Dave Chappelle is willing to talk. After Netflix employees staged a walk-out in reaction to comments in the 48-year-old comedian’s recent special, “The Closer”, his rep tells ET that he is open to speaking to those who work at the streaming giant that are upset by his jokes.
“Dave stands by his art. Both sides of the street are talking, and Dave is listening. At some point, when everyone is open, I’m sure our communities will come together,” Chappelle’s rep says. “As Dave said in his special, ‘No more jokes about transgenders until we can all laugh together.'”
“I can confirm that neither Dave or I received any direct contact from Ashlee Marie Preston about the walk-out protest,” the rep adds of the organizer of Wednesday’s protest.
At the protest, however, Preston told reporters that she had reached out to the comedian.
“This isn’t an instance of cancel culture, because I’ve invited Dave Chappelle to have transformative dialogue with us on multiple occasions and he has made it clear it is not of interest to him,” Preston said. “Just to be clear, this isn’t cancel culture, but avoidance of accountability.”
The controversy began when “The Closer” hit Netflix earlier this month. In the special, Chappelle says that “gender is a fact,” adding, “Every human being in this room, every human being on Earth, had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on Earth.”
Chappelle also identified himself as “Team TERF,” which stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist, an ideology that excludes trans women as women.
Amid the swirling criticism, Chappelle spoke about cancel culture during a sold-out show at L.A.’s Hollywood Bowl, multiple outlets reported.
“If this is what being canceled is like, I love it,” he told his applauding audience, according to Deadline. “I don’t know what to tell you, except I’m a bad motherf**ker.”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, at one point the comedian said, “F**k Twitter. F**k NBC News, ABC News, all these stupid a** networks. I’m not talking to them. I’m talking to you. This is real life.”
After Chappelle spoke about cancel culture, Netflix Co-CEO Ted Sarandos sent out an internal memo defending the special, which was obtained by Variety.
“With ‘The Closer’, we understand that the concern is not about offensive-to-some content but titles which could increase real world harm (such as further marginalizing already marginalized groups, hate, violence etc.),” Sarandos wrote in part, according to the outlet. “Last year, we heard similar concerns about ‘365 Days’ and violence against women. While some employees disagree, we have a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.”
Shortly thereafter, one day ahead of the Netflix employees’ walk-out, Sarandos told the same outlet that he “screwed up that internal communication,” but continued to defend Netflix’s decision to keep Chappelle’s special on the platform.
“Sometimes, there will be things on Netflix that you dislike. That you even find to be harmful,” he said in part. “Where we’ll definitely draw the line is on something that would intentionally call for physically harming other people or even remove protections. For me, intent to cause physical harm crosses the line, for sure.”
As for ‘The Closer’, Sarandos said, “Under the definition of ‘does it intend to cause physical harm?’ I do not believe it falls into hate speech.”
While Rose McGowan said “whiny” Netflix employees participating in the walk-out were displaying “fake activism and obnoxious self-importance,” many other celebrities — including Elliot Page, Dan Levy, Angelica Ross, Jameela Jamil, Colton Haynes, Billy Eichner, Mason Alexander Park, Sara Ramírez, and Jonathan Van Ness — disagreed and publicly supported the protest in a video PSA released by Team Trans*.
“I stand with the trans, nonbinary, and BIPOC employees at Netflix fighting for more and better trans stories and a more inclusive workplace,” Page tweeted alongside the video, with Levy writing that “transphobia is unacceptable and harmful.”
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