Dave Chappelle’s comedy special continues to send shockwaves as thousands speak out in both support and against him. “The Closer” has proven to be his most divisive work to date and has been causing protests and walkouts at its home base Netflix. Despite this, Chappelle seems to be doing better than ever as he has just sold out a ten-city tour in the U.K. 2021 will go down as one of Chappelle’s most significant years for sure. It’s a far cry from the radio silence fans got from him for almost a decade after he stepped away from comedy indefinitely.
Now that he is back, this new era of his career has been highlighted by a series of Netflix specials. 2021 kicked off with him announced as the headliner of Summerfest in June. The Milwaukee festival announced Chappelle would be closing out their largest stage at the September 11th installment of their show at American Family Insurance Amphitheater. Chappelle was the first comedy headliner ever for the festival.
The announcement came in the same month as 8:46, his other 2021 special with Netflix. The set was his first post covid and recorded outside. The title was a reference to George Floyd and the officer who took his life. The year was also special because RollingStone named Chappelle one of the most influential comedians of all time. Number 9, to be exact. Their list, which was published in February, listed Chappelle amongst a top 10 that also included Bill Cosby, Joan Rivers, Lenny Bruce, and Richard Prior.
Speaking on his comedy, they said, “He relishes the fuzzy line between truth and fiction, and delights in keeping the audience on the hook until they’re scratching their heads about whether a baby could sell weed and how one could masturbate to their own sex tape.” This all culminated in the release of The Closer. The special was applauded by many for its honest take on “white minorities” and their abilities to co-opt any movement for equality, most recently the fight for LGBTQIA+ lives in America. Most specifically white trans people. This struck a nerve, and people immediately pounced. The CEO of Netflix attempted to defend him in an internal email that only made things worst. After defending Chappelle’s freedom of speech and creativity and saying that The Closer was not a hate speech, Ted Sarandos backtracked, stating his statement lacked humanity.
Unfortunately, the damage was already done, as a mob of LGBTQIA+ supporters swarmed the Netflix capital yesterday in hopes of getting the special removed and bringing more diversity to the streaming giant. They had support from several of Netflix’s actors and talent, including Queer Eyes’ Jonathan Van Ness, Umbrella Academy’s Elliot Page, and several of the cast members of American Horror Story, which also streams on the platform. They said that while they had no desire to “cancel” Dave, they did attempt to start a dialog with him, which he refused. They also feel that jokes can turn into real-world acts, leading to hate and attacks towards trans people. This was something ironically documented in Netflix’s documentary Disclose which centers on trans experience in the media.
It is unclear if yesterday’s protest will lead to the special being pulled, but Dave seems to already be on to his next project. A series of shows in the U.K. have reportedly already sold out for him, meaning if they pull The Closer, you could most likely catch the set on the road. Variety reported, “On the sixth and penultimate night of his weeklong U.K. tour, the 3,500-capacity venue was completely sold out, with most attendees paying $100 to $300 per ticket.” According to attendees of Chappelle’s show, the comedian revealed he was planning a 10-city tour of his ‘Closer’ special in the event Netflix decides to pull it from its streaming service.