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As Netflix Employees Walk Out Over Dave Chappelle, Fans Voice Undying Support at Sold-Out London Gig

Friday, 22 October 2021

 

Dave Chappelle is planning a 10-city U.S. tour of his controversial Netflix special “The Closer” in the unlikely event that the streamer pulls the show, according to fans who attended a sold-out London gig on Wednesday evening.

According to multiple attendees, Chappelle indicated that he would visit 10 cities across the U.S. to screen the show. Chappelle’s rep did not immediately respond to Variety‘s request for comment.

Controversy around “The Closer” has snowballed since its release on Oct. 5, with Netflix employees and artists accusing Chappelle of transphobia and homophobia regarding comments and jokes made during the special.

However, at the exact same moment that a group of Netflix employees staged a protest in Los Angeles on Wednesday over the streamer’s decision to stand by Chappelle’s special, across the pond, thousands of fans and supporters streamed into London’s Eventim Apollo theater to see the man himself.

On the sixth and penultimate night of his weeklong U.K. tour, the 3,500-capacity venue was completely sold out, with most attendees paying $100 to $300 per ticket.

As the audience streamed out after show, most refused to talk to Variety, either out of a sense of loyalty to the beleaguered comedian or perhaps distrust of the media, particularly as entry to the show had required all cell phones, cameras and recording devices to be locked away in magnetic pouches, preventing any content from being shared online.

Despite the pouring rain, however, many were prepared to stop for selfies in front of the marquee, which was lit up with Chappelle’s name. Some, who initially seemed willing to speak to Variety, developed a sudden case of amnesia when asked whether Chappelle had discussed the Netflix protest during the 60-minute set. “I can’t remember, I’m pissed as a fart,” claimed one.

The few who did speak to Variety said Chappelle did mention the Netflix controversy during his set, indicating the protest in L.A. “wasn’t favorable.” “He just wants us all to get along,” said one attendee. Another said Chappelle appeared “baffled” by the accusations.

Unsurprisingly, those attending were almost unanimously supportive of Chappelle, defending his right to express himself, particularly as both a comedian and a Black man.

“I think everyone’s entitled to their own opinion on certain subjects. I feel like as a comedian, it’s your job to make people laugh and I don’t think he’s doing it from a malicious place,” said Michael, a 29-year-old who described himself as mixed race. “He’s probably experienced a lot of racism and a lot of trials and tribulations himself.”

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