Who could forget Dave Chappelle? The breakthrough comedian from rural Ohio who first made a name for himself in the film Robinhood: Men In Tights but then had a string of successful movies including the now-classic, Half Baked. But it wasn’t until he landed his own on the then-fledgling network, Comedy Central, that Dave and the hilarious Chappelle’s Show took off. It became the highest-rated, most-watched show in Comedy Central history and the DVD of the show became the highest-selling TV show DVD ever.
But when Dave, on the impending Season 3 of the show decided to walk away from his contract and $50 million dollars, many people questioned his mental health. But in his interview with Oprah, he explained how he walked away from becoming more and more “socially irresponsible” and wanted to bring back the fun of comedy without all the stress.
Over 10 years later, Dave is back in stand up and doing well! And not just any standup: he recorded two (only two) live shows for Netflix that paid him $60 Million–$10 Million more than he would have gotten for his entire season 3 of Comedy Central. He also has a lot to say about what’s happening in our world right now–specifically with race and the entertainment business.
On his latest special, which is not really a comedy set at all, “846” he goes all in on race relations, police brutality and change needed in America. The set was filmed on June 6th, twelve days after the police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on the neck of George Floyd, Jr–the murder that seemed to wake up a lot of America–and the rest of the world for that matter. Chauvin knelt on the Floyd’s neck for a horrible eight minutes and forty-six seconds, the lethal timestamp from which the special takes its name. (It’s ten days after Tallahassee police fatally shot Tony McDade, a trans man.) Chauvin’s murder of Floyd is the central matter of the performance, which Chappelle addresses both his grief, anger, disgust and need for change: “I don’t want to see this because I can’t unsee it” he says. “Every institution that we trust lies to us…I’m tired of explaining.”
On Race Relations
“This is a very surprisingly emotionally charged time,” he said to the AP, “so people like me, I think, are very relevant and necessary in sorting through all this information and emotional content. And when we are at our best, hopefully we are doing a great service to many people.”
“The biggest enemy of an artist is apathy … A kid gets killed by the police and I buy a T-shirt and before I can wear that one, there’s another kid (killed) and I’m running out of closet space.”
On Not Being Seen As Much
“I’ve been out here doing comedy the whole time. But if certain people don’t see you, it’s not that you don’t exist, it’s just that they haven’t seen you. Sometimes I’ll do shit and I’ll be like, ‘Oh, that’s so great.’ And I’ll think, ‘I would love to share this.’ And then I can talk myself out of it for any number of reasons.”
On What Life Is Like Now
“I have a very good life, a high quality of life. I have both money and time. No one has that. My kids are older now, so when I make decisions within the public eye, it affects more than just me. This year I’ve been way more generous with my time, as far as what I’m willing to share. And it’s been great. People have been very supportive. They’ve always been supportive. But it was good to reaffirm that I actually did have a rapport with…