Synopsis: Comedian Dave Chappelle hosts this sketch-comedy show that parodies many of the nuances of race and culture.
Creators: Dave Chappelle, Neal Brennan
Executive producer: Michele Armour
Network: Comedy Central
Serious Jest: (Must Own) In his opening monologue of the first show, Chappelle proclaimed that this was his show, and he could do whatever he wanted. Then he kicked off a season of outrageous sketches, including: a blind, African-American White supremacist (in case you haven’t seen it, that wasn’t a typo) ; Great Moments in Hookup History; and Chappelle antagonizing a kid with cancer. He joked about pretty much every subject that was supposed to be off-limits, including race, drugs, and sex. Americans were taken by surprise. They had never seen anything this raw before. You weren’t supposed to joke about these things–at least not on a major network–but the show was so incredibly funny and witty that you couldn’t stop laughing!
The second season was even funnier: Chappelle had upper-middle-class White people running around proclaiming, “I’m Rick James, bitch!” He out-“Whut!”ed, -“Okaay!”ed, and -“Yeah!”ed Lil’ Jon. And he even had Wayne Brady pontificating, “Is Wayne Brady gonna hafta to choke a bitch?”
Throughout its run, the show featured outstanding musical guests performing in unique, cool situations, such as: Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def) (who was also great as an actor in some of the skits) rapping while riding shotgun in a car driving around NYC with Chappelle; Common and Kanye West rapping “The Food” in a decked-out kitchen; and De La Soul on a road tour bus. It also featured lesser-known-but-hilarious comedians, such as Donnell Rawlings, Charles Q. Murphy, and Patrice O’Neal (R.I.P.).
Ironically, some of the very situations that Chappelle parodied later became reality. For instance, one show was hosted by Brady, who explained that the insane taping schedule and network meddling had gotten to Dave, and he had left the show–this was a gag at the time, but later ended up being eerily similar to real events. According to TVTropes.org: Chappelle went missing after filming three episodes worth of sketches for his show, ultimately resurfacing in South Africa, while the season three premiere date came and went with no show in sight. Chappelle later explained that he had become disillusioned with fame and the show: his edgy, in-your-face racial humor was being taken at face value by his now predominately white fanbase, culminating in him coming to the conclusion that he had become the very thing he was mocking with his racially charged material. Adding to this, he continued, was Comedy Central, who had given the show free rein for seasons one and two, suddenly sticking their noses into the production of the program and Chappelle falling out with his longtime friends/fellow writers who were more concerned with keeping the gravy train running than with his existential crisis. On the other hand, Brennan characterized the end of Chappelle’s Show as being heavily perpetuated by Comedy Central pitting him and Chappelle against each other.
In any case, I can understand Chappelle’s reasons for walking out, and it takes serious courage and conviction to stand behind your beliefs like that. At the same time, I miss the hell out of that show, and I’m eagerly awaiting Chappelle’s next big project. In the meantime, I’ll keep listening to Brennan’s podcast, The Champs…it usually doesn’t take him very long before he talks about Chappelle or the show on any given episode. 😉