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After Backlash Over Ricky Gervais Special, Netflix Co-CEO Offers More Thoughts On Dave Chappelle And Stand-Up

Netflix Co-CEO Ted Sarandos very publicly came to the defense of Dave Chappelle and more generally, artistic freedom when his stand-up special attracted more than its share of controversy over the inclusion of jokes some deemed transphobic. Now, the popular streaming service is at the center of another round of finger-pointing thanks to a Ricky Gervais stand-up special that also included trans-related jokes. Let the record show Sarandos has not changed his basic viewpoint.

The popular exec, who has recently been feeling the heat after the company’s stock price tumbled following subscriber losses, was interviewed by The New York Times about a wide variety of issues. Not surprisingly, stand-up comedy came up, and Sarandos took the chance to once again defend Dave Chappelle and also the streaming service’s commitment to free expression. Here’s a portion of his quote…  

I think it’s very important to the American culture generally to have free expression. We’re programming for a lot of diverse people who have different opinions and different tastes and different styles, and yet we’re not making everything for everybody. We want something for everybody but everything’s not going to be for everybody.

During the same interview, Sarandos went on to praise Chappelle more specifically, saying no one thinks his comedy “isn’t thoughtful or smart”, people just have something to say because they disagree with his viewpoint. When asked, he also specifically confirmed that his larger viewpoint about comedy and comedy specials that air on Netflix apply to Ricky Gervais, as well. 

His continued defense of Chappelle and the stand-up specials on Netflix has not come without controversy. An internal email he sent to staff was leaked to the press. Some employees walked out of the streaming service’s headquarters in Los Angeles, and the company sent a corporate culture memo to employees letting them know the service would continue publishing a wide breadth of content, and if anyone wasn’t in agreement on that basic principle, the job “may not be the best place” for them to work. 

The communication came just days after Chappelle was attacked during a performance at The Hollywood Bowl by a man with a knife who claimed he was “triggered” by some of the comedian’s jokes about the LGBTQIA community. The comedian was unharmed, and the man was arrested. Just as that controversy was subsiding, however, Gervais released his new special, which brought about a whole new round of angry tweets and some critical articles from some outlets.

Since 2015, Netflix has steadily built a reputation as a home for a wide variety of comedy specials, and that momentum is only increasing. 22 separate comedy specials from a wide variety of comedians including Chappelle, Gervais, Ali Wong, Katt Williams, David Spade, Mike Epps, Ronny Chieng, Aziz Ansari and more have already premiered this year. Dozens more are expected to hit Netflix by the end of the year including the surprise special Norm Macdonald filmed in his living room before he passed away. That one premieres on the streaming giant today. 

Mack Rawden
Mack Rawden

Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, the NBA and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.