Chappelle: "Here's Why I Left..."
by Natalie Finn
When Dave Chappelle walked away from a $50 million deal with Comedy Central last year, forcing the cancellation of the third season of Chappelle's Show, his fans, critics and, well, everybody, thought he was crazy. But the 32-year-old comedian had his reasons for turning his back on the show that turned "I'm Rick James, bitch!" into a household phrase.
And the Dave Chappelle's Block Party star (who obviously has been busy again lately) has elaborated on those reasons in the May issue of Esquire, which hits newsstands Saturday. Basically, Chappelle attributes his change of heart to cultural, professional and personal concerns.
"The bottom line was, white people own everything," Chappelle said, "and where can a black person go and be himself or say something that's familiar to him and not have to explain or apologize?"
Well, his loyal audience--those who made season two of Chappelle's Show the best-selling TV show on DVD of all time--probably thought that was what his side ache-inducing sketch show was for, but apparently Chappelle has other ideas about what constitutes creative freedom.
"I felt like I was really pressured to settle for something that I didn't necessarily feel like I wanted," he told Esquire. "The thing about show business is that, in a way, it forces dysfunctional relationships in people."
While a host of Hollywood celebs would probably agree, Chappelle's decision to turn down all that money and take a break from the biz just as his star was at its brightest puzzled those close to him and strangers alike.
But now that Chappelle has stepped back into the positive limelight with the critically acclaimed Block Party, a fairly emotional appearance on Oprah and an Inside the Actors Studio interview (taped in December), his sabbatical has pretty much been explained away.
And Chappelle has been sticking to his publicly stated principles, making it perfectly clear that his relationship with Comedy Central would be in jeopardy if the network went ahead without his input and aired the handful of sketches he shot last year before unexpectedly leaving the country to chill out in South Africa.
One of the latest rumors being bandied about, per In Touch Weekly, is that Emmy-winning talk show host Wayne Brady will step into Chappelle's vacant hosting shoes to present the leftover sketches. Comedy Central stated after their wayward showman's Oprah visit that "the door is always open to him," but presumably every door has to close sometime.
As it stands, Chappelle hasn't made any definite decisions about whether the show will ever go on again with him onboard.
Meanwhile, Block Party, the Michael Gondry-directed documentary that chronicles Chappelle's staging in 2004 of a good-old-fashioned neighborhood shindig in Brooklyn, has grossed more than $11.7 million at the box office, an impressive showing considering the film was only available in 1,200 theaters nationwide and it cost $3 million to make. The movie features performances by your usual party guests--Kanye West, Mos Def, Erykah Badu and the like.
And, of course, Dave Chappelle is on the block, doing what he does best: telling jokes and entertaining the audience. Exactly what he told Esquire he was gonna keep on doing, so long as he calls the creative shots.