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Netflix co-CEO defends Ricky Gervais and Dave Chappelle comedy specials

Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos has extended his unwavering support to Dave Chappelle and Ricky Gervais after their Netflix comedy specials were accused of transphobia. 

In 2021, Dave Chappelle was criticised for his stand-up special The Closer. Chappelle controversially referred to himself as being on Team TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) and defended both J.K. Rowling and rapper DaBaby. Both public figures he supported have previously been accused of making transphobic remarks. 

Meanwhile, in Gervais’ latest comedy hour on Netflix, SuperNature, the British comic joked about trans-women having “beards and cocks” and the AIDS epidemic. His special was condemned by various LGBTQ+ advocates, including GLAAD, who said it was “full of graphic, dangerous, anti-trans rants masquerading as jokes”. Additionally, they claimed Gervais “spouts anti-gay rhetoric and spreads inaccurate information about HIV.” 

Following these allegations and controversy, the 57-year-old CEO of the streaming platform has defended the comedians in a new The New York Times interview. Talking about Chappelle, he said, “Nobody would say that what he does isn’t thoughtful or smart. You just don’t agree with him.”

He also discussed the importance of “free expression” in society and American culture. Sarandos said: “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.”

While Sarandos has repeatedly condemned the idea of Chappelle’s special equating to “hate speech”, the comedian was recently attacked during his set at the Netflix Is A Joke festival by Isaiah Lee, who found his jokes “triggering“. After regaining his composure, Chappelle joked Lee “was a trans man”. 

In light of the controversy, Netflix has updated its workplace culture guidelines, telling employees: “If you’d find it hard to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you.”

Sarandos said, “I always said if we censor in the US, how are we going to defend our content in the Middle East?” He also echoed the same sentiments for Gervais’ special.