Dave Chappelle shows support for Andrew Yang and universal basic income

Robin Opsahl, Des Moines Register

Dave Chappelle talks about his endorsement of Andrew Yang before a show in Ames, Iowa. KELSEY KREMER, KKREMER@DMREG.COM

AMES, Ia. — Dave Chappelle said in Iowa Tuesday that Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang is the first presidential candidate he’s endorsed — and it’s because he thinks policies like universal basic income would do the most to help people he knows.

“If people listen to me, so be it, if they don’t, so be it, but I know I’m doing my civic duty by just saying the thing I believe in,” he said. “This is without irony or a punchline, I’m just telling you — this guy’s got some great ideas, you should check it out.”

The stand-up comedian endorsed the Democratic presidential candidate earlier this month, saying he was a member of the “Yang Gang” in a campaign news release. Tuesday night, Chappelle spoke alongside Yang about why he endorsed the candidate before his Ames show.

Chappelle, who lives near Dayton, Ohio, said Yang’s universal basic income proposal called the “freedom dividend,” was a selling point for him getting into the campaign. He said a universal basic income would help people buy groceries and pay their bills — and start addressing the massive wealth gap that exists in places like Ohio and Iowa.

“The wealth disparity between me and my neighbors is immense. It’s heartbreaking,” he said. “And if you know a third of the people up the street can’t buy groceries, then you start to feel an imperative concern. It’s not the kind of thing I could just see and hope for the best, I should probably say something.”

Chappelle first was interested in Yang after hearing about Yang’s debate performances from friends and eventually reading his book. Chappelle’s wife got in touch with the campaign and eventually they met in Los Angeles.

“We were only supposed to meet for a few minutes but we ended up connecting for quite some time,” Chappelle said. “And I found him to be something that’s real hard to be as a candidate — he was inspiring.”

Yang echoed Chappelle’s compliments and said he was thrilled to have the comedian as a member of the “Yang Gang,” helping spread the campaign’s message in Iowa.

“It’s not necessarily the norm for someone of Dave’s stature as a celebrity to come and throw down with a political candidate or a campaign,” Yang said. “But that just speaks to the kind of man Dave is and I appreciate the hell out of him.”

The comedian brought Yang on stage at his show in Iowa State University’s Stephens Auditorium. The show was not officially endorsed by Yang’s campaign, but the candidate came out and asked Iowans to show up to the caucuses on Feb. 3.

The comedian pointed out Yang supporters in the crowd — including a 10-year-old who was planning to go door-to-door canvassing for the candidate, wearing a “Yang Gang” sweatshirt. Chappelle said Yang can help “make America feel good.”

With six days until caucus night in Iowa, Chappelle said he’s not pretending he’s an expert — “I’m a night club comedian!” — but he wants to make sure Iowans look into Yang’s policies and campaign when they’re making their decision.

“I don’t know anything about your caucus process — I’ve asked locals about it, they say it’s like playing musical chairs — but I do know it sets the tone for the rest of the election,” Chappelle told reporters before the show. “What I’m trying to do is make people aware of an option that I think is fantastic.”

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