Dave Chappelle

Aug 25, 2008 by     Comments Off on Dave Chappelle    Posted under: Comedian, Male Black Comedians

dave_chappelleeDavid Khari Webber Chappelle (born August 24, 1973) is a comedian, screenwriter, television/film producer, and actor. In 2003, he became widely known for his popular sketch comedy television series, Chappelle’s Show.

Early life

Chappelle was born in Yellow Springs, Ohio. His father, William David Chappelle III, was a professor at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. His older brother is named Abdullah.[citation needed] His mother, Yvonne K. (née Reed), was a professor at Howard University and the University of Maryland and is also a Unitarian Universalist minister.[2] Chappelle grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland and attended Woodlin Elementary school.[3] During young Chappelle’s formative years, his comic inspiration came from various comedy idols, particularly Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor.[4][1]

After his parents separated, Chappelle stayed in Washington with his mother while spending summers with his father in Ohio. In June 1991, he graduated from Washington’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts, a renowned performing arts high school, where he majored in theatre arts.[1]

Career

Early works

Chappelle moved to New York City to pursue a career as a comedian. He gathered the courage to perform at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater in front of the infamous “Amateur Night” audience. The performance resulted in him being booed off the stage. Chappelle has described the experience as the moment that gave him the courage to continue his show business aspirations.[1] He quickly made a name for himself in the New York City comedy circuit, even performing in the city’s parks. At the age of 20, Chappelle made his film debut as “Ahchoo” in Mel Brooks Robin Hood: Men in Tights. That same year, he had a small but showy role in the film Undercover Blues. On the strength of his performances in these films, Chappelle was offered the role of Bubba in Forrest Gump, which was in a pre-production stage. Not realizing the impact this future Academy Award winner for Best Picture would have, and concerned about what seemed to be a racially demeaning character, he turned down the part. He has since admitted to regretting the decision.[5] Chappelle played another supporting movie role in 1994’s little-seen Getting In. He attracted the attention of TV network executives with his guest appearance in an episode of ABC’s highly rated sitcom Home Improvement. The storyline had Chappelle and real-life friend comedian Jim Breuer ask Tim Taylor for advice on their girlfriends. The characters’ single outing in the episode proved so popular that ABC decided to give them their own spin-off sitcom titled Buddies. However, after taping a pilot episode, Jim Breuer was fired and replaced with actor Christopher Gartin. Buddies premiered in March 1996 to disappointing ratings. The show was cancelled after only four episodes out of thirteen that were produced. Nine years later, in May 2005, ten of the episodes were released on a single-disc DVD to capitalize on Chappelle’s new-found fame.

He later appeared as the nightclub comedian in The Nutty Professor starring Eddie Murphy, one of his major comedic influences. He also had minor roles in Con Air and Martin Lawrence’s Blue Streak. He co-wrote (with Neal Brennan) and starred in Half Baked, a cult film about a group of pot-smoking best friends trying to get their friend out of jail.

Chappelle appeared as himself in an episode of The Larry Sanders Show, in which he and the executives of the show’s nameless television network satirized the treatment that scriptwriters and show creators were subject to, as well as the executives’ knee-jerk stereotyping when it came to race. In 1998, he played a supporting role as Tom Hanks’ character’s friend and confidant in You’ve Got Mail.

Chappelle’s Show

In 2003, Chappelle debuted his own weekly sketch comedy show on Comedy Central called Chappelle’s Show. The show parodied many aspects of American culture including racial stereotypes, politics and pop culture. Along with comedy skits, the show also featured musical performances by mostly hip-hop and soul artists. Chappelle’s pointed social and political commentary quickly helped the show garner critical and commercial success as well as controversy.[6] Richard Pryor, one of Chappelle’s comedic influences, was a fan of the show and stated that he had “passed the torch” to Chappelle.[7] He received two Emmy nominations for the show.[8]

Additionally, the DVD set, Chappelle’s Show Season One Uncensored!, became the best-selling DVD of a television show to date, overtaking the previous best-selling, The Simpsons first season DVD. It had sold over 3 million copies.[9] Due to the show’s popularity, Comedy Central’s parent company Viacom reportedly offered Chappelle a $55 million contract (giving Chappelle a share of DVD sales) to continue production of Chappelle’s Show for two more years while allowing him to do side projects. Chappelle had stated that sketches are not his favorite form of comedy, and that the characteristics of the show’s format were somewhat like short films.
Chappelle as Rick James in the popular “Rick James sketch”.
Chappelle as Rick James in the popular “Rick James sketch”.

Season 3 turbulence

In a June 2004 stand-up performance in Sacramento, California, Chappelle walked off the stage after berating his audience for constantly shouting “I’m Rick James, bitch!”, which became a catchphrase from the popular “Rick James sketch”. After a few minutes, Chappelle returned and continued by saying “The show is ruining my life.” He stated that he disliked working “20 hours a day” and that the popularity of the show was making it difficult for him to continue his stand-up career which was “the most important thing” to him. He also told the audience:
“ You know why my show is good? Because the network officials say you’re not smart enough to get what I’m doing, and every day I fight for you. I tell them how smart you are. Turns out, I was wrong. You people are stupid.[10] ”

