Netflix Explains Why It’s in the Dave Chappelle and Matt Rife Business

If you don’t like it, says Netflix, turn it off
Netflix Explains Why It’s in the Dave Chappelle and Matt Rife Business

Seemingly every new Dave Chappelle special invites controversy for Netflix, but just because the streamer is getting heat, it’s not getting out of that particular kitchen. “I respect the fact that certainly some folks won’t respond to certain things,” says Robbie Praw, Netflix’s VP of Standup and Comedy Formats. But as he told Vulture in advance of the Netflix is a Joke festival, “At the end of the day, we want to give people options.”

“Some people’s favorite thing to do on a Saturday night may be to watch a Dave Chapelle special,” he says. “For some people, it may be Taylor Tomlinson or Mae Martin or Sarah Silverman or John Mulaney or Chris Rock. And we don’t want to block those choices for our members.”

It’s not just Chappelle. Netflix had a huge hit last year with Matt Rife’s Natural Selection special, which was met with heavy criticism over Rife’s casual jokes about domestic violence. (Not to mention his social media response, suggesting special-needs helmets for anyone who was offended.) To Praw, Rife is simply speaking to an underserved part of Netflix’s user base. 

“He has come into this marketplace and is speaking to an audience that most other comedians aren’t speaking to,” Praw says. What that really means? “Well, Matt Rife is speaking to a lot of people who are younger. He’s just sold out this massive tour. He’s going to be the youngest comedian ever to sell out the Hollywood Bowl; I think he’s maybe the youngest to even play the Bowl.”

Shane Gillis is another young-ish comic that Praw believes is speaking to “different tastes and different audiences.” This statement is true for both Gillis and Rife: “The folks that he speaks to, some of the other comedians we have on Netflix may not.”

It’s not hard to read between the lines here — both Gillis and Rife resonate with a certain kind of young viewer, almost always male, specifically the kind who wants to laugh at jokes that others believe are sexistracist or homophobic. In the case of Chappelle (and Ricky Gervais), Netflix is catering to an audience who enjoy jokes that punch down at trans people.

“Our members have the ability of clicking on something; they have the ability to shut off something,” says Praw. “You could buy a ticket, or you don’t need to buy a ticket. It is very important that we give our members that choice”

Netflix couldn’t be more clear. It could steer away from ugly comedy content but that would mean leaving money on the table. And as long as the ugliest parts of its subscriber base keep entering their credit card numbers, the streamer will give the people what they want.


Scroll down for the next article
Forgot Password?