Dave Chappelle responds to Netflix controversy with a video clip from his concert

FILE PHOTO: Comedian Dave Chappelle arrives to receive the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center in Washington, US, October 27, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo
Dave Chappelle responded to the controversy over his Netflix stand-up special “The Closer” — which has been criticised as promoting bigotry toward transgender people — by posting a 5-minute video clip to Instagram on Monday in which he denied he had been invited to speak to transgender employees of the streaming service and refused.

“That is not true,” he said in the video, which was taken during a weekend performance in Nashville, Tennessee. “If they had invited me, I would have accepted. Although I am confused about what we would be speaking about. I said what I said, and boy, I heard what you said. My God, how could I not? You said you want a safe working environment at Netflix. It seems like I’m the only one who can’t go to the office anymore.”

The controversy over Chappelle’s special has put Netflix at the centre of a conversation involving transphobia, free speech and employee activism. Last week, a group of Netflix employees in Los Angeles staged a walkout. Some employees working virtually also shut their laptops in solidarity.

Hours before the protest, Netflix released a statement saying that it understood “the deep hurt that’s been caused” and that it recognised “we have much more work to do both within Netflix and in our content.”

In his video, Chappelle addressed the transgender community, saying, “I’m more than willing to give you an audience, but you will not summon me. I am not bending to anybody’s demands.”

Chappelle said he had three conditions for any meeting: those involved must watch “The Closer” in its entirety; he would choose the time and place; and “you must admit that Hannah Gadsby is not funny.”

Gadsby, a comedian whose specials have been successful on Netflix, criticised Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos this month for defending Chappelle. Sarandos had invoked Gadsby in a statement in which he defended Chappelle’s right to artistic expression.

Chappelle also said a documentary he made chronicling a series of stand-up shows he hosted during the summer of 2020 from a cornfield near his home in Yellow Springs, Ohio, could not find distribution because of the controversy over “The Closer.” Directed by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, the film had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in June, for the reopening of Radio City Music Hall.

Chappelle said he would release the documentary himself in 10 American cities over the next month. (Ten dates in different cities were listed on the Instagram post.)

“You have to answer the question, am I cancelled or not?” he said before dropping the microphone and walking off the stage.

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