Controversy be damned, Dave Chappelle will open Netflix's comedy festival next year

Nardine Saad, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES — Netflix is still banking on comedian Dave Chappelle to bring the fans and has tapped the polarizing star to open its star-studded inaugural comedy festival.

Chappelle, whose controversial special "The Closer" ignited a firestorm for the streaming giant, will kick off the 11-day comedy fest next spring after the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the event's 2020 debut.

Netflix Is a Joke: The Festival, based on the streamer's multiplatform comedy brand, will be spread across 25 major venues in the L.A. area between April 28 and May 8 and will feature more than 130 artists, Netflix announced Monday.

Chappelle's opening gig is billed as "Dave Chappelle and Friends" and will take place at the Hollywood Bowl on April 28. As of Monday, it's considered Chappelle's first L.A. comedy show since he was widely criticized (but also supported) for transphobic and insensitive remarks he made in "The Closer," which debuted in October.

The ensuing fallout prompted an employee walkout at Netflix and led to at least one worker being fired and another leaving the company after withdrawing a labor complaint. It even sparked fierce debate about whether Chappelle's Washington, D.C., high school should name a theater after him.

As part of the Netflix Is a Joke festival, Gabriel "Fluffy" Iglesias is set to make history on May 7 as the first stand-up comedian to perform at Dodger Stadium, while the Forum in Inglewood will host comedian John Mulaney and Bill Burr's shows on May 3 and May 5, respectively. The newly named Crypto.com Arena (formerly the Staples Center) will be the stage for comedian Kevin Hart's event on May 6.

Netflix is also planning on recording events featuring late-night veteran David Letterman, "SNL" star Pete Davidson, "Grace & Frankie" co-stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin and "Trainwreck" actor Amy Schumer, as well as a special honoring late comedy legends George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Joan Rivers and Robin Williams to be recorded at the Hollywood Palladium.

Dynamic duo Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will host a conversation at the YouTube Theater on May 7, and Seth Rogen will emcee a four-night live table read at the Orpheum Theatre.


The Greek Theater has several events on the docket, including "Larry David in Conversation" on May 2, a Bert Kreischer gig on May 5 and "Stand Out: An LGBTQ+Celebration." "Stand Out" will be recorded as a special for the streamer on May 7 and will feature Bob the Drag Queen, Eddie Izzard, Margaret Cho, Patti Harrison, River Butcher, Sandra Bernhard, Solomon Georgio, Tig Notaro, Trixie Mattel and Wanda Sykes.

The festival also boasts comedy stars Ali Wong, Aziz Ansari, Bill Burr, Chelsea Handler, Chris Rock, Conan O'Brien, Ellen DeGeneres, Hasan Minhaj, Iliza Shlesinger, Jerry Seinfeld, John Mulaney, Jonathan Van Ness, Ken Jeong, Dax Shepard, Kevin Smith, Maya Rudolph, Gretchen Lieberum, Mike Birbiglia, Mike Myers, David O. Russell, Nick Kroll, Nicole Byer, Patton Oswalt, Ray Romano, Mo Amer, Marc Maron, Craig Robinson and more.

"It's absolutely thrilling for Netflix to be hosting a comedy festival of this magnitude in Los Angeles," said Robbie Praw, Netflix's director of stand-up and comedy formats, in a statement. "We were so disappointed to postpone the event last spring and our line-up of comedians can't wait to bring much needed laughs to audiences in LA and around the world on Netflix."

Presales for the festival, produced by Netflix in association with Live Nation, begin Tuesday, and tickets go on sale Friday.

When the festival was announced in March 2020, the lineup included "Nanette" star Hannah Gadsby, who has since publicly feuded with the streamer over Chappelle, as well as the cast of "Schitt's Creek," who were participating in a farewell tour for the Emmy-winning comedy. Neither of them were included in Monday's lineup announcement.

For the complete calendar, go to netflixisajokefest.com/calendar.


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