Chappelle Shades Hannah Gadsby While Taking Hard Line about Trans Controversy

Tuesday October 26, 2021

Dave Chappelle
Dave Chappelle  (Source:Netflix)

Dave Chappelle doubled-down about the trans controversy surrounding his Netflix special "The Closer." Variety reports that the comedian spoke out about the controversy over his Netflix special "The Closer" in a video he posted on IG "saying that he is willing to meet with transgender Netflix employees or other members of the trans community, but won't bend 'to anybody's demands.'"


Chappelle's video, posted on his Instagram account on Monday, was filmed at his performance in Louisville, Kentucky, on Sunday, according to CNN. It was his first public reaction to critics since his special debuted on Oct. 5. In Louisville, he appeared with popular podcaster Joe Rogan.

Saying "I said what I said," he was unapologetic about the accusations of transphobia for which he's been criticized for since the special dropped. In his statement, he cast himself as a victim of cancel culture.

"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," Chappelle said in the video. "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 that can't go to the office anymore."

He said that the controversy is about "corporate interests" and that some members of the LGBTQ+ community have been supportive of him.

"I want everyone in this audience to know that even though the media frames it that it's me versus that community, that is not what it is. Do not blame the LBGTQ [sic] community for any of this shit. This has nothing to do with them. 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 supporting, so I don't know what all this nonsense is about."

In the video he added that the controversy has led to cancellations of his upcoming documentary about his summer 2020 comedy tour from film festivals around the country.

"This film that I made was invited to every film festival in the United States and some of those invitations I accepted. When this controversy came out about 'The Closer,' they began disinviting me from these film festivals," Chappelle claimed. "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."

Hannah Gadsby
Hannah Gadsby  (Source: Netflix)

While Chappelle has been under attack from many in the LGBTQ community who want Netflix to remove the special, the streaming giant has supported him wholeheartedly throughout the controversy. Netflix chairman Ted Sarandos, Deadline reports, "initially defended Chappelle and the special against claims of transphobia, saying it did not "cross the line" on hate speech even as trans staffers, past and present, and organizations such as GLAAD and National Black Justice Coalition condemned the comedian's comments."

But, Deadline adds, Sarandos tempered his initial comments a week later, likely in response to internal dissension within the company. "I screwed up the internal communication — and I don't mean just mechanically," the exec said in a series of calibrated media appearances as an October 20 walkout by Netflix trans staffers and others loomed. "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."

The walk-out took place last Wednesday. "A pre-noon rally at a Netflix office-studio complex drew about 100 people, most on the side of an estimated 30 workers at the streaming giant that joined in afterward. Some were willing to identify themselves as Netflix employees, but all declined to provide their names," EDGE reported.

In a related corporate controversy, a Netflix employee was fired for being accused of leaking to the press that the streaming company paid Chappelle $24 million for the special. It has been Netflix's most streamed show since its premiere.

"Former Netflix program manager B. Pagels-Minor was let go earlier this month for 'sharing confidential, commercially sensitive information outside the company' that was published in a Bloomberg article—allegations they have denied," Newsweek writes.

"And Pagels-Minor has stated that they believe Chappelle's special should still be available on the streamer's platform, amid backlash over comments he made about transgender women in the special."

Chappelle also said he was willing to meet with members of the trans community, but "jokingly listed off a slew of conditions that would have to be met," comments Variety, including slamming Hannah Gadsby. "To the transgender community, I am more than willing to give you an audience, but you will not summon me. I am not bending to anybody's demands. And if you want to meet with me, I'd be more than willing to, but I have some conditions. 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."

The latter comment was in response to the out Gadsby pointedly calling out Sarandos for dropping her name in defense of Chappelle. "Hey Ted Sarandos," she wrote on Instagram. "Just a quick note to let you know that I would prefer if you didn't drag my name into your mess."

She added: "You didn't pay me nearly enough to deal with the real world consequences of the hate speech dog whistling you refuse to acknowledge, Ted. Fuck you and your amoral algorithm cult."