Comedian Dave Chappelle said Monday he’d be willing to meet with transgender employees of Netflix who have called for the streaming platform to remove his October comedy special, “The Closer.”
But Chappelle said any meeting would have to be on his terms: “You will not summon me.”
“First of all, you cannot come if you have not watched my special from beginning to end,” he said in a video posted Monday to Instagram. “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.”
Gadsby, a comedian whose work has also been streamed on Netflix, said on Instagram that Chappelle’s special would unleash “hate and anger” for the LGBTQ community as Chappelle makes millions of dollars “to process his emotionally stunted partial world view.”
Gadsby did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The Closer,” featuring Chappelle’s views on transgender rights and identity, has outraged many in the LGBTQ community.
Dozens of Netflix employees walked out of the company’s headquarters in Los Angeles on Wednesday to protest its continued streaming of the special. The company’s CEO, Ted Sarandos, has held fast with Chappelle, but he said Oct. 19 that “I screwed up” when it came to communicating with employees genuinely hurt by Chappelle’s words.
“I should have led with a lot more humanity,” he said in an interview with Variety. “Meaning, I had a group of employees who were definitely feeling pain and hurt from a decision we made. And I think that needs to be acknowledged up front before you get into the nuts and bolts of anything. I didn’t do that.”
Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, argued by email that Chappelle’s offer to meet with Netflix’s transgender employees would do little to change the impact of his words.
“The stakes are high but sometimes those who are unfamiliar with real transgender people can’t see or understand how harmful their words and actions are to those real people,” he said.
On Monday, Chappelle credited Sarandos for sticking with him when others haven’t.
Chappelle’s Instagram video, recorded onstage in front of an audience, focused on how the uproar is affecting his own right to exist.
He said that since the “The Closer” debuted to instantaneous backlash on Oct. 5, he’s had trouble releasing his documentary, “Untitled.”
He said the documentary, about staging comedy in a neighbor’s Ohio cornfield in reaction to the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd, has been disinvited from venues.
“And now, today, not a film company, not a movie studio, not a film festival, nobody will touch this film,” he said. “Thank God for Ted Sarandos and Netflix. He’s the only one that didn’t cancel me yet.”
He used the moment to promote the showing of “Untitled” in 10 cities next month.
Chappelle said the backlash wasn’t the product of the transgender community. He blamed corporate media.
“I want everyone in this audience to know that even though the media frames this that it’s me versus that community, that is not what it is,” he said. “Do not blame the LGBTQ community for any of this [expletive]. This has nothing to do with them. This is about corporate interests and what I can say and what I cannot say.”
Chappelle ended his video statement by suggesting that he has yet to be fully “canceled.”
“You have to answer the question, ‘Am I canceled or not?'” he said.
The crowd shouted, “No.”
“Then let’s go,” Chappelle said. “Thank you very much, and good night.”
Dennis Romero writes for NBC News and is based in Los Angeles.