Comedy great Damon Wayans is speaking out on the ongoing public schism surrounding Dave Chappelle’s latest comedy special “The Closer” and said he believes Chappelle is “a unicorn” for standing up to “PC culture.”
“I feel like Dave freed the slaves — the comedians,” the “Major Payne” actor, 61, told TMZ of Chappelle’s controversial Netflix special during a brief exchange at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Monday. “We were slaves to PC culture, and as an artist, he’s [Vincent] Van Gogh. He cut his ear off, and he’s trying to tell us, ‘It’s OK.’”
The “Blue Streak” actor, 48, is being criticized by many in the LGBTQ+ community for comments he made about transgender people in his stand-up special.
When asked if he feels he now has the freedom “to be a bit more risqué” in his own stand-ups, Wayans said he has always felt free to express himself and has never given into the pressures to change his delivery for anyone.
Dave Chappelle is being criticized by many in the LGBTQ+ community for comments he made about transgender people in his stand-up special, ‘The Closer.’ (Mathieu Bitton/Netflix)
Wayans also maintained that the art of comedy is under duress and that he believes free speech is threatened by cancel culture. Wayans said he stands with Chappelle and compared the comedian’s success and longevity to that of a Mercedes-Benz.
“I just think he’s saying, ‘With all that I have, I’m not afraid to lose it for the sake of freedoms of speech,” he explained. “You can’t edit yourself. Comedians, we — like, Mercedes makes a great car, but they crash a lot of them before they perfect it.”
Surrounding the larger debate, a Netflix software engineer by the name of Terra Fied tweeted Wednesday about Chappelle’s latest effort and wrote that the comedian “attacks the trans community, and the very validity of transness.”
The tweet was followed by a storm of 47 other tweets from Fied, who listed names of members of the transgender community who have been killed. The thread quickly entered viral territory, catching the eye of the streaming giant.
Comedy great Damon Wayans is speaking out on the ongoing public schism surrounding Dave Chappelle’s latest comedy special, ‘The Closer.’ (Getty)
According to The Verge, Netflix then suspended Fied and two other employees for allegedly attempting to attend a meeting with company directors that they weren’t invited to. Variety also reported that an investigation is pending.
Additionally, another Netflix employee is said to also be leaving the company over the suspension and the manner in which the claims of transgender attacks were handled.
The company told The Verge in a statement that Fied was not suspended for tweeting her thoughts on the original special.
Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos reportedly defended Chappelle’s special in an email to employees and avowed that stand-up comedy is “an important part of [Netflix’s] content offering.”
Meanwhile, Wayans pressed that the larger discussion should be centered on why expressing individual opinions appears to be under siege.
“I can’t speak about the content of the show, but what I will say is, there’s a bigger conversation we need to have,” he said. “Somebody needs to look us in the eye and go, ‘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 should have.”
Chappelle’s special currently holds a firm 97% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes with more than 1,000 real ratings.