Netflix further committed to its relationship with Dave Chappelle this week with the surprise release Thursday of a new special on its platform, despite uproar from employees over a previous special from the controversial comedian over his comments made about trans people.
Comedian Dave Chappelle speaks at the dedication of the theater at the Duke Ellington School of the … [+] Arts in Washington, D.C. on June 20, 2022.
The Washington Post via Getty Images
Netflix released What’s In A Name, a 40-minute speech taped at Chappelle’s alma mater, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, where a theater was supposed to be named after him, and instead was called the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression.
In the special, Chappelle reacts to the backlash he experienced after the release of The Closer, and addressed students at the school who did not agree with the jokes he made in the special, which some critics called transphobic.
Earlier this year, Netflix released the first special from Dave Chapelle’s Home Team, a series of comedy specials from other comedians produced by Chappelle.
“The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it,” Chappelle says in What’s In A Name, according to Insider. “And it has nothing to do with what you’re saying I can’t say. It has everything to do with my right, my freedom of artistic expression. That is valuable to me.”
Netflix and Chappelle began their relationship in 2016, when it was reported the comedian agreed to produce three comedy specials for the streaming service for $20 million each. In 2017 Chappelle dropped four stand up episodes on the platform, Equanimity and The Bird Revelation, and The Age Of Spin and Deep In The Heart Of Texas. In 2019 he released Sticks and Stones, in which he made several jokes about trans people. However, the special was Netflix’s most-popular stand-up content thus far, according to Vulture. Chappelle continued to joke about the trans community in 2021’s The Closer, which prompted an employee-led protest and intense outside backlash toward the comedian and Netflix, yet the special remained on the platform. The disagreement between employees and leadership over the special left a lasting mark within the company, with anonymous former employees telling Vulture the conflict ended a culture where employee opinions could be voiced and heard. “After Dave Chappelle, the lines of communication that had been open for years were gone,” one former employee said. May Netflix updated its corporate culture guidelines, telling employees they “may need to work on titles you perceive to be harmful” and if they cannot, “Netflix may not be the best place for you.” Chappelle also appeared at Netflix’s festival Netflix Is A Joke this spring, where he was attacked on stage.
In May, Netflix released another special that was criticized for being transphobic, this time a stand-up set from Ricky Gervais. The special, SuperNature, was described by GLAAD as “graphic, dangerous [and]
Netflix Drops 40-Minute Video of Dave Chappelle Lecturing High School Kids (Rolling Stone)
Netflix Releases New Dave Chappelle Sp…eech (Vulture)