His ‘Bad Faith’ Trans Jokes ‘With Real-Life Consequences’ in New Netflix Special
Dave Chappelle probably hasn’t seen Mae Martin’s latest stand-up special, but they have reluctantly watched many of Chappelle’s.
In their Netflix special Mae Martin: SAP, the nonbinary comic shies away from defining any part of their humor by their gender — in fact, it’s a topic they’d rather leave entirely unaddressed. “I don’t really wanna talk about gender,” they admit around minute 55 as the set takes on a more serious tone while Martin plainly and non-judgmentally parses through the misconceptions about the gender spectrum that compel Martin to waste valuable time during their first standalone special on a platform that has enthusiastically and emphatically promoted comics who spread those same fallacies.
When it comes to the hotly contested issues surrounding gender identity and the rights of transgender individuals in America and elsewhere, Martin understands a lot yet says only a little, in direct contrast to the approaches of a Chappelle, a Ricky Gervais or even a Joe Rogan — “let’s throw him in there,” Martin would say.
In Mae Martin: SAP, the Canadian-born comic spends most of their hour-and-change examining their own experiences and the small, simple truths they’ve come to appreciate — like how they can’t unlearn the fact that their parents conceived them in doggystyle. Only briefly does Martin acquiesce to questions that have been hounding them since Chappelle and other massively successful comics picked the transgender community as their favorite target for tasteless bits about bathroom assaults and unending pronoun jokes.
As Martin points out, the “gender binary” isn’t exactly a scientific fact in the way that some comics assume it to be — Martin points out how intersex individuals make up as much as 1.7 percent of the population, so “what’s in your pants?” isn’t quite the conversation-ending question that transphobes think it to be.
Martin also examines how, though the concept of the gender spectrum may seem recent to those who grew up with only the binary, various cultures included third or fourth identities besides male and female in their gender dynamics before most of them were erased by the spread of colonialism. Martin even points out how British news outlets snarkily telling India “It’s about time” when India repealed anti-gay laws in 2018 is deeply ironic, considering that the British Empire were the ones who instituted those laws in the first place.
Martin explains their own gender identity very simply: In the film Beauty and the Beast, Gaston is the undeniable exemplar of masculinity with his rippling muscles and boundless confidence, while Belle is the Stockholm Syndrome-suffering stand-in for femininity. Martin, meanwhile, identifies with Lumiere, who isn’t particularly masculine or feminine, but ultimately just wants everyone to have a good time and “be our guest.”
“I have this fantasy — it’s a really clear image in my head; it’s Dave Chappelle, Ricky Gervais, Louis C.K., throw Joe Rogan in there,” Martin begins before describing a vast medieval feast with mead and a whole hog in the theme of Beauty and the Beast, before a TV turns on to Martin’s special where their Lumiere explanation of nonbinary gender identity plays, before the four exclaim, “Oh my god! Guys! We were wrong!”
“When you’re someone who’s part of the trans community, it can feel like a lose-lose. Because as soon as I start talking about it, people are like, ‘Ugh, these people are constantly whining,’” Martin told Rolling Stone of their reticence to include the gender jokes in their special. “But it’s also a very crucial time 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.”
In America, transgender people are four times as likely than cisgendered individuals to be the victims of violent crime, and between 2017 and 2021, the number of transgender people killed by homicide doubled. In that same time frame, multi-millionaire comedians began a crusade against the transgender community, seemingly in defense of their own “freedom of speech” on stages in front of adoring audiences and on eight-figure streaming deals.
“It’s a very difficult tone to hit because I do care about it so deeply, and could so easily rant for hours about how annoyed I am,” Martin admitted. “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.” What Martin achieved in SAP was to give the exhausting and categorically uninformed “debate” in comedy over the rights and personhood of trans individuals a dose of reality and humanity that their counterparts’ comments are sadly lacking.
“But also, it’s not the most interesting thing about me,” they added of their gender. “And I don’t want to feel like it because I’m being forced to constantly defend my identity.”