Comedian Dave Chappelle has recently been mired in controversy following the release of a comedy show on Netflix that made fun of the LGBTQ community for their absolute control over free speech. Trans activists have called the comedy special bigoted and transphobic. Refusing to apologize to the activists, Chappelle is standing firm on his views.
In a video uploaded to Instagram, the comedian dismissed media reports that he had refused to speak to transgender employees at Netflix, saying that he would visit them if invited.
But though he is willing to give an audience to the transgender community, he won’t be “bending to anybody’s demands.” Chappelle insisted that transgenders who wish to meet him will have to watch his comedy special from “beginning to end” and must visit him at a time and place of his choosing.
The veteran comedian also blamed “corporate interests” for the current controversy. “I want everyone in this audience to know that even though the media frames it that it’s me vs. that community, that’s not what it is… Do not blame the LGBTQ community for any of this shit. This has nothing to do with them. It’s about corporate interests, and what I can say, and what I cannot say,” Chappelle said.
The comedy special show, “The Closer,” created internal conflict within Netflix, with some transgender employees and their supporters walking off their jobs as a sign of protest. They called for the media company to hire more trans people at higher levels and produce more transgender and “non-binary” shows.
Trans activists also besieged Netflix’s corporate office. Interestingly, the activist who led the protest, Ashlee Marie Preston, was later found to have made racist comments against Asians, Latinos, and gays in the past. She also launched a racist attack against Chappelle, asking to talk to “his master.”
Despite mounting pressure from trans activists, Netflix has not canceled Chappelle’s comedy special. CEO Ted Sarandos stated that the company has a long-standing deal with Chappelle and that his last special “Sticks & Stones,” which was also controversial, is the most-watched stand-up special on the platform.
However, Sarandos believes he “screwed up” with internal communication. “I had a group of employees who were definitely feeling pain and hurt from a decision we made… And I think that needs to be acknowledged up front before you get into the nuts and bolts of anything. I didn’t do that,” Sarandos said.
Chappelle also revealed that the backlash from “The Closer” has harmed his upcoming documentary about a comedy tour from the summer of 2020, with many festivals excluding it from their lineup.
“This film that I made was invited to every film festival in the United States and some of those invitations I accepted. When this controversy came out about ‘The Closer,’ they began disinviting me from these film festivals… And now, today, not a film company, not a movie studio, not a film festival, nobody will touch this film,” Chappelle said. He thanked Sarandos and Netflix as they were the only ones who did not “cancel” him.
Even though film festivals are avoiding the documentary “Untitled,” Chappelle is not backing down. The documentary, directed by Oscar-nominated filmmakers Steve Bognar and Julia Reichert, will be aired in 10 cities, including New York, Indianapolis, San Francisco, and Cincinnati, in November.