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Netflix cuts ‘Chappelle’s Show’ loose, because Dave Chappelle wanted it that way

Dave Chappelle in 2018
Dave Chappelle says he called Netflix and asked them not to stream “Chappelle’s Show” because it made him “feel bad.”
(Charles Sykes / Associated Press)

Netflix has done one of its marquee attractions, Dave Chappelle, a solid: It has stopped streaming “Chappelle’s Show,” the sketch-comedy series that the comic made for Comedy Central back in the aughts.

Chappelle explained what went down, from his point of view, in a profanity-peppered video posted Tuesday on social media. It is titled “Unforgiven.”

The comedian detailed all the ways that the comedy industry has treated him badly since he got his start at age 14. He also opened up about how he came to sign a contract granting Comedy Central the rights to “Chappelle’s Show” in perpetuity.

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“That’s how I got with Comedy Central. I signed the contract,” Chappelle said. “But I signed the contract the way that a 28-year-old expectant father that was broke signs a contract. I was desperate. I needed a way out. And it wasn’t good money and it wasn’t good circumstances, but what else am I going to do, I said.”

Chappelle wound up walking away from the TV show — on which he was a creator, executive producer and star — after three seasons.

Netflix and HBO Max got streaming rights to the series in the U.S. through a nonexclusive deal with ViacomCBS, which owns Comedy Central, the Hollywood Reporter said last month. The shows will ultimately become exclusive to Paramount+ — the new name for CBS All Access — but until that rebrand happens in early 2021, the company is aiming to introduce its library content to new audiences.

“Chappelle’s Show” is still available on CBS All Access and Comedy Central.

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No money went to the comic in the new deal, and nobody had to ask him for permission, Chappelle said, because he had signed that contract years ago. But he did give Netflix, which started streaming his show Nov. 1, a phone call.

That would be the same Netflix that as of 2016 pays him multiple millions per comedy special.

“I called them and I told them that this makes me feel bad,” he said. “And do you want to know what they did? They agreed that they would take it off their platform — just so I could feel better.”

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The company went above and beyond what can be expected from a business, he said, likening those who are still streaming the show to people “fencing stolen goods.”

“I’m not up here to tell you Comedy Central gave me a raw deal just because I’m Black,” Chappelle said. “I believe that they gave me a raw deal because this ... industry is a monster.”

He said that what he was doing, “publicly flogging” a network, is not something people in his business are supposed to do.

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“I’m coming to my real boss,” he said. “I’m coming to you. I’m begging you, if you ever liked me, if you ever think there was anything worthwhile about me, I’m begging you: Please don’t watch that show. I’m not asking you to boycott any network. Boycott me.”

Chappelle then reached out to what he presumes is a new group of people running Comedy Central and asked them to review what he got paid for doing “Chappelle’s Show” back in the day, compared with how much the show has made.

“You’re going to pay me,” he said.

Netflix, which removed “Chappelle’s Show” from its platform Monday night, had no comment. A rep for HBO Max did not respond immediately to a request for comment; the show is still streaming on that channel as of Tuesday afternoon.


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