Comedian, Actor, Screenwriter, Producer, David Khari Webber “Dave” Chappelle was born in Washington, DC.
Known as the “King of the Pilots”, Chappelle began his career in New York. After getting booed at the Apollo Theater, (known for booing comedians), he decided he had the courage to stay in comedy. He honed his craft in New York and made his film debut at age 19 in Mel Brook’s Men in Tights, a parody of the Robin Hood legend. Other notable films roles included The Nutty Professor, Con-Air, Blue Streak, Undercover Brother and You’ve Got Mail.
In 1998 Chappelle co-wrote the cult classic film, Half Baked along with collaborator, Neal Brennan. The hit stoner flick helped establish the professional relationship of the two. They went on to create and pen, Chappelle’s Show, the first iconic sketch comedy show of the 21st Century. Up until that eventual success Chappelle had presented many pilots to the networks. They were either rejected or tampered with after initial shooting. One, Buddies, made it to air on ABC, but instead of his original co-star and friend, Jim Breuer being on the show, Breuer was fired and replaced by an actor who Chappelle shared no chemistry. That show was canceled after 5 episodes. They had shot 13. After this experience he shot another pilot and ended up accusing a network of racism after they insisted on adding white characters that rang untrue for the project. At this point Chappelle considered leaving show business. Then came a chance to do a show for struggling cable network, Comedy Central.
Chappelle’s Show got everybody’s attention. It dealt with social and racial issues to hilariously that controversial actor, Charlie Sheen ruptured a hernia laughing at an episode and had to be taken to the hospital. His employers at CBS thought his absence from his own show, Two and a Half Men was drug related and fired Sheen. Maybe drugs were involved, but it was mainly Chappelle.
Chappelle’s Show produced skits such as the “Niggar Family”, about a white family with a non-white sounding name, “The Blind Racist”, where a blind black man lives as a white supremacy leader; “The Racial Lottery”, where races claim who they want, most notably Wu Tang Clan being newly identified as Asian. He poked fun at Oprah, Prince, Rick James and Wayne Brady (who made a guest appearance) and anything else that could be clowned. Besides, sketches (not Chappelle’s favorite form of comedy) the show also featured musical acts and the work of fellow comedians, Charlie Murphy, Dominique, Paul Mooney and Donnell Rawlings.
In 2005 Chappelle abruptly left the show. Though DVD had reached record proportions and Chappelle was offered 55 million dollars by Comedy Central, he didn’t like the direction and felt he was being laughed at instead of with by a white crew member. This uncomfortable feeling made him flee to South Africa to get his priorities in order. Upon his return he was compelled to explain his position on shows like Oprah and Inside the Actor’s Studio. Meanwhile Comedy Central aired the sketches (Titled “The Lost Episodes”) Chappelle had shot for the aborted 3rd season against his creative wishes and that relationship was formerly severed.
Dave Chappelle produced Dave Chappelle’s Block Party featuring musical artists (Kanye West, The Roots, Erykuh Badu, Mos Def, Jill Scott, Dead Prez), highlighted by a surprise reunion of the Fugees. In 2006 he turned 3 million into 11.7 million when he released, Block Party All-Stars featuring Dave Chappelle through Universal’s Rogue Pictures.
Dave Chappelle’s professed first love is stand-up and he’s done hour-long comedy specials for HBO (Killing Them Softly) as well as Showtime (For What It’s Worth). Other comedians praise him as one of the best ever and Chappelle made many unannounced appearances in comedy venues before going back on the road in 2013.
He is ranked #43 on Comedy Central’s list of “100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time”.
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton