Comedian Dave Chappelle drew some controversy with the release of his newest comedy special, The Closer, but Netflix has made it clear they’re standing by him. In the past, Chappelle has angered many with some of his comedy routines, and he managed to do it again with jokes regarding the LGBTQ+ community and the effects of “cancel culture” on others. There were many calls for Netflix to pull the special almost as soon as it was released.
The controversy only seemed to grow from there. Dear White People co-showrunner Jaclyn Moore said she was boycotting Netflix due to the jokes. Variety reports that the company also suspended three employees for crashing an executives’ meeting because of The Closer. It hasn’t been pleasant for company brass, but even so, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos explained in a memo obtained by Variety that they will be standing by Dave Chappelle despite the backlash, crediting his artistic freedom as a comedian.
“It never feels good when people are hurting, especially our colleagues, so I wanted to give you some additional context,” the memo reads. “You should also be aware that some talent may join third parties in asking us to remove the show in the coming days, which we are not going to do. Chappelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and we have a long standing deal with him. His last special Sticks & Stones, also controversial, is our most watched, stickiest and most award winning stand-up special to date. 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.”
The message goes on to add, “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. 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.”
Sarandos does state that the company remains committed to reflect “under-represented communities” on the screen. This can be seen in titles Netflix is proud of in that regard like Sex Education, Young Royals, Control Z, and Disclosure. Sarandos also notes that with stand-up comedy, the artists are given some artistic freedom, but what’s said in a special on Netflix wouldn’t be tolerated internally at the workplace. As Sarandos says, “[It’s] entertaining people versus maintaining a respectful, productive workplace.”
At the end of The Closer, Dave Chappelle announced that this would be his last comedy special for a while. He also said that he was finished with LGBTQ+ jokes in his routine, insisting that he’s not going to venture into that territory anymore until “we are sure that we are laughing together.” In any case, The Closer is going to stay on Netflix after debuting on the streaming service earlier this month. This news comes to us from Variety.