Comedian Dave Chappelle has won a major victory this week, securing a lucrative streaming licensing deal for Chappelle’s Show, his Comedy Central cult hit that ran on the network from 2003 to 2006, despite the fact that he had no contractual rights to get paid.
According to the New York Times, when Chappelle originally signed the contract with Comedy Central, he was a “broke, expectant father” and was desperate for money, willingly to sign what he called a “raw deal” and lose out on potentially profitable rights like future licensing income.
Chappelle posted a video on his Instagram account with a short clip from a recent stand up routine that addressed his eponymous show and the streaming rights to it. ViacomCBS, which owns the rights to Chappelle’s Show, had licensed it to Netflix and HBOMax.
Chappelle publicly acknowledged that the contract he had signed did not give him any licensing rights, but still said that he felt that it was an unethical arrangement where a powerful company had out-negotiated a young comedian. He asked his supporters to stop watching the show, and they did, Netflix and then HBOMax removed it from their platforms, and ViacomCBS just came back with a new deal that Chappelle described as paying him “millions of dollars.”
He was effusive with gratitude to his fans as he explained the series of events that had led to this. “I know where my power lies, I asked you to stop watching the show, and you did.”
“And when you stopped watching it, they called me,” said Chappell. “And I got my name back, and I got my license back, and I got my show back, and they paid me millions of dollars. Thank you very much.”
Chappelle’s Instagram video ended with a montage of scenes from Chappelle’s Show, with Barbra Streisand’s version of “Happy Days Are Here Again” as the soundtrack.