Earlier today, about four hours ago now, Dave Chappelle posted an 18+ minute IGTV regarding above all else, how business,in this case show business, and basic empathy often live in parallel with one another, failing to intersect or commingle in order to form a world that would just be more enjoyable to live in. The target of Chappelle’s monologue was that Netflix, without his permission and without paying him, had begun streaming Chappelle Show. And he was none too pleased that his now partner in comedy gold was making money hand over fist when he wasn’t seeing a dime.
As most of us know, and maybe some are too young to remember, Comedy Central and its parent Viacom were essentially robber barons when it came to Chappelle and his iconic Chappelle’s Show. They gave him a lowball deal with no back end money and when he decided, feeling artistically strangled, that he no longer wanted to make the show, they reaped the syndication money without giving the show’s legendary creator a dime. No shit he lost it for a bit there (if he even did at all). To make matters worse, Chappelle revealed, was the fact that the show would also be shown on HBOMax, whose parent HBO had told him they “didn’t need” him when pitching the same show 20 years ago. Ouch.
As passionate as Chappelle was, however, in his segment, titled “Unforgiven”, he was also agreeable. The vindictiveness wasn’t quite as striking. He stated there and then that Netflix had understood and sympathized with his position, that it made sense that he was upset about not getting paid his due, and that they’d take the show down. Just like that. He then addressed Comedy Central and Viacom, and whatever faceless suits runs them at this point. He stated he wanted to make things right. He didn’t want the show disappearing forever, necessarily, he just wanted to get paid. He wanted to be acknowledged, at last.
He then addressed the audience. And this is where the last five years or so comes into play. If you follow comedy and any number of podcasts put on by comedians, you know that the podcast/youtube game has permanently changed comedy (and music as well but lets stick to the hahas for now). The gatekeepers, such as Comedy Central, no longer hold the keys. Comedy is, essentially, now free to be direct to consumer. You can ejoy a comedians podcast, watch some of their actual material on youtube, like that too, and then buy their tickets and merch. It’s a la carte comedic entertainment, We get to pick what we like. Needless to say the machine that is the entertainment industry hates it. They’re powerless now. And Chappelle knows it. He pleaded with his “real bosses,” that audience, to not watch Chappelle’s Show until he is paid. Boycott him, he asked them. Until he saw his due.
Dave Chappelle has done his part, as he recalled at the beginning of “Unforgiven”, since he was 14 years old. Netflix has now done its part. They’ll stand united with the greatest comedic talent of his lifetime. Shoulder to shoulder with a master of his craft until he gets his due. And now, for better or for worse, it’s on us. 2020 man. What a fuckin year.