After nearly three weeks of controversy, Netflix’s firing and suspensions of trans staff, and protests on the streets of Hollywood over remarks centered on the trans and LGBTQ+ communities by Dave Chappelle in his special The Closer, the comedian is finally responding significantly — and it’s a mixed bag, to put it mildly.
“To the transgender community, I am more than willing to give you an audience, but you will not summon me,” the Mark Twain Prize winner says in the just over five-minute posting Monday on Instagram. “I am not bending to anyone’s demands,” he added to cheers from the seemingly packed arena Chappelle is filmed in.
“And if you want to meet with me, I am more than willing to, but I have some conditions,” the currently touring Chappelle says onstage, saying he has not actually been invited to speak with “transgender employees of Netflix.” He says over laughter: “First of all, you cannot come if you have not watched my special from beginning to end. You must come to a place of my choosing at a time of my choosing, and thirdly, you must admit that Hannah Gadsby is not funny.”
Watch the full video below:
The last remark is a swipe at the Nannette star Gadsby, who on October 15 slammed Chappelle’s perceived transphobic obsession and the reaction Netflix and co-CEO Ted Sarandos initially had to the hurt and backlash expressed by the company’s trans staffers and others. “You didn’t pay me nearly enough to deal with the real world consequences of the hate speech dog whistling you refuse to acknowledge, Ted,” wrote Gadsby on social media last week. “F**k you and your amoral algorithm cult…”
In the video posted today, Chappelle also laments how the reaction to The Closer has affected his Untitled documentary with film festivals and studios. “Thank God for Ted Sarandos and Netflix, he’s the only one that didn’t cancel me yet,” Chappelle says.
Leaning into the bottom line, Sarandos initially defended Chappelle and the special against claims of transphobia, saying it did not “cross the line” on hate speech even as trans staffers, past and present, and organizations such as GLAAD and National Black Justice Coalition condemned the comedian’s comments.
As Netflix went hard after leakers, including firing one who allegedly shared financial data related to Chappelle with the media, Sarandos changed his tone last week — though not his bottom line.
“I screwed up the internal communication — and I don’t mean just mechanically,” the exec said in a series of calibrated media appearances as a October 20 walkout by Netflix trans staffers and others loomed. “I feel I should’ve made sure to recognize that a group of our employees was hurting very badly from the decision made, and I should’ve recognized upfront before going into a rationalization of anything the pain they were going through. I say that because I respect them deeply, and I love the contribution they have at Netflix. They were hurting, and I should’ve recognized that first.”
“Am I canceled or not? Then let’s go!” Chappelle yells at the end of today’s video, dropping the mic as a graphic comes up listing his upcoming tour dates in what is at leas partially an exercise in free advertising.
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