Comedian Dave Chappelle has gone back on the road for an 11-date city tour across the country following the controversy over his latest Netflix comedy special which some have branded transphobic.
On Thursday night, Chapelle kicked off a sold out, in-person screening of his Untitled documentary at the Chase Center in San Francisco.
‘It’s been a hell of a few weeks,’ Chappelle said on stage following the screening to 18,000 fans who packed the arena.
In recent weeks, the comedian has faced calls for him to be canceled following jokes made in a stand-up special which is entirely separate to the screening.
But Chappelle appeared to dismiss the scale of the controversy by saying that it was only happening ‘in a corner of the world that just happens to control the media,’
‘Man, I love being canceled. It’s a huge relief!’ he joked.
He explained that he was able to ignore the controversy in part because ‘I’m rich and famous.’
He added: ‘When you’re in the eye of the storm, it all just swirls around you.’
‘It’s been a hell of a three weeks,’ Chappelle said on stage following the screening to the 18,000 fans gathered at the arena. Pictured, in an Instagram video from last month
‘It’s been a hell of a three weeks,’ Chappelle said on stage following the screening to the 18,000 fans gathered at the arena. He is pictured, in an Instagram video from last month
Chappelle courted controversy with his jokes in which he asserts ‘gender is a fact,’ and criticizes what he says is the thin skin of the trans community.
The jokes were based upon earlier observations made by Harry Potter author J K Rowling’s who in 2019 stated that transgender women were not actually women and were a threat to her identity.
Chappelle appeared to dismiss the scale of the controversy he was embroiled in by saying that it was only happening ‘in a corner of the world that just happens to control the media’. He is pictured during a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony last month
According to his website the documentary is ‘Fueled by the murder of George Floyd, shut-in by the closures of business due to the pandemic and provides economic and comic relief.’
Last week, Chappelle addressed the backlash for the first time remaining unapologetic in a five minute video he posted on his Instagram account.
In a video posted to social media video, Chappelle revealed how he had been uninvited by film festivals while distributors have also backed out of picking up his documentary.
It is part of the reason why he has decided to head out on the road to screen the film to audiences himself.
Chappelle said that the Untitled documentary, about the comedian’s efforts to hold stand-up shows in a neighbor’s cornfield in Ohio during the pandemic, had been invited to ‘every film festival in the United States.’
In the wake of The Closer controversy, however, ‘they began disinviting me from these film festivals and now, today, not a film company, not a movie studio, not a film festival, not nobody will touch this film.’
Netflix’s co-CEOs Reed Hastings (left) and Sarandos (right) have both defended the special. Hastings said the decision to stream The Closer was ‘on the right side of history’ while Sararndos insisted ‘that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm’
Netflix has continued to stand by Chappelle and his comedy special, which was released on the streaming platform October 5
He added, ‘Thank god for Ted Sarandos at Netflix, he’s the only one who didn’t cancel me yet.’
Sarandos, the co-chief executive at the streaming service, has defended the special and told staff in an email that ‘content on screen doesn’t translate to real-world harm,’ but later backed down and apologized for that email.
Chappelle, 48, also defended his special during last weeks’ Instagram video and claimed that the controversy isn’t about the LGBTQ community. ‘Do not blame the LGBTQ community for any of this s**t. That has nothing to do with this,’ he said. ‘It’s about corporate interest and what I can say and I cannot say.’
Chappelle’s documentary, directed by Oscar-nominated filmmakers Julia Reichert and Steve Bognar, features stand-up shows he held in his neighbor’s spacious Ohio cornfield during the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns. ‘The best comedians on Earth came to my home and broke bread with me and we lived our ways, we found a way to keep moving forward,’ he said.
On the first night of such shows, in May 2020, Chappelle can be seen speaking in depth about the killing of George Floyd by police.
‘I desperately want people to see this movie,’ he said in last month’s Instagram clip. ‘But I understand why investors would be nervous.’
Such nervousness is the reason by Chappelle has decided to air the film on his own in ten other American cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Indianapolis between now and November 22. ‘You will be able to see this movie in its entirety and you can see what they’re trying to obstruct you from seeing and you can judge for yourself,’ he said.
