Dave Chappelle has landed two Emmy nods for his controversial standup special, The Closer, the sixth and final special under his multimillion-dollar deal with Netflix. The Closer premiered in October 2021 on the streamer and immediately ignited the debate over how long a comedian can continue to mock marginalized people without being held accountable. Chappelle argued that he was simply doing his job, which is to make people laugh, and he is known for his provocative style of comedy, but The Closer turned out to be the most controversial thing Dave Chappelle has ever produced.
Chappelle received significant backlash over his jokes about the LGBT community, especially trans people, whom he has targeted in all of his Netflix specials. Chappelle was called out for his harmful, insensitive, and repetitive jokes. He even defended the Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling, who is also in hot water for her views on feminism and trans women.
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Within days of The Closer’s premiere, Netflix employees organized mass protests and walkouts, with some even resigning from their jobs, but to no avail. Netflix stood by Chappelle and defended his artistic freedom. The streamer now reaps the fruits as The Closer became one of the most-watched comedy specials on Netflix, and has now bagged two 2022 Primetime Emmy nominations as well.
The Closer will compete in the category of Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-Recorded) and for directing the same for Stan Lathan. HBO Max’s Harry Potter reunion, Norm Macdonald’s posthumous Netflix special Nothing Special, Adele’s One Night Only, and Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga’s One Last Time are other specials nominated in the category.
Chappelle previously won the award in 2018 for Equanimity and again the following year for the divisive Sticks and Stones. Released on Netflix in 2019, Sticks and Stones debuted to a dismal Rotten Tomatoes score while fans argued that it was Chappelle’s funniest special in years. It holds a 99% positive audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
While Chappelle’s overall deal with Netflix has expired, he enjoys working with the streamer and has produced several specials, often briefly appearing himself. Netflix recently released Chappelle’s heartfelt speech, What’s in a Name, which he delivered at his alma mater.
Netflix And Dave Chappelle Have Been Unapologetic In The Wake of The Closer Controversy
Dave Chappelle has repeatedly defended his right to offend, most recently at his school, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, DC. The school’s theater was supposed to be named after Chappelle, but after all the backlash and delays, the comedian decided against it but delivered a speech anyway. Chappelle boldly declared:
“The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it. It has nothing to do with what you are saying I can’t say. It has everything to do with my freedom of artistic expression.”
Chappelle even went as far as to call the students protesting against him “instruments of oppression.” Netflix has also refused to bow down to the protests and even fired some rebellious employees. Co-CEO Ted Sarandos has time and again come to the defense of Dave Chappelle, Ricky Gervais, and other comedians facing flak for their jokes. Here’s what Sarandos said in May:
“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.”