Netflix Loses Its Glow as Critics Target Chappelle Special

“Netflix has gone from the underdog and outsider poking the establishment to the epicenter of the Hollywood establishment,” he said. “When you’re at the center, everything is magnified 100 times. This is going to happen more and more as society itself wrestles with these issues. With Netflix, what will make it further complicated is that it’s a global company with massive international ambitions.”

Mr. Chappelle, 48, has had a long and celebrated career, winning an Emmy for his 2018 Netflix special, “Equanimity,” and Grammys for albums taken from the Netflix specials “The Age of Spin,” “Deep in the Heart of Texas” and “Sticks & Stones.” In 2019, he won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Last year, he earned raves from critics for “8:46,” a heartfelt show on the death of George Floyd and the fraught state of race relations in America.

He made his reputation largely through “Chappelle’s Show,” a Comedy Central sketch series, and created a legend for himself when he walked away from it after having misgivings about his own success. In particular, he told Time magazine in 2005, he was concerned when he heard a white man laughing at a sketch that satirized racial stereotypes and wondered if his material was being misinterpreted. “When he laughed, it made me uncomfortable,” he said.

The critical reaction to “The Closer” has been mixed, with most reviewers acknowledging Mr. Chappelle’s comedic skills while questioning whether his desire to push back against his detractors has led him to adopt rhetorical tactics favored by internet trolls. Roxane Gay, in a Times opinion column, noted “five or six lucid moments of brilliance” in a special that includes “a joyless tirade of incoherent and seething rage, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia.”

Last week, as the controversy over the special mounted, Mr. Chappelle made an appearance at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. In response to a standing ovation, he told the crowd, “If this is what being canceled is like, I love it.”

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