UPDATE 12-15: Nearly three weeks after Chappelle went public with the news that Netflix has honored his request to remove the series, HBO Max has finally followed suit. “We had a conversation with Dave,” Casey Bloys, chief content officer of HBO and HBO Max said. “I won’t get into it, but it’s very clear that it’s a very unique and specific and emotional issue he’s got,” Bloys told Variety‘s executive editor of TV, Daniel Holloway. “So at the end of the year, at the end of this year, December 31st, we’re going to honor his request and take the show down.”
Last month news broke that Chappelle’s Show would be available for streaming on both HBO Max and Netflix starting November 1st. It made a lot of sense, given HBO Max’s overall deal with Comedy Central and also Chappelle’s relationship with Netflix.
The show’s creator and star, Dave Chappelle himself seemed to not know much about this happening. It was particularly telling when he hosted the post-election episode of Saturday Night Live that same week he made some off-the-cuff comments about it in his monologue. While most people didn’t know what was happening in the background, the comedian was apparently making moves against Comedy Central/Viacom’s decision to do so an not being cut into his art. Earlier today, Chappelle took to his Instagram account and posted an 18 minute stand-up clip he called “Unforgiven.”
The clip is from a recent stand-up performance (we’re thinking from his Texas run last week) telling a story about how, when he was just starting out, someone asked him to borrow one of his jokes to tell onstage. After he naively agreed, the other comic later told Chappelle that he was planning on continuing to do the joke. This story actually connects to the whole streaming thing. Chappelle goes onto explain how he hasn’t gotten paid anything for Chappelle’s Show since he signed the contract while they were making it. And while Viacom was profiting off the show’s streaming at Netflix and HBO Max, he hasn’t made a cent off of his art.
Adding insult to injury was his good working relationship with Netflix.
The comic also revealed that he asked Netflix to take down the series. And in a very classy move, recognizing how much Chappelle has done for them, Netflix complied and removed the show. Conversely, he was less than kind (scathing actually) with HBO and Comedy Central. Telling some age-old tales about how the entertainment industry consistently takes advantage of artists, calling it a “monster,” for owning his likeness and name in perpetuity.
In addition to Netflix taking it down, Chappelle called for fans to join his cause by calling them to not watch Chappelle’s Show on any streaming platform.
“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,” Chappelle stated. “I’m not asking you to boycott any network. Boycott me. Boycott Chappelle’s Show. Do not watch it unless they pay me.”
This once again surfaces the longtime debate about artists who create work not always getting the proper recognition they rightly deserve. Chappelle references Prince in his rant who famously went to war with his label in the 90s. We’re still seeing this today with contemporaries like Kanye West and Taylor Swift who are also embroiled in debates over the ownership of their art. While one would hope things changed since the show first went on the air nearly 20 years ago, it’s become clear that little has actually changed and there’s a lot more work to be done to get artists properly respected and compensated for creating their art.
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