Dave Chappelle Says He’s Willing to Talk to Netflix’s Trans Employees, but ‘I Said What I Said’

According to Chappelle, the controversy is discouraging film festivals from screening his new documentary about his 2020 summer comedy tour.
Dave Chappelle, "The Closer"
Dave Chappelle, "The Closer"

Dave Chappelle is willing to sit down with Netflix and the streamer’s transgender employees to discuss the ongoing controversy surrounding his standup special, “The Closer,” according to a new video he shared on Instagram. But Chappelle remained unapologetic about the content being perceived as transphobic and homophobic in the special.

Chappelle said, “It’s been said in the press that I was invited to speak to the transgender employees of Netflix and I refused. That is not true — if they had invited me I would have accepted it, although I am confused about what we would be speaking about. I said what I said, and boy, I heard what you said. My God, how could I not? You said you want a safe working environment at Netflix. It seems like I’m the only one who can’t go to the office.”

Chappelle said that the controversy was more about “corporate interests” and that he actually has the support of members of the LGBTQ community. “I want everyone in this audience to know that even though the media frames it that it’s me versus that community, that’s not what it is. Do not blame the LGBTQ community for any of this. It’s about corporate interests, and what I can say, and what I cannot say,” Chappelle said. “For the record, and I need you to know this, everyone I know from that community has been loving and supportive, so I don’t know what this nonsense is about.”

Chappelle said that the controversy has made him persona non grata on the film festival circuit as he tries to release his upcoming documentary about his 2020 standup tour. “This film that I made was invited to every film festival in the United States. Some of those invitations I accepted. When this controversy came out about ‘The Closer’, they began disinviting me from these film festivals. And now, today, not a film company, not a movie studio, not a film festival, nobody will touch this film. Thank God for Ted Sarandos and Netflix, he’s the only one that didn’t cancel me yet,” he said.

The October 5 special “The Closer,” for which Chappelle has been accused of transphobia, has prompted outcry from organizations including GLAAD and led to a staff walkout at Netflix’s Hollywood headquarters on October 20. Netflix’s handling of the crisis has also met its own controversy, as a series of internal memos from Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos were leaked to the press revealing his defense of releasing the show, which led to Sarandos subsequently doubling down on his comments only to later admit that he “screwed up.”

“Gender is a fact,” Chappelle says in the special. “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. Now, I am not saying that to say trans women aren’t women, I am just saying that those pussies that they got… you know what I mean? I’m not saying it’s not pussy, but it’s Beyond Pussy or Impossible Pussy. It tastes like pussy, but that’s not quite what it is, is it? That’s not blood. That’s beet juice.”

In the special, Chappelle says he is also “done” with talking about the LGBTQ community “until we are both sure that we are laughing together,” adding, “All I ask of your community, with all humility: Will you please stop punching down on my people?”

Last Wednesday’s rally outside of Netflix grounds, which included Netflix LGBTQ employees and other allies, was organized by trans activist Ashlee Marie Preston in service of supporting staffers as they presented their demands to Sarandos. Among them were creating a new fund dedicated to trans and non-binary talent both above and below the line, and separate from Netflix’s already-existing Creative Equity Fund. The demands also include revising internal processes for approving potentially harmful content, bolstering marketing and promotion for trans-related content, and diversifying executive leadership.

The night before the rally, Sarandos said in an interview with Variety, “I should have led with a lot more humanity. Meaning, I had a group of employees who were definitely feeling pain and hurt from a decision we made. And I think that needs to be acknowledged.”


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