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In a video from a recent stand-up set released Tuesday, the comedian — who has made several specials for Netflix — said he spoke with executives there, and they agreed to pull the show from the service, Netflix reps confirm to The Hollywood Reporter. Chappelle’s Show had been streaming on Netflix in the United States since Nov. 1; it also streams via ViacomCBS properties Comedy Central (where the show originally aired) and CBS All Access, and HBO Max, which recently licensed the show, which Chappelle referenced in his Nov. 7 Saturday Night Live monologue.
In the 18-minute video (watch it here), Chappelle references a three-card monte dealer and Prince as context for what he says was a terrible contract he signed at the outset of Chappelle’s Show, which ran from 2003-06 on Comedy Central.
“People think I made a lot of money from Chappelle’s Show,” he said. “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, who has worked with Netflix for the past four years, added that he likes the company in part because “when all those bad things happened to me, that company didn’t even exist.”
Sources noted that since terms of licensing deals for creators and talent are negotiated by sellers (ViacomCBS, in this case), Netflix wouldn’t have had knowledge of whether or how much Chappelle was being paid for streaming on the service.
“And when I found out they were streaming Chappelle’s Show, I was furious. How could they not know? So you know what I did? I called them and I told them that this makes me feel bad,” he said. “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.”
Chappelle’s Show was a breakout for Comedy Central and the comedian. After signing a reported $50 million deal ahead of the show’s third season, Chappelle quit the series, citing the stress of producing the show and his increasing discomfort with the material in its sketches. Comedy Central aired what it called “The Lost Episodes” of the show, featuring completed season three sketches introduced by show regulars Charlie Murphy and Donnell Rawlings.
During the set, Chappelle also said he pitched Chappelle’s Show to HBO but was told, “What do we need you for?” Now that the show is licensed to HBO Max, he wonders, “What do they need me for?”
He also appealed to the audience not to watch the show: “I’m not going to the agents, I’m coming to my real boss — I’m coming to you. I’m begging you — if you ever liked me, if you ever think there was anything worthwhile about me, I’m begging you, please don’t watch that show. I’m not asking you to boycott any network — boycott me. Boycott Chappelle’s Show. Do not watch it unless they pay me.”
Chappelle closed the set by inviting ViacomCBS to open its books and see how much money Chappelle’s Show made for the company. “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.”
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