Chappelle's Show is an American sketch comedytelevision series created by comedians Dave Chappelle and Neal Brennan, with Chappelle hosting the show as well as starring in various sketches. Chappelle, Brennan and Michele Armour were the show's executive producers. The series premiered on January 22, 2003, on the American cable television network Comedy Central. The show ran for two complete seasons and a third, truncated season (dubbed "The Lost Episodes").
The show opens with Chappelle being introduced over the instrumental from the song "Hip-Hop", from the album Let's Get Free by Dead Prez. Chappelle performs a short stand up in front of a live audience, which serves to introduce the upcoming sketch. The focus then shifts to a prerecorded sketch that appears on a screen that is to Chappelle's left (or right for the first episode). The show is notorious for its handling of the topic of sexuality and Chappelle's casual usage of racial epithets, categorizing the show as a racial comedy. The show also handles such topics as prostitution, the entertainment industry, gun violence, numerous drug references (particularly marijuana, alcohol, PCP, Crystal Meth and crack cocaine) and music, all performed in a comedic fashion with a touch of antagonism. The TV-MA, TV-14 rated show is controversial in its use of young child actors for some sketches. The show ends with a musical performance by a hip hop or soul artist.
There have been three seasons of Chappelle's Show produced, totaling 28 episodes. There have also been four "mixtapes" and one "music jump-off" episode, highlighting the best sketches and musical acts of each season, respectively. Combined, this makes 33 complete episodes.
Rather than acting out sketches in front of a live studio audience, the sketches were prerecorded with the audience reaction usually used in lieu of a laugh track. According to Neal Brennan in Season 2 DVD commentary, the production team never edits in pre-recorded laughs, with the exception of the "Dude's Night Out" sketch due to the lack of reaction from the audience. Many of the sketches were heavily ad-libbed, most notably The Mad Real World sketch.
A Moment in the Life of Lil' Jon – Chappelle plays rapper/producer Lil' Jon doing normal, everyday tasks, with a vocabulary consisting of almost nothing but the words 'Yeah!', 'HWHAT?!', and 'O-kay!' The real Lil' Jon appeared in one sketch opposite Chappelle's character, with Lil' Jon speaking in an excessively dignified accent. The rapper credited the sketch with increasing his visibility.Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade, "best-of" list, saying, " We could have filled this list with 100 reasons we miss Chappelle's Show, but the biggest one would have to be his riotous celebrity impressions."
Charlie Murphy's True Hollywood Stories – Charlie Murphy (who also wrote the sketches) retells his encounters with 1980s celebrities, the most popular being the Rick James story, which is widely regarded as Chappelle's magnum opus. The sketch features Murphy as himself and Chappelle as James, including incidents such as James slapping Murphy, interspersed with scenes of the present-day Rick James (portrayed by James himself), trying to cover up for his past behavior, saying, "Cocaine's a hell of a drug." The sketch spawned one of the show's popular catchphrases, "I'm Rick James, bitch!", which Chappelle, as James, repeatedly declares. The sketch attained even greater public attention when, in 2005, a candidate for city council in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, also named Rick James but unrelated to the singer, had many of his "Vote Rick James" campaign signs defaced by writing "Vote Rick James bitch!" or stolen by fans of the sketch. The other "True Hollywood Story" depicted Murphy and his crew playing a pickup game of basketball against Prince.
Frontline – A spoof of the PBS series Frontline. The first Frontline sketch, Blind Supremacy, featured the life of Clayton Bigsby (played by Chappelle), a biography of a blindwhite supremacist who is not aware that he is actually a black man. This sketch was part of the first episode and garnered attention for its extensive use of the word "nigger" (mostly spoken by Chappelle's character). The sketch has been compared to the iconic Saturday Night Live sketch from 1975 featuring Chevy Chase and Richard Pryor which received similar reactions for its use of the word, and may have been influenced by the Seinfeld episode The Limo where George Costanza is mistaken for an author/Aryan Union leader whose face has never been seen. Another point of reference is the Mr. Show skit The New KKK in which the Grand Wizard is black. Other Frontline sketches featured stories of racist animal actors and gay versions of everything from the DMV to the KKK.
Racial Draft – A spoof of the NFL Draft which saw various celebrities such as Tiger Woods (Chappelle) and the Wu Tang Clan (playing themselves) being "drafted" into various "races" such as white, black, Jewish, Hispanic, and Asian, based on their perceived ethnicity or cultural leanings. Chappelle also played the white representative while rapper Mos Def played the black representative.
WacArnold's – Chappelle gets a job as a young man at a fast food restaurant that portrays itself as providing a community service by offering jobs to disenfranchised, poor youth. A scene-by-scene mock of a 1990 McDonald's commercial is followed by Chappelle slowly realizing the job is embarrassing and he doesn't make enough money to support his family. He gets robbed and harassed on his way to work. During one encounter, a thug (played by Donnell Rawlings) quips, "Hey Calvin! It's a fine line between fries and shakes!" before he breaks into song, "The leanest burger in the world, could be the meanest burger in the world, if you cook it that way!". He follows by stating he has to "stop smoking this shit here" as his friends break out in laughter. The song is a remake of a 1971 song by The Persuaders (also covered by The Pretenders in 1983) "It's a Thin Line Between Love and Hate".
Wayne Brady's Show – After Dave Chappelle quits the show in an opening segment that coincidentally mirrored the contract negotiations for the aborted third season, Wayne Brady (portraying himself) takes over as host and is asked to emcee the remaining episodes of the series since Chappelle had already filmed the remaining sketches. Regretting the decision to leave the show, Chappelle returns and confronts Brady. The ensuing confrontation leads to the airing of a flashback to a night of misadventures involving the two that portrays Brady (contrary to his friendly public image) as a murderous, pimping and seriously disturbed psychopath in the mold of Denzel Washington's character Alonzo Harris from the film Training Day.
When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong – A documentary style sketch which serves as a cautionary tale about when not to "keep it real" (be completely honest). The sketch depicts events in which a character is just minding their business until someone else says or does something that the first character doesn't like. The character is given a choice: ignore the alleged provocation, or "keep it real" (get confrontational and be antagonistic with whomever provoked them), with the character going with the latter, all the while boasting about how they "keep it real". Eventually the character's decision backfires severely on them, thus ruining their life, while the person who provoked them is having the time of their life, and the character's friends shunning the character's choice to "keep it real".
Player Hater's Ball
Samuel L. Jackson Beer
Tron Carter (played by Chappelle) – a cocaine dealer originally shown in a sketch where he has received reparations for slavery and due to a "hot hand in a dice game" becomes the richest man in America. When asked about the infant he carts around in a stroller, Tron says, "I just bought this baby, cash." He is also one of the roommates in The Mad Real World. Later in a spoof of Law & Order, Tron gets the same lenient treatment as those involved in white-collar crime, invoking the "fif" in response to every question. Tron also appeared in the first episode of Season 3 in a sketch in which he described an altercation with Method Man and was tortured by the methods described in the song "Method Man" from Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). In the reparations episode he is shown gambling in Brooklyn and described as a Harlem resident, but in another episode he is shown in his house on "Everglade Boulevard" bagging up cocaine and watching the fictitious R. Kelly music video "Piss On You" and he receives a phone call from the Dade County Police Department, suggesting he lives in Miami.
Negrodamus (played by Paul