The Closer is Chappelle’s last stand up special on Netflix before he takes a break
Chappelle has said that he would be willing to speak with with trans employees at Netflix. ‘To the transgender community, I am more than willing to give you an audience, but you will not summon me,’ Chapelle said. ‘I am not bending to anyone’s demands, and if you want to meet with me, I am more than willing to, but I have some conditions…’
He continued, ‘First of all, you cannot come if you have not watched my special from beginning to end. You must come to a place of my choosing at a time of my choosing, and thirdly, you must admit that Hannah Gadsby is not funny.
‘Am I canceled or not? Then let’s go!’ Chappelle yells at the end of the video as the crowd roared their support.
Hannah Gadsby is a lesbian comedian also featured on Netflix who has slammed Chappelle’s special and the streaming service after Sarandos used her name to tout the platform’s commitment to diversity.
Sarandos initially defended Chappelle and said that his special did not ‘cross the line’ on hate speech, despite various organizations including GLAAD and National Black Justice Coalition condemning the comedian’s comments along with a number of trans Netflix employees.
But Sarandos appears to have softened his stance.
‘I screwed up the internal communication — and I don’t mean just mechanically,’ Sarandos said. ‘I feel I should’ve made sure to recognize that a group of our employees was hurting very badly from the decision made, and I should’ve recognized upfront before going into a rationalization of anything the pain they were going through. I say that because I respect them deeply, and I love the contribution they have at Netflix. They were hurting, and I should’ve recognized that first.’
Sarandos said that Netflix ‘was working hard to ensure marginalized communities aren’t defined by a single story’ specifically noting ‘we have Sex Education, Orange Is the New Black, Control Z, Hannah Gadsby and Dave Chappelle all on Netflix. Key to this is increasing diversity on the content team itself.’
A man holds a placard as he attends a rally in support of the Netflix transgender employee walkout ‘Stand Up in Solidarity’ to protest the streaming of comedian Dave Chappelle’s new comedy special, in Los Angeles, picture last month
Gadsby, who has two comedy specials on Netflix, rose to fame after her first special Nanette began streaming on Netflix in 2018.
She posted on Instagram asking Sarandos not to ‘drag [her] name into [his] mess.’
‘F**k you and your amoral algorithm cult…’ she wrote.
In the contentious special, Chappelle jokes that women today view transwomen the same way black people might view white women wearing blackface, and remarked that women are entitled to feel anger toward transwomen, since Caitlyn Jenner won Glamour magazine’s 2015 Woman of the Year award.
‘I’d be mad as sh*t if I was a woman,’ Chappelle says during one section which protesters have taken exception to.
The star also jokes about the anatomy of transwomen in the special, joking that they lacked real female reproductive organs and that they did not have menstrual blood but ‘beet juice’ instead.
Chappelle has been branded transphobic for jokes he made in previous specials, though in The Closer he is at pains to stress that he does not hate transgender people.
He concludes the special by telling a long anecdote about a trans woman comic, who he describes as a friend, who came to his defense in earlier entanglements with the community.
Chappelle adds: ‘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.’
It has been almost three weeks since the controversy began which saw some staff suspended and others fired in the fallout.
Daphne Dorman, 44, was a transgender amateur comic opened for comedian Dave Chappelle
Chappelle’s comments and Netflix’s refusal to pull the comedy special, The Closer, led to protests on the streets of Hollywood.
Those who have criticized Chapelle’s jokes have specifically cited the physical danger faced by the trans community as a result of anti-trans ideology.
The family of a trans woman who Chappelle said was hounded to death for defending his jokes in a 2019 Netflix show have slammed the woke mob trying to cancel him, saying they do not know how much he did for her.
Daphne Dorman was 44 when she killed herself in 2019. She had defended her friend Chappelle for jokes made during a Netflix special that year.
‘When she did that, the trans community dragged that b**** through Twitter,’ Chappelle told the audience in The Closer.
‘For days, they was going in on her and she was on her own because she’s funny,’ he continued, hinting the harassment might have contributed to her suicide.
‘It’s a true story; my heart was broken. I don’t know what was going on, but I’ll bet dragging her didn’t help.’
Dorman, who began transitioning in 2014, was an up-and-coming comedian who opened a show for Chappelle.
Her humor veiled a dark past mired by a troubled childhood that left her with severe PTSD, her family said.
But despite her inner demons, she tapped into her comedy to make the world around her laugh, her sister said.
Her sister brushed off critics who have slammed Chappelle’s transgender jokes, saying the comedian ‘loved’ Dorman and said people cannot demand that ‘everyone see it your way’.
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