Netflix Pulls“Chappelle’s Show” from Streaming Service at the Request of Comedian Dave Chappelle

Sometimes – maybe once in a blue moon – the so-called faceless corporate behemoths can surprise you in the most unexpected and best of ways. Take the breaking news from our compadres at The Hollywood Reporter about what looked to be a potential dustup between media titan Netflix and superstar comedian Dave Chappelle that landed in an entirely different vicinity from the usual territory of lawsuits that is more the norm than the exception in Hollywood.

  Chappelle, who has had a fruitful history with Netflix in the recent past with a series of critically acclaimed standup specials, has made no secret about the serious misgivings that he has towards how his contracts were written for his nigh legendary skit comedy show Chappelle’s Show which ran for three seasons on Comedy Central. The comedian claims that ViacomCBS engaged in lowballing any financial rewards that he might have a claim to, effectively underpaying him for what turned into a lucrative cash cow for everyone involved in drawing up the original contracts for Chapelle’s Show. It’s a story as old as the proverbial hills. Don’t believe me? Look at most of the entire first generation of rock and rollers who were “legally” ripped off by their record labels and their management teams – the very people they trusted to look after them and their interests.

 So when Netflix recently began streaming the three seasons of Chappelle’s Show, the comedian contacted the streamer and, explaining the contract situation between himself and ViacomCBS, asked them to remove the legendary show from their rotation of programming. Then a funny thing happened; Netflix did exactly what Dave Chappelle asked of them.

In a recent standup event, Chappelle elaborated on what went down between him and Netflix, saying that “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. But is that right? 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.”

Chappelle explained to his audience that he enjoys his working relationship with Netflix, in part, because “when all those bad things happened to me, that company didn’t even exist.”

Netflix, for their part, had not been privy to the legal wrangling’s going on between Chappelle and ViacomCBS and had no idea what sort of financial arrangement the comedian had in regards to the streaming of Chappelle’s Show. Legally, Netflix had every right to show the old episodes. Morally was another matter entirely and, unlike innumerable examples of people being in a similar position of power to effect a change in a bad contract who easily could have done so but did not, Netflix decided to put principal in front of money, a rarity in any industry, let alone the entertainment business.

“And when I found out they were streaming Chappelle’s Show, I was furious,” Chappelle explained in his aforementioned standup. “How could they not know? So you know what I did? I called them and I told them that this makes me feel bad. And 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.”

So Chappelle’s Show has officially been removed from Netflix, but where does that leave the situation between Chappelle and ViacomCBS? Chappelle explains and even holds out an olive branch for ViacomCBS: “You’re going to pay me,” he said. “I am inviting you to come with me and work with me, and let’s fight against that terrible, terrible feeling that you made me feel. We can fight together and work this thing with Chappelle’s Show out. Or I can just take it.”

About Ryan Vandergriff

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