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Why Dave Chappelle Got Netflix to Remove Chappelle’s Show

5 min read
Earlier this month, during an incendiary monologue on Saturday Night Live, Dave Chappelle talked about his great-grandfather, who was a slave until he was 10 years old. “I wish I could see him now and I wish he could see me. I wonder what he would say. This week I flew to New York on…
Why Dave Chappelle Got Netflix to Remove Chappelle’s Show

Earlier this month, during an incendiary monologue on Saturday Night Live, Dave Chappelle talked about his great-grandfather, who was a slave until he was 10 years old. “I wish I could see him now and I wish he could see me. I wonder what he would say. This week I flew to New York on a private jet to host Saturday Night Live. Netflix started streaming a show that bears his name, Chappelle’s Show, and HBO Max is streaming it. And I didn’t get paid for any of it,” Chappelle said. “If he could see me now, he’d probably be like, ‘This n—a got bought and sold more than I have.’”The joke drew some gasps from the show’s live audience, but it was nothing compared to the lengthy video Chappelle posted to Instagram on Tuesday where he condemned ViacomCBS for licensing his former series without allegedly compensating the comic for his work.“Do you know why Prince—the famous rock star who was a friend of mine—do you know why he called himself The Artist when he came back? He calls himself The Artist because that’s what they call us in our contracts,” Chappelle said in the video, which was record during one of his recent stand-up comedy shows. “Oh, these contracts are crazy. You should hear the terminology they say in these contracts. ‘To use your name and likeness in perpetuity throughout the universe.’ Who the fuck could possibly know what that means? Nobody does.”As Chappelle explained in the monologue, he initially signed a contract to host Chappelle’s Show on Comedy Central as a “28-year-old expectant father that was broke.”“I was desperate, I needed a way out. It wasn’t good money, it wasn’t good circumstances, but what else am I going to do?” he asked.According to the comic, he had previously approached HBO about the series but was turned down—a decision, Chappelle said in the video posted Tuesday, he was reminded of when HBO Max began streaming Chappelle’s Show this month through a licensing deal with ViacomCBS.“Now, these are executives, all they have to do is say, Yeah we’ll take it,’ or, ‘No, thank you, we won’t,’” Chappelle said of meeting with HBO years prior. “They didn’t say either of those things, they went too far. They said, literally, ‘What do we need you for?’ That’s what they told me as they kicked me out of the office, ‘What do we need you for?’ And here we are all these years later and they’re streaming the very show I was pitching to them. So I’m asking them, what do you need me for?”Representatives for HBO Max and WarnerMedia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.Chappelle hosted his eponymous show for three seasons, but famously left after signing a huge $50 million extension with Comedy Central in 2005. After he exited Chappelle’s Show, however, Chappelle claimed he “never got paid.”“They didn’t have to pay me because I signed the contract. But is that right?” he asked. “I found out that these people were streaming my work and they never had to ask me or they never had to tell me. Perfectly legal because I signed the contract. But is that right?” As the crowd said it was not, Chappelle added, “I didn’t think so either.”Chappelle signed a major deal with Netflix in 2016, and has worked almost exclusively with the streaming platform in the years since. But according to the star, when he found out Netflix had also licensed Chappelle’s Show for its platform, he was left “furious.”“So you know what I did? I called them and I told them that this makes me feel bad,” he explained. “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. That’s why I fuck with Netflix. Because they paid me my money, they do what they say they’re going to do, and they went above and beyond what you could expect from a businessman. They did something just because they thought that I might think that they were wrong. And I do. I think that if you are fucking streaming that show you’re fencing stolen goods. They stole that from me. They just took it.”Chappelle’s Show is no longer streaming on Netflix after being added to the service earlier this month.Though Chappelle feels Comedy Central signed him to a bad contract, he doesn’t think that was because of his race—but rather because of the industry itself. “I believe they gave me a raw deal because this fucking industry is a monster,” he said, with anger in his voice. “It’s the same monster that these #MeToo bitches was trying to tell you about. But they hate the monster for how it fucks, and I hate that monster for how it eats. But my god, man, it’s the same monster.”As for why he never mounted a return to sketch comedy on television, Chappelle said he had many friends who urged him to do just that after Chappelle’s Show ended. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he scoffed at the notion, “and why doesn’t a slave run from one plantation to another plantation because the master over there might be nicer? My god, man, I was trapped. To tell you the truth, I’ve even thought about coming back and doing another Chappelle’s Show. Well, but if I do, I can’t call it Chappelle’s Show, because my name and likeness is being used by them in perpetuity throughout the universe. It’s in the contract.”Chappelle concluded the video with a request for his fans. “I called my agent and I said, ‘Is there anything I could do about this show?’ And he said no. Well, fuck you too then,” Chappelle said. “If you want something done right, I guess you have to do it yourself. So I’m not going to my agents, I’m coming to my real boss. I’m coming to you. I’m begging you, please don’t watch that show. I’m not asking you to boycott any network—boycott me. Boycott Chappelle’s Show. Do not watch it unless they pay me.”In addition to HBO Max, Chappelle’s Show is also available to stream via Comedy Central and CBS All Access, both of which are owned by ViacomCBS.More Great Stories From Vanity FairThe Crown: The True Story of the Queen’s Institutionalized Cousins— A Real-Life Chess Champion Talks The Queen’s Gambit— Prince Andrew’s Most Appalling Real-Life Antics Were Left Out of The Crown— Review: Hillbilly Elegy Is Shameless Oscar Bait— Inside the Obstinate Life of Bette Davis— The Crown: What Really Happened When Charles Met DianaDiana’s Relationship With Princess Anne Was Even More Rocky Than in The Crown— From the Archive: Bette Davis on Her Failed Marriages and the Man Who Got Away— Not a subscriber? Join Vanity Fair to receive full access to VF.com and the complete online archive now.Read More

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