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Dave Chappelle’s show returns to Netflix: ‘You need to know where your power lies’

Dave Chappelle
Dave Chappelle, shown in his Netflix special “Sticks & Stones,” says his audience was key in “Chappelle’s Show” streaming negotiations.
(Mathieu Bitton / Netflix)

“Chappelle’s Show” has returned to Netflix as of Friday, and you have only yourselves to blame. And that, according to the comic behind the classic program, is a very good thing.

Dave Chappelle announced his show’s return to the streaming platform — and his recent payment for it — in a performance called “Redemption Song,” posted late Thursday on Instagram.

“This is a very important moment,” he said. “I want to thank Ted Sarandos at Netflix, a CEO who had the courage to take my show off its platform, at financial detriment to his company, just because I asked him.”

The request was part of Chappelle’s effort a few months back, after his 2003-06 show debuted Nov. 1 on Netflix with no additional payment to him. He said he had called Sarandos and asked him to pull the show “just so I could feel better.” The streamer agreed to do its comedy star’s bidding.

Dave Chappelle says “Chappelle’s Show” was licensed to Netflix and HBO Max without his permission or any payment. It was legal, he says, but not right.

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Chappelle continued Thursday: “I want to thank Chris McCarthy of CBS Viacom [sic]. This guy is younger than me, and like most people younger than me, has an interest in making the past right. ... Finally, after all these years, I can finally say to Comedy Central, it’s been a pleasure doing business with you.”

He pinned responsibility for that success directly on his fan base.

After taking a circuitous route in his performance through a scathing discussion of Edward Snowden, the upheaval in Ferguson, Mo., militarization of police and the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Chappelle said he knows where his power lies: with his fans.

“I asked you to stop watching the show, and thank God almighty for you, you did,” he said. “You made that show worthless, because without your eyes, it’s nothing. And when you stopped watching it, they called me, and I got my name back. And I got my license back. And I got my show back. And they paid me millions of dollars. Thank you very much.”

In November, Chappelle said in his “Unforgiven” special that his fans were his “real boss” and that the “public flogging” he was giving Comedy Central was not something performers were supposed to do. He could do it, he said, because of the public support he has.

Dave Chappelle in a dark suit with a microphone
Dave Chappelle performs at his Mark Twain Prize for American Humor ceremony.
(Jati Lindsay)

“I’m coming to you,” he said at the time. “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 said in November that he had reached out to what he presumed was 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.

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 shows will ultimately become exclusive to the CBS All Access streaming service, soon to be known as Paramount+.

Chappelle got no additional money for the streaming deal, having unwittingly given up those rights years ago, in perpetuity, before the prospect of streaming TV even existed.

“You need to know how to solve your problems,” he said Thursday. “You need to know where your power lies. You are Americans, so your power lies in each other.”

HBO Max, like Netflix, will remove “Chappelle’s Show” from streaming at the request of star Dave Chappelle because of a “specific and emotional issue.”

Chappelle also addressed his January bout with COVID-19, contracted after he was doing what he could to keep performing during the pandemic. “After all these months and doing all these shows ... my number was up, and then I had the ’rona. Aww.”

Most people wished him a speedy recovery, he said.

“But there was a faction of people, the cowards, who said, ‘You see that, Dave Chappelle, that’s why we stay inside where it’s safe, and we never try anything.’

“Well, enjoy yourself ...,” Chappelle said, "’cause I’m better now.”


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