He also laid out conditions, often to the laughter and cheers of the crowd. He said those who meet with him need to watch his special from “beginning to end,” and he must choose the time and place of any meeting. Lastly, he said, “you must admit that Hannah Gadsby,” a lesbian comedian with her own Netflix specials, “is not funny.”
Chappelle’s comments on his special “The Closer” prompted a firestorm of criticism from Netflix employees and LGBTQ groups, who said the comedian’s jokes were transphobic and could cause harm to transgender people. In portions of the special, Chappelle likens being transgender to wearing blackface, says “gender is a fact” and notes that he’s a member of “team TERF,” an acronym referring to trans-exclusionary radical feminists.
LGBTQ advocacy groups spoke out, with GLAAD condemning the jokes as harmful and the National Black Justice Coalition calling on Netflix to remove the show. Netflix co-chief executive Ted Sarandos said that would not happen, telling employees in an internal memo that “our members enjoy it, and it’s an important part of our content offering.”
In a second memo, Sarandos mentioned Gadsby’s stand-up specials as evidence of the platform’s support for LGBTQ programming. Gadsby swiftly clapped back online, saying, “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.”
Gadsby had not publicly responded to Chappelle’s comments about her comedy as of Tuesday.
Several dozen trans and nonbinary employees walked out of the Netflix campus in Los Angeles last week in protest of Chappelle’s special. Days before, Netflix fired an employee who leaked information to Bloomberg News that the company spent $24.1 million on the special.
In an interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday, Ashlee Marie Preston, a trans activist and media personality who helped organize the Netflix walkout, said she watched the video Chappelle posted online Monday and felt the comedian and his conditions were not genuine.
“Essentially, he was mocking us,” she said.
Preston said she has wanted to meet with Chappelle since his comments about trans people in his 2019 special “Sticks & Stones” stirred controversy, and she called his most recent response “unfortunate” and a squandered opportunity.
In the performance Chappelle posted on Instagram, he claimed that since backlash erupted over “The Closer,” film festivals won’t screen a new documentary called “Untitled,” which shows how he dealt with the death of George Floyd during the global pandemic.
“Not a film company, not a movie studio and not a film festival — nobody will touch this film,” Chappelle said, without specifying any studios or festivals. “Thank God for Ted Sarandos and Netflix. He’s the only one who didn’t cancel me yet.”
But he did note that the movie “will be available” in 10 major cities. “You will be able to see this movie in its entirety and you can see what they're trying to obstruct you from seeing,” he said. “You can judge for yourself, but you cannot have this conversation and exclude my voice from it. That is only fair.”
In the coming weeks, the documentary will be screened at mega-venues including New York’s Madison Square Garden and San Francisco’s Chase Center.
“You have to answer the question: Am I canceled or not?” Chappelle said to a crowd that responded with a collective “no.”
Preston said she believed that in referencing Floyd and claiming that his film was pulled from festivals, Chappelle was framing himself as a victim and pitting the transgender and Black communities against each other.
“He already did that in ‘The Closer,’ ” she said. “He already pit Blackness against queerness as if Black trans and queer folks don’t exist.”