Explaining why Dave Chappelle had his show pulled from Netflix

Abby Robinson
·5 min read
Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

From Digital Spy

If you type Dave Chappelle's name into the Netflix search bar, several options appear.

From standup specials Sticks & Stones and Equanimity to a lengthy chat with David Letterman on My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, there's enough comedy and conversation to distract you from the pandemic for several hours.

But one title that you won't see is Chappelle's Show, which first aired on Comedy Central in 2003, before being picked up recently by Netflix.

Chappelle co-created the series with Neal Brennan, which he also hosted and starred in.

Photo credit: Kevin Winter - Getty Images
Photo credit: Kevin Winter - Getty Images

As well as receiving critical acclaim, the ratings were impressive, which is the holy alliance.

But despite all of that, Chappelle made the decision to leave during the third season back in 2005. Comedy Central reportedly offered him $50 million to stay, but he wasn't interested.

"I was in this very successful place, but the emotional content of it didn't feel anything like what I imagined success should feel like," the comedian told Gayle King on CBS This Morning. "It just didn't feel right."

Following that decision, he jetted off to South Africa, which prompted King to ask Chappelle whether it was fame that spooked him.

"Fame, yeah, but not so much that I get on a plane to Africa," he said. "Fame is not that kind of scary... Fame is a horrifying concept when it's aimed at you... You don't have that much control over it. You just try to conduct yourself as best you can."

He continued working, but told King that life after Chappelle's Show allowed him to strike a better work-life balance.

Photo credit: Earl Gibson III/Getty Images
Photo credit: Earl Gibson III/Getty Images

There were allegations that he had taken leave due to problems with Comedy Central.

Chappelle told Oprah that it was "incredibly stressful", adding: "I felt in a lot of instances I was deliberately being put through stress because when you're a guy who generates money, people have a vested interested in controlling you."

In an interview with Time magazine, he also responded to speculation that he had been "smoking crack" and had checked himself into "a mental facility".

He denied both.

Photo credit: Paul Marotta - Getty Images
Photo credit: Paul Marotta - Getty Images

Several years later, the fascination with what really happened remains high.

The question was put to Chappelle by David Letterman once again on the third season of My Next Guest Needs No Introduction. (He had already quizzed him on the Late Show in 2014.)

The host said that during his research, he had read about an episode of Chappelle's Show which "somebody on the crew [had] laughed [at]", but Chappelle "thought the laughter was on the wrong side of the humour".

The comedian confirmed that wasn't the only reason he had quit, but "it definitely helped make the case".

"The sketch wasn't that bad,' he said. "It's actually funny. It was a pixie. It was me dressed in blackface who'd pop up anytime a person felt the pains of racism, which is a tough trick to pull off. It's not a bad sketch, but hearing the wrong laugh, while you're dressed that way, it makes you feel shame."

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

Chappelle's Show was later made available to Netflix US subscribers, as previously mentioned, after ViacomCBS, which owns the rights, approved the decision. But it's no longer living on the platform.

Chappelle shared a video on Instagram explaining why it's disappeared:

"People think I made a lot of money from Chappelle's Show. When I left that show, I never got paid. They didn't have to pay me because I signed the contract.

"I found out that these people were streaming my work and they never had to ask me or they never have to tell me. Perfectly legal because I signed the contract. But is that right? I didn't think so either."

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

He then said that he contacted Netflix to ask them to remove it, and – against all odds – the media giant complied:

"They agreed that they would take it off their platform just so I could feel better. That's why I f**k with Netflix... Because they paid me my money, they do what they say they were gonna do, and they went above and beyond what you can expect from a businessman: they did something just because they thought that I might think that they were wrong.

"I think if you are f**king streaming that show you're fencing stolen goods. They stole that from me. They just took it. And I'm not here trying to tell you guys that I believe Comedy Central gave me a raw deal just because I'm black. I believe they gave me a raw deal because this f**king industry is a monster."

You can watch it below (from 11m 26s onwards).

According to Deadline, it's still available to watch on CBS All Access and Comedy Central platforms, which are owned by ViacomCBS, as well as HBO Max, another company which has come under fire from Chappelle.

In the video that he shared on Instagram, Chappelle said that he had previously spoken to HBO about the series, but they weren't interested.

"These are executives," he said. "All they have to do is say, 'Yeah we'll take it,' or, 'No, thank you, we won't.'"

"They didn’t say either of those things...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?"

Digital Spy reached out to ViacomCBS and HBO for comment.

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