Is Dave Chappelle Really, Truly Back?

With Dave Chappelle’s redux of his Prince impersonation, and in light of other factors, does it feel to anyone else like we can be cautiously hopeful the comic is… dare we say back?

You don’t have to be that old to remember Dave Chappelle as having quit the game a decade or so and change ago, while he was still making us laugh so hard that most of us fans still laugh today recalling his work. Chappelle cut a very sharp edge through the comedy of the late 90s and early 00s — so much so it eventually led to his understandable discomfort and much lamented flight from the spotlight.

Everyone had a favorite Dave Chappelle sketch for different reasons, the one they couldn’t get through describing laugh/tear free. Mine was personally the one about whether white people can’t dance. My sister, however, still can’t talk about the one where Charlie Murphy is playing basketball with Prince without dissolving into hysterics. Both generally lead to our mother being forced to sit through some fuzzy YouTube copy.

As we learned earlier today, Chappelle’s Prince impersonation made it all the way to a new Prince release, “Breakfast Can Wait.” (And as it turns out, the purple-clad pop and soul king agrees with my sister.)

But Chappelle has also been touring again, with the awesomely populated Oddball Comedy Fest. (Hannibal Buress, Al Madrigal, Demetri Martin and Flight Of The Conchords also appear.)

A recent New York Times profile looked at Dave Chappelle’s tentative re-entry into show business, one that seems soaked in the confusion and unrest lingering from his prior semi-retirement. The paper explains that Chappelle doesn’t shy away from the public perception of his previous experiences, weaving the unspoken throughout much of his new work.

The Times relays one bit involving Chappelle’s counsel to his son about “quitting,” one that irritates another (Catholic) parent:

“[The other parent] confronts the comic at school one morning saying: ‘O’Malleys don’t quit.’ Taking cartoonish umbrage, Mr. Chappelle responded with alacrity: ‘Well, Chappelles do.’… The crowd roars at the subtext of this line then more so, in the next scene, when Mr. Chappelle says he heard on the news that the pope had resigned, inspiring a revenge fantasy come true. ‘Heeeeey O’Malley,’ he says gleefully, running across the stage. ‘Tough break about your spiritual leader throwing in the towel.’ ”

Only time will tell if Dave Chappelle remains back, but fans seem tentatively hopeful that the comic’s talents will override his inherent discomfort in the spotlight. Have you been to any of the Oddball dates so far?

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