Season 3 was scheduled to air on May 31st, 2005, but in May 2005, Chappelle stunned fans and the entertainment industry when he abruptly left during production of the third season of Chappelle’s Show. Chappelle has since stated that he was unhappy with the direction the show had taken, claiming pressure from network executives regarding the show’s content. Chappelle left the United States to visit South Africa. His decision to visit South Africa while leaving the public in the dark regarding the details about his absence triggered reports of drug problems. Chappelle gave an interview to Time Magazine’s South African bureau chief. Chappelle denied any drug or mental problems but stated that his reasons for visiting South Africa were to reflect on his life and career.
“ I don’t normally talk about my religion publicly because I don’t want people to associate me and my flaws with this beautiful thing. And I believe [Islam] is a beautiful religion if you learn it the right way. It’s a lifelong effort. Your religion is your standard. Coming here I don’t have the distractions of fame. It quiets the ego down. I’m interested in the kind of person I’ve got to become. I want to be well rounded and the industry is a place of extremes. I want to be well balanced. I’ve got to check my intentions, man.[11] ”

Return

Later in the year, Chappelle[12] performed impromptu stand-up shows in Los Angeles.[13][14] He then went on a tour which began in Newport, Kentucky which is not far from his Ohio home.[15] He also made a surprise appearance on HBO’s Def Poetry where he performed two poems, titled Fuck Ashton Kutcher and How I Got the Lead on “Jeopardy!.”[16] He was interviewed for Inside the Actors Studio on December 18, 2005 at Pace University’s Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts. The show premiered on February 12, 2006.[17] Chappelle stated that the death of his father in 1998 had an impact on his decision to go to South Africa. By throwing himself into his work, he had not taken a chance to mourn his father’s death. He also said the rumors that he was in drug or psychiatric treatment only persuaded him to stay in South Africa.[1]

He continued:
“ I would go to work on the show and I felt awful every day, that’s not the way it was. … I felt like some kind of prostitute or something. If I feel so bad, why keep on showing up to this place? I’m going to Africa. The hardest thing to do is to be true to yourself, especially when everybody is watching. ”

Chappelle also said that he felt some of his sketches were “socially irresponsible”. [18][19] He singled out the “pixie sketch” in which pixies appear to people and encourage them to reinforce stereotypes of their races. In the sketch, Chappelle is wearing blackface and is dressed as a character in a minstrel show.[20] According to Chappelle, during the filming of the sketch, a white crew member was laughing in a way that made him feel uncomfortable and made him rethink the show.[18][19] Chappelle said “it was the first time I felt that someone was not laughing with me but laughing at me.”[18]

During these interviews, Chappelle did not rule out returning to Chappelle’s Show to “finish what we started”, but promised that he would not return without changes to the production, such as a better working environment. He also stated he would like to donate half of the DVD sales to charity.[21] Chappelle expressed disdain at the possibility of his material from the unfinished third season being aired, saying that to do so would be “a bully move”, and that he would not return to the show if Comedy Central were to air the unfinished material.[19] On July 9, 2006, Comedy Central aired the first episode of Chappelle’s Show: The Lost Episodes. An uncensored DVD release of the episodes was made available on July 25. Consequently, it is highly unlikely that Chappelle will ever return to Comedy Central.

Chappelle has stated that he has no intention of leaving Yellow Springs, Ohio, his current residence. “Turns out you don’t need $50 million to live around these parts, just a nice smile and a kind way about you. You guys are the best neighbors ever”, he stated at a blues and jazz festival in the town in mid-September 2006, “That’s why I came back and that’s why I’m staying.”[22]

Rick James Movie

In June 2004, based on the popularity of the “Rick James sketch”, it was announced that Chappelle was in talks to portray Rick James in a biopic from Paramount Pictures.[23] James’ estate disagreed with the proposed tone of the film and put a halt to the talks.[24]

Dave Chappelle’s Block Party
The site of Dave Chappelle’s Block Party in Brooklyn.
The site of Dave Chappelle’s Block Party in Brooklyn.

Chappelle was the subject and producer of the Michel Gondry-directed documentary Dave Chappelle’s Block Party which chronicles a Chappelle-hosted event in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn on September 18, 2004. The highlight of the event was the reunion of popular ’90s rap group The Fugees. Chappelle toured several cities in February and March 2006 to promote the film under the moniker “Block Party All-Stars featuring Dave Chappelle”. Universal Pictures’ genre division Rogue Pictures released the film in the United States on March 3, 2006.

Other works

Chappelle has appeared in commercials for Right Guard, and Pepsi. Chappelle appeared on Talib Kweli/Hi-Tek collaboration album Train of Thought performing the voices of Nelson Mandela and Rick James also as the keynote speaker on Talib Kweli’s Quality. He also appeared on Prince Paul’s album Politics of the Business and on mixtapes by Talib Kweli and 50 Cent.

Personal life

Chappelle lives with his wife Elaine and two sons,[20] Sulayman[25] and Ibrahim,[citation needed] on a 65 acre farm, which he calls “Fuck you Hollywood farm”,[1] just outside Yellow Springs, Ohio.[15]

Television works

* 1995: Home Improvement as Dave (one episode)
* 1995: Buddies
* 2000: Dave Chappelle: Killin’ Them Softly as himself
* 2003: Richard Pryor: I Ain’t Dead Yet, #*%$@!! as himself
* 2004: Dave Chappelle: For What It’s Worth as himself
* 2003-2006: Chappelle’s Show as himself and others
-From Wikipedia.org

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