Dave Chappelle’s latest standup special continues to both offend and delight viewers, with public outcry over some of his jokes calling for the program’s removal from streaming.
However, the comedian maintains the full support of higher-ups on the Netflix platform. Chappelle’s standup, The Closer, has caused near-nonstop controversy since its Oct. 5 release. In it, the comedian makes a number of pointed off-color jokes about the LGBTQIA community, particularly mocking trans and nonbinary gender identification and aligning with trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs). Multiple equality groups and members of the LGBTQIA community have reportedly called for the special to be pulled over his offensive remarks, calling them transphobic and hateful.
In a company memo sent on Friday, confirmed by The Hollywood Reporter, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos informed members of senior staff that no matter who within or outside the company demanded so, the special will not be removed by Netflix.
“Some talent may join third parties in asking us to remove the show in the coming days, which we are not going to do,” he wrote.
If you’ll recall, Chappelle signed a huge deal with the streaming service in 2016, guaranteeing himself $20 million per standup. “Chappelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and we have a long-standing deal with him,” the memo continued. “As with our other talent, we work hard to support their creative freedom—even though this means there will always be content on Netflix some people believe is harmful, like Cuties, 365 Days, 13 Reasons Why or My Unorthodox Life.”
As for Chappelle’s commentary, Sarandos defends the comedian’s intentions and asserts that he doesn’t deem it as hateful or maliciously harmful.
“Several of you have also asked where we draw the line on hate. We don’t allow titles on Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe The Closer crosses that line,” he went on. “I recognize, however, that distinguishing between commentary and harm is hard, especially with stand-up comedy which exists to push boundaries.”
“Some people find the art of stand-up to be mean-spirited, but our members enjoy it, and it’s an important part of our content offering.”
As for Chappelle, he is taking the controversy in stride. While performing at The Hollywood Bowl in front of a star-studded crowd including Brad Pitt, Tiffany Haddish, Sterling K. Brown and Stevie Wonder, amid The Closer controversy, he received a standing ovation. “If this is what being canceled is like, I love it,” he responded.