Squire Patton Boggs partner Fred Nance and comedian Dave Chappelle (Everett Collection/Shutterstock)
Netflix’s announcement Monday that the streaming service had signed a deal with comedian Dave Chappelle to produce three standup specials was just the latest matter in an 11-year relationship between the comedian and his lawyer, Squire Patton Boggs partner Frederick Nance in Cleveland.
Nance, head of Squire Patton Boggs’ sports and entertainment group, was recently named U.S. managing partner of the firm, a role he will assume on Jan. 1, 2017. Earlier this month he was in New York negotiating the terms of Chappelle’s contract with Netflix, the terms of which were not disclosed. The deal, whose value the New York Post put at $60 million, calls for Chappelle to produce one original show and stream performances from an April 2015 at Austin City Limits Live in Texas and in March 2016 at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles.
“This is his first return to the silver tube,” Nance said Tuesday. “Going on the Netflix platform is a win-win for both Netflix and for Dave.”
Chappelle’s Netflix debut was announced a week after he hosted Saturday Night Live’s first post-presidential election episode. Chappelle delivered a moving opening monologue in which he demanded that President-elect Donald Trump give African Americans a chance during the real estate mogul’s presidency.
Nance, who was in the audience during the SNL performance and also negotiated his contract with the show, said that the popularity of Chappelle’s performance “didn’t hurt” when he went to the negotiating table with Netflix. Nance said that the comedian’s performances on SNL and Netflix “go hand-in-hand as Dave reappears on the national scene.”
Though Nance said he’s not used to staying up until 4 a.m. as he’s had to do recently in order to attend parties with his client, the Squire Patton Boggs partner called Chappelle’s SNL performance “electric,” noting that Chappelle changed a lot between his dress rehearsal and actual live television performance.
While Chappelle has made few appearances on TV since leaving his hit Comedy Central show more than a decade ago, he has performed roughly 500 times in the last three years, said Nance, who has been to less than a dozen of those shows. Nance’s relationship with Chappelle, who lives in Yellow Springs, Ohio, a suburb of Dayton, began with a phone call he received out of the blue 11 years ago. (Trademark records show that Squire Patton Boggs has handled work for Chappelle’s Pilot Boy Productions Inc.)
“The first time he called I didn’t return the call because I said, ‘He couldn’t be that Dave Chappelle,’” said Nance, adding that he gets cold called all the time by random people seeking legal advice. It was another lawyer, Nance’s wife Jakki, who suggested he return the call just in case. He did.
Chappelle isn’t Nance’s only high-profile celebrity client. The Squire Patton Boggs partner has represented LeBron James since the star of the National Basketball Association’s Cleveland Cavaliers was a teenager. Nance, who exalted in the team’s NBA championship victory in June, has also handled work for other local sports teams. The former candidate for commissioner of the National Football League spent a decade as general counsel for the league’s Cleveland Browns. Nance also advised on the team’s $1 billion sale in 2012.