When Dave Chappelle walked away from a lucrative deal with Comedy Central, some figured he had lost his mind.
After all, Chappelle’s Show was more than on the uptick after just two seasons. It was the talk of the entertainment industry, and Chappelle was the new price of stand-up and sketch comedy. He pushed an envelope few pushed in the mainstream. The show was lightning in a bottle, something most comedians only dream about. But, Chappelle says it all came with fame, and fame comes with strings.
“Fame is a horrifying concept when it’s aimed at you, you know?” Chappelle told CBS News. “At the end of the day, you don’t have that much control over it. You just try to conduct yourself as best you can.”
While Charlie Murphy, Donnell Rawlings, and Mos Def played integral roles, sketches were largely framed around main characters played by Chappelle. His portrayal of Rick James in “Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories” still resonates with fans. It also made Chappelle realize the show was spinning him in an unwanted direction.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 20, 2017
It got to the point where he no longer got normal “hellos” or traditional requests for photos or autographs. Instead, fans yelled things like, “I’m Rick James!” while expecting him to return the favor. Chappelle now has strict rules for those attending his comedy shows: no cell phones, no photography, and no heckling. In other words, requests for quips of old are not tolerated. And he means business, too. Last month, a couple was thrown out of a Chappelle set in Sarasota, Florida, after repeatedly insisting for him to say famous lines from the show.
It has been more than a decade and Dave Chappelle is still separating himself from what made him an industry icon. However, there are new jokes from an older, healthier comedian, who credits walking away from a $50 million payday one of the best decisions of his life.
No, he didn’t seek psychological help in Africa. Chappelle was not contemplating suicide or battling addiction. He sought only normalcy, a family life outside of the comedic fishbowl.
“I’m like 40 pounds heavier than I was when I did ‘Chappelle’s Show,'” he told CBS News ahead of his three-part stand-up special on Netflix that premiers Tuesday. “And people are like, ‘How did you gain all that weight?’ By resting and eatin’ and payin’ attention to myself. I have actual relationships with my kids. I’ve been all over the country, touring all my life. But I never saw anything. Now I’ve seen everything.”
As for new material, Chappelle still broaches racism, current events and other celebrities.
— Entertainment Weekly (@EW) March 20, 2017
Like others before him, namely Jerry Seinfeld, Chappelle is a comedian first, and has always been content with doing stand up–working when he chose to work. When the show begged another season, Dave Chappelle chose to rest.
But, Chappelle, now 43, knew he wouldn’t stay in the shadows forever. The son of college professors has been doing comedy since he was 14.
Making is film debut in 1993’s Robin Hood: Men in Tights, he landed several minor roles while co-writing Half Baked (1998) with Neal Brennan. Four years later, the duo began penning the first season of Chappelle’s Show.
On January 22, 2003, the show premiered with Chappelle playing Clayton Bigsby, the black white supremacist. The season continued to spoof stories involving R. Kelly, Girls Gone Wild, and Roots to raved reviews. The second season included bumbling drug addict Tyrone Biggums and Chappelle as Rick James and Prince.
Season 3 was halted at after three episodes.
The Netflix shows were filmed in Los Angeles and Austin, Texas. The special is the first stand-up event since 2004.
[Featured Image by Jason Merritt/Getty Images]