Dave Chappelle, I miss you

I don't have a picture of Chappelle, so here's my autographed Paul Mooney DVD - I didn't have cash to buy the DVD, so he let me write him a check - I made a copy of the cancelled check he endorsed (because I'm a dork)

My Thanksgiving-related chores are done (casserole = made, pie = cooling), so I’m watching a bit of the boob tube and slipping into my four-day weekend. Chappelle’s Show is on Comedy Central right now. Even though I own both seasons on DVD and have watched each episode almost to the point of being able to recite sketches from memory, I’m always excited to see the show. It’s the best sketch comedy that’s been on TV in years. Decades. Ever? Possibly.

I thank Dave Chappelle for introducing me to Paul Mooney and for repeatedly showing how you can talk about relevent social issues in a meaningful way while still being funny as shit. I wrote for a sketch comedy troupe a long time ago, and I remember during that experience trying to balance writing about something other than sex and drugs while still being funny to a drunk, often male, audience. Not the easiest thing in the world.

According to legend, part of the downfall of Chappelle’s Show was the fact that sketches such as the one featuring the line, “I’m Rick James, bitch,” hounded Chappelle, even when he was doing stand up and not shooting the show. Drunk frat boys in the audience would repeatedly yell the line at him, hoping to get a glimpse of the character they’d seen on TV instead of understanding that Chappelle is a comedian and not an actor who just repeats catchphrases. It’s like a band that’s made 20 albums being heckled to play their radio hit from the first album, something they don’t even relate to as artists anymore. The Rick James shit was funny, sure, but it was just part of a larger body of work and not necessarily related to his stand up at all. So Chappelle began to feel like the audience he’d respected enough to get his point were, in fact, too fucking stupid to understand what he was saying. So he walked away.

The walking away only adds to my respect for him. Sure, it wasn’t the most professional way to handle the situation. Sure, it led people to suggest he had a drug problem. I mean, who could walk away from fifty million dollars, right? Only a crazy person. Because money is the most important thing in the world. But he said fuck it. He said he wasn’t going to create corporatized comedy to make the frat boys laugh, and he’s stayed true to his word. He still does comedy clubs occasionally. I’m waiting for him to come to Houston so I can go see him. If anyone yells “I’m Rick James, bitch,” I will silence them with my death glare.

Anyway. If I had to name artists who have impacted my writing, Chappelle is close to the top of the list. Which would mean little to him, but it means a lot to me.

7 thoughts on “Dave Chappelle, I miss you

    1. Hhhmmmm…that could be too. I haven’t personally seen him, so I can’t vouch for the fact that he occasionally comes up for air in comedy clubs. They say he now lives in a place called “Ohio.” Wherever that is.

  1. Conn

    I agree, Chappelle’s Show was one of the best comedy shows ever. I can’t help but wonder if the creative pressure to come up with that level of material on a weekly basis might have also been a contributing factor to the show’s demise. Being that good for two seasons is one thing, but doing it for ten years is another thing. None the less, I share your respect for Dave and the level of integrity he showed by just walking away and telling them to keep their money.

  2. Charlie Murphy fan

    I’m still waiting for the rest of the cast and crew to get “Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Tales” greenlighted as its own series, with or without Dave Chappelle.

    I’m guessing Neal Brennan, Charlie Murphy, and Donnell Rawlings could make a decent go of it with less than $50 million.

    1. Did you see the fake “season three” of Chappelle’s Show that Murphy and Rawlings did? It was almost painful to watch. I agree that there’s something to Charlie Murphy’s stories, and Neal was obviously a big contributor as far as the writing goes so he could help out. I’m just not sure how deep that well is.

      Nice to see you back here at the old blog, by the way.

  3. Charlie Murphy fan

    The “let’s fill some air time until Dave returns” shows were indeed painful to watch, but I don’t think they were given a free hand to develop some of Charlie’s memories properly.

    I’d invite a guest comedian or actor each week to play a key character in Charlie’s story – I think that would keep it interesting and would keep me tuning in to see who will appear each week. I’d make Tom Cruise one of my first comedic recruits.

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