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Netflix Chief Ted Sarandos Defends Dave Chappelle From His Many Haters

Charley Gallay
Charley Gallay

Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos appeared on David Spade and Dana Carvey’s podcast Fly on the Wall this week and addressed the backlash he faced for continuing to host Dave Chappelle’s comedy specials.

“People like to think about all kinds of diversity except for diversity of thought,” Sarandos said at one pount during his chat with the two Saturday Night Live alums.

Netflix faced criticism after Chapelle’s 2021 special on the streamer, The Closer, featured controversial jokes about the transgender community. Netflix employees staged walkouts and several articles criticized Chappelle and the company for the content. Sarandos’ response at the time was that he would order Chappelle specials “again and again,” and made good on that sentiment when Chappelle’s newest special, The Dreamer, was released on the platform in 2023 and featured even more jokes at the expense of trans people.

“Keep in mind that we try to do a lot of variety because—Netflix itself— people like some shows and not others, that’s why we have so much to watch on Netflix,” Sarandos said in regards to critics of Chappelle’s material. “That’s why we have so much to watch on Netflix, because tastes are really diverse, and certainly within comedy.”

“The point I was trying to make when people got angry was the idea that if you don’t like that idea, switch it and find another one,” he continued. “Find one you do like.”

Sarandos says his position on the Chappelle controversy comes from being a genuine fan of comedy. “I came to this completely as a fan,” he said. “I love creative people, I love what you do for the world and for me it’s what makes me bounce out of bed in the morning, because I feel like I’m doing something that matters to people.”

“I think comedy is one of these places where you should have a pretty open playground to figure out ideas, and ideas have to live through conversation—and I think comedy is a great place to start the conversation.”

Sarandos also revealed later in the interview that he signed Chappelle to his massive Netflix deal on the same night he hosted SNL in 2016 just days after Donald Trump won the presidency. “We had been talking to him for well over a year and he said at the show, my contract is signed and sitting on the seat,” the CEO recalled. “So he just signed it, set on the seat and went out and hosted the show.”

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