Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos has defended Dave Chappelle’s latest stand-up special in a memo addressed to staff members.
The controversial comedian was criticised by the LGBTQ community over several jokes featured in his special The Closer, where he labelled himself “team TERF” when discussing the controversy surrounding Harry Potter author JK Rowling.
In a memo sent after Netflix’s quarterly business review and obtained by Variety, Sarandos offered advice on how managers should handle upset employees and talent critical of Chappelle’s jokes.
“Chappelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and we have a long standing deal with him,” the memo reads. “His last special Sticks & Stones also controversial, is our most watched, stickiest, and most award winning stand-up special to date.
“As with our other talent, we work hard to support their creative freedom – even though this means there will always be content on Netflix some people believe is harmful, like Cuties, 365 Days, 13 Reasons Why, or My Unorthodox Life.”
A part of the memo addresses rumours that some Netflix employees spoke out internally against Chappelle’s remarks about the trans community. The memo adds: “Several of you have also asked where we draw the line on hate. We don’t allow titles Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe The Closer crosses that line.
“I recognise, however, that distinguishing between commentary and harm is hard, especially with stand-up comedy which exists to push boundaries. Some people find the art of stand-up to be mean-spirited but our members enjoy it, and it’s an important part of the content offering.”
According to the site, this memo was issued following a meeting that was crashed by three staff members, who have since been suspended pending an investigation. One of the staff members, Terra Field, identifies as queer and trans and was critical of the Chappelle special last week on Twitter.
Netflix has yet to respond to the memo.
LGBTQ rights group GLAAD were among the organisations to condemn the Netflix special. “Dave Chappelle’s brand has become synonymous with ridiculing trans people and other marginalised communities,” they wrote.
“Negative reviews and viewers loudly condemning his latest special is a message to the industry that audiences don’t support platforming anti-LGBTQ diatribes. We agree.”