Comedian Dave Chappelle had a strange request for his fans. Don’t stream his show.
“I’m begging you. If you ever liked me,” he said in a video of a stand-up routine he shared on Tuesday. “Boycott Chappelle’s Show. Do not watch it unless they pay me.”
Chappelle was calling out the network Comedy Central, which first aired Chappelle’s Show from 2003 to 2006. He said in the video the company licensed the show to Netflix and HBO Max without paying him or informing him about the deal.
Chappelle said Comedy Central was able to do so because as a young man he had been snared in an unfair contract, which allows the network to continue profiting from his show and prevents Chappelle from using its name.
Chappelle famously walked out on the show in 2005 before finishing the third season, forgoing what could’ve been a $50 million deal. He had served as the series’ creator, executive producer and star. Comedy Central aired the three episodes for that season already recorded.
As he recounted on Instagram, when Chappelle found out Chappelle’s Show was going to be streamed on Netflix, he called the streaming service to express his misgivings.
A Netflix spokesperson confirmed the company removed the show early Tuesday morning at the comedian’s request after airing it for less than a month but declined to comment further. The streaming service has a robust business relationship with the comedian, reportedly paying Chappelle up to $60 million for five stand-up specials in 2016.
“That’s why I f*** with Netflix, because they pay me my money, they do what they say they’re gonna do,” Chappelle said in the video. “And they went above and beyond what you could expect from a businessman.”
Chappelle’s quarrel is not a legal one — he acknowledges he signed the contract with Comedy Central. But Chappelle said he was then 28, broke and expecting a child.
“Perfectly legal,” he said. “But is that right? I didn’t think so either.”
Chappelle’s strategy is to call on his fans to stop watching the show. It is still on HBO Max as well as CBS All Access.
Neither Viacom, which owns Comedy Central, nor HBO Max responded to requests for comment by publication time.
While Chappelle targeted Comedy Central in what he described as “publicly flogging a network,” he said the mistreatment of artists is an industrywide problem.
Chappelle drew comparisons of financial mistreatment to the abuses and sexual harassment brought to light by the #MeToo movement.
“I’m not up here trying to tell you guys that I believe that Comedy Central gave me a raw deal just because I’m Black,” he said. “I believe that they gave me a raw deal, because this f***ing industry is a monster.”