Damon Wayans says Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special freed comedian ‘slaves’

"Someone needs to look us in the eye and say, 'You're no longer free in this country,' " Wayans said of backlash to "The Closer"

Loading the player...

Comedian Damon Wayans told TMZ that the latest Dave Chappelle Netflix special, The Closer, “freed the slaves.”

“The comedians. We were slaves to PC culture,” Wayans opined in an impromptu interview, when asked about his longtime friend’s controversial stand-up offering. “As an artist, he’s Van Gogh with his ear off. He’s trying to tell us, ‘It’s okay.’ ” 

In this Feb. 2004 photo, comedians and friends Damon Wayans (left) and Dave Chappelle (right) hang out at the New York Knicks versus Cleveland Cavaliers NBA game at Madison Square Garden. (Photo: Ray Amati/Getty Images)

“I’ve always been free,” Wayans noted, but he felt that Chappelle was saying, “all that I have, I’m not afraid to lose it for the sake of freedom of speech.” 

“You can’t edit yourself,” said Wayans. “Comedians … we’re like … Mercedes makes a great car, but they gotta crash a lot of them before they perfect it.” 

Asked about the backlash The Closer has received — the comedy special features several minutes of jokes about transgender people — he responded: “I can’t speak about the content of the show. But what I say is there’s a bigger conversation we need to have. Someone needs to look us in the eye and say, ‘You’re no longer free in this country. You’re not free to say what you want; you say what we want you to say. Otherwise, we will cancel you.’ That’s the discussion we need to have.” 

Chappelle, said Wayans, is a “unicorn and amazing.” 

In The Closer, Chappelle states, “Gender is a fact. Every human being in this room, every human being on earth, had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on earth. That is a fact.”

In an email to employees, Ted Sarandos, the co-CEO of the streaming giant Netflix, which has presented several of Chappelle’s comedy specials, wrote: “Several of you have also asked where we draw the line on hate. We don’t allow titles on Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe The Closer crosses that line.”

“I recognize, however, that distinguishing between commentary and harm is hard, especially with stand-up comedy, which exists to push boundaries,” Sarandos opined to staff. “Some people find the art of stand-up to be mean-spirited but our members enjoy it, and it’s an important part of our content offering.”

GLAAD, the LGBTQ media advocacy organization, has condemned the special and issued a statement about it on Monday, writing, “Netflix has a policy that content ‘designed to incite hate or violence’ is not allowed on the platform, but we all know that anti-LGBTQ content does exactly that. While Netflix is home to groundbreaking LGBTQ stories, now is the time for Netflix execs to listen to LGBTQ employees, industry leaders, and audiences, and commit to living up to their own standards.”

Have you subscribed to theGrio’s “Dear Culture” podcast? Download our newest episodes now!
TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku. Download theGrio.com today!

Loading the player...