Netflix Will Continue Welcoming Dave Chappelle's Anti-Trans Jokes, CEO Says

As Chappelle doubles down on anti-LGBTQ+ jokes, his comments about Jewish people on "Saturday Night Live" also have drawn ire.

click to enlarge In 2021, Dave Chappelle released a documentary that focused on his time in Yellow Springs. - Photo: Mathieu Bitton, Pilot Boy Productions
Photo: Mathieu Bitton, Pilot Boy Productions
In 2021, Dave Chappelle released a documentary that focused on his time in Yellow Springs.

Dave Chappelle is doing just fine as far as Netflix is concerned.

The comedian from Yellow Springs repeatedly has been under fire for his defense of jokes that punch down instead of up – particularly jokes against the transgender and Jewish  communities. His words have inspired Netflix employee strikes and community intervention attempts.

But during the Nov. 30 New York Times DealBook Summit, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings confirmed that he is unbothered by the controversy surrounding Chappelle's The Closer stand-up special and that the streaming service would continue Chappelle's projects, The Verge reports. In The Closer, Chappelle used language disparaging the LGBTQ+ community.

"We’re just trying to be the most exciting entertainment company and more. That special was one of the most entertaining watch specials we’ve ever had. We would do it again and again,” Hastings said.

Hastings called Chappelle “very entertaining and provocative.” Then again, Hastings also said at the same event that controversial Twitter and Tesla owner Elon Musk – who has fired many Twitter employees since his  recent takeover and has allowed hate-based and disinformation accounts to thrive on the app again – was "the bravest, most creative person on the planet” who "is trying to help the world in all his endeavors," AV Club reports.

The Closer was nominated for two Emmy awards in the fall: Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-Recorded) and Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special. The Netflix special won neither.

Chappelle's SNL monologue drew ire

Chappelle hosted Saturday Night Live on Nov. 12, with many SNL writers angry that he was selected for the gig, Buzzfeed reports. Much of Chappelle's lengthy monologue focused on Kanye West, who has been going by the name Ye, and West's escalating antisemitic remarks such as "I like Hitler." Chappelle first read a statement saying, "I denounce antisemitism in all its forms and I stand with my friends in the Jewish community," before adding, "And that, Kanye, is how you buy yourself some time."

Chappelle then intimated that there are certain communities that are allowed to be publicly disparaged with society's approval and some – Jewish people, he claimed – that must remain untouched.

"If they’re Black, then it’s a gang. If they’re Italian, it’s a mob. But if they’re Jewish, it’s a coincidence and you should never speak about it," Chappelle said on SNL.

Chappelle said that one could "go out to Hollywood and start connecting some kind of lines" and "maybe adopt the illusion that Jews run show business.”

“It’s not a crazy thing to think, but it’s a crazy thing to say out loud," Chappelle continued, seemingly advising that antisemitic, racist, homophobic or other disparaging thoughts are fine to have as long as one doesn't share them.

Chappelle's SNL monologue drew disapproval from the Anti Defamation League.

“We shouldn’t expect @DaveChappelle to serve as society’s moral compass, but disturbing to see @nbcsnl not just normalize but popularize #antisemitism,” ADL chief executive officer Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted. “Why are Jewish sensitivities denied or diminished at almost every turn? Why does our trauma trigger applause?”

Comedian Sarah Silverman weighed in on Chappelle's monologue during the Dec. 1 episode of her podcast. Silverman, who is friends with Chappelle and is Jewish, said that initially, she wasn't sure that she would say anything about the incident.
"Most people who watched it, hating Jews was not their takeaway. But I will tell you, Jews for the most part, were hypersensitive to it, just like any minority will be keenly aware of the hatred and little aggressions against them," Silverman said. "And there were a lot of Jewish jokes in there that were fucking hilarious, but that’s what made the antisemitism in it so scary. It bolstered it."

Page Six reports that Chappelle used a "fake" monologue during rehearsals so that his controversial broadcast monologue would not be throttled.

Controversy surrounded Dave Chappelle's The Closer

In 2021, Chappelle was embroiled in a major controversy upon the Oct. 5 release of his his Netflix special The Closer, in which he intentionally misgendered a transgender friend who had died. Chappelle also has defended Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling for her series of ongoing transphobic remarks and positions, declared himself "Team TERF" ("trans-exclusionary radical feminist," or, more simply, someone who supports women but not trans women) and compared trans women's genitalia to "Beyond" products – a meat substitute – implying that they are not "real" genitalia.

