HBO Max has announced that they’re complying with a request by Dave Chappelle to remove Chappelle’s Show from their library. Chief Content Officer for HBO, Casey Bloys, revealed the news during the first day of Variety’s Virtual FYCFest, saying in his keynote conversation that he’d spoken with Chappelle and agreed to take it down.
“I won’t get into it, but it’s very clear that it’s a very unique and specific and emotional issue he’s got. So at the end of the year, December 31st, we’re going to honor his request and take the show down.”
This comes on the heels of Chappelle also convincing Netflix to stop streaming the iconic sketch comedy series. Aired between 2003 and 2006 on Comedy Central, Chappelle’s Show consists of a mere 28 episodes but is considered a straight-up masterclass in the genre, with the comedian’s impressions of Lil Jon and Rick James receiving particular adulation.
Chappelle abruptly left the project in 2006, saying he felt burnt out and that he was losing creative control. Since then, its stature has risen, with TV Guide including it on their list of the best 100 shows ever and Entertainment Weekly placing it at number 26 in their 2016 “New TV Classics” feature.
The comedian explained why he was unhappy with the project being streamed during his Unforgiven special late last month, saying:
“They (ViacomCBS) didn’t have to pay me because I signed the contract. But is that right? I found out that these people were streaming my work and they never had to ask me or they never have to tell me. Perfectly legal ‘cause I signed the contract. But is that right? I didn’t think so either.”
My thinking is that as Chappelle is still hugely popular, streaming networks want to stay on his good side. His 2019 Netflix special Sticks & Stones was a massive hit, earning him two Primetime Emmy Awards. And more recently, he released the acclaimed 8:46, a 27-minute set about police violence against African-Americans that debuted on Netflix’s YouTube channel. Of course, he also hosted the first Saturday Night Live after Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump in the 2020 election.
If you were to ask me, I’d bet that the continued popularity of Chappelle’s Show will mean that a new royalties agreement will be negotiated soon and the show will return to at least one major streaming platform. And very likely that’ll be Netflix.