by TRN Staff Writers,
Netflix has slowly been carving its own niche building the streaming service into more than just a rewind of movies and and other networks’ programming. The streaming service has been doing what the Atlantic once referred to as “reverse engineering Hollywood” and in the process changing how you look at TV shows and movies. Netflix’s original programming like “Marvel’s Luke Cage” “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” has turned the once crippled steaming service into the go to destination for more than 40 million viewers.
And thanks to comedian Dave Chappelle, Netflix may corner the market on Comedy Specials…or at least, rule the genre for a while. Chappelle’s two new specials released last month have the streaming giant laughing all the way to the bank. Netflix says, ” “The triumphant return of a comedy legend in Dave Chappelle: Collection 1 was our most viewed comedy special ever.” EVER! Netflix says Chappelle’s return to the stand-up stage was a “big event in the culture” and the company just happened to be tuned into what the culture wants right now and that is obviously comedy.
From the moment Chappelle first made it clear he was ready to hit the comeback trail, many frowned upon the idea that he could ever reclaim his pole position in the race to fame. After Chappelle’s highly publicized hiatus in which he walked away from a $55 million dollar Comedy Central contract, some thought it was time to stick a fork in Chappelle because he was done.
There were also rumors of drug use, a mental breakdown and other personal problems. But Chappelle said his highly rated and critical success “The Dave Chappelle Show” on Comedy Central was “ruining his life“. Chappelle complained of the “20 hours a day” work days to shoot the skits which he said were more like shooting short films. After berating his audience during one show taping and calling them “stupid”, Chappelle just took off…disappearing before he was to begin shooting Season 3 of the show. In 2005, the comedian jetted to South Africa where he said he needed time alone to do some deep reflection saying, “Coming here, I don’t have the distractions of fame. It quiets the ego down. I’m interested in the kind of person I’ve got to become. I want to be well-rounded and the industry is a place of extremes. I want to be well-balanced. I’ve got to check my intentions, man.”
When he returned, Chappelle spent the next six or seven years working to regain his stand-up comedy legs. He did some impromptu shows here and there and began touring again in out of the way places. Chappelle seemed to be searching again for his first love (stand-up comedy), but he wanted to keep as far away as he could from the chaos of Hollywood. He was vocal about how the industry controls and often ruins people especially Black men. The comedian told Oprah Winfrey in a 2006 interview, “When I see that they put every black man in the movies in a dress at some point in their career, I start connecting the dots.” The dots Chappelle connected led him to eventually accept the comedy special deal with Netflix which still allows him to do the stand up that he loves, without all the stress and control of the industry.
Some still criticize Chappelle as being a “sell out” for returning to comedy. Others say ‘he’s not as funny as he used to be’, but earning the ranking of Netflix’s most watched comedy special “ever!” pretty much shoots down any theories that Chappelle can’t cut it or that he’s washed up. He took a beat, thought about success on his own terms and now it sounds like he’s just getting started on act two.