After The Closer was released, Netflix employees staged a walk-out to protest Chappelle's anti-trans jokes as well as his ongoing anti-cancel-culture comedy sets, Vox reported. Earlier this year, Netflix laid off a large swath of employees, many of whom were LGBTQ+ and/or non-white or worked on shows that highlighted those traits. And in an update to its corporate culture memo in May, Netflix added a section defending controversial "artistic expression" like Chappelle's and outlined ways to protect privileged information around such content.
Chappelle has claimed to have never made explicit anti-trans jokes and that members of the LGBTQ+ community had "punched down" on "my people" like Kevin Hart, a Black comedian who has made homophobic jokes and tweets over the years.

Chappelle has long held that jokes about marginalized communities are fair game despite members of those communities repeatedly telling him about the harm he does.

Dave Chappelle joked that his attacker in May was "a trans man"

On May 3, a man attacked Chappelle on stage during the Netflix Is a Joke comedy festival. In an interview with the New York Post, Chappelle's attacker Isaiah Lee said that he was moved to act due to the comedian's ongoing jokes about LGBTQ+ community members, sexual abuse and homelessness.

Immediately after the incident, Chappelle returned to the stage and told his audience that his attacker, "was a trans man" in a joking fashion, alluding to the ire the comedian has raised for his repeated anti-transgender jokes and bits.

Dave Chappelle made LGBTQ+ jokes during a Columbus standup set with John Mulaney

Chappelle surprised comedy fans by showing up to John Mulaney's May 20 stand-up show in Columbus. But many attendees were frustrated when Chappelle reportedly continued his punches toward the LGBTQ+ community during his unscheduled set.

Chappelle performed for about 15 minutes before Mulaney took over, social media users said. During Chappelle's mini-set, the comedian reportedly talked about the man who had attacked him on stage on May 3 and made a joke about the man's weapon – which police had said was a gun that also had a knife blade. Chappelle claimed that it was "a gun that identifies as a knife." 
The comedian's bit invoked a trope that largely is considered transphobic, as it makes light of people who declare or affirm a gender identity. People who are transgender have gender identities that are different from those they were born with. Chappelle's words also equated an inanimate object to living people who are routinely marginalized through laws and resources as well as physically and verbally attacked.

One attendee at the Columbus show told Buzzfeed News that Chappelle also made homophobic jokes about audience members. "He had a bit where he pulled out twin boys from the crowd and said they were jerking each other off and were gay with one another, which was weird," Madison McAlear told Buzzfeed.

Attendees posted that being confronted with Chappelle's hurtful jokes without notice was crushing, pointing out that Mulaney knew of Chappelle's maligned history with the LGBTQ+ community and welcomed him to perform anyway.

After Chappelle's set, Mulaney hugged his fellow comedian, seemingly condoning Chappelle's act.

Netflix had another Dave Chappelle special in June

Despite the fire that Chappelle constantly finds himself in, Netflix doesn't appear to be interested in parting ways with the comedian. On June 7, the streaming platform released What's in a Name, which features a 40-minute speech that Chappelle gave at Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C. in June. His alma mater intended to name a theater after Chappelle, but with the anti-trans controversy, the comedian declined. The theater is now called the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression.

The Netflix special focuses on Chappelle's speech during the naming ceremony but also references a separate conversation he'd had with students who were unhappy with his anti-LGBTQ jokes and had protested against naming anything after him. Chappelle defended his right to say what he'd wanted as part of his art, largely disagreeing with the teenagers and dismissing their views and concerns for the transgender community.
"All the kids were screaming and yelling. I remember, I said to the kids, I go, 'Well, okay, well what do you guys think I did wrong?' And a line formed. These kids said everything about gender and this and that and the other, but they didn’t say anything about art," Chappelle said during his speech.

"Every human being in this room, every human being on Earth, had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on Earth. That is a fact," Chappelle also said, referencing cisgender women while ignoring that trans women generally do not bear children but many trans men do have that capability.

In contrast to other Chappelle endeavors, Netflix released the special without fanfare.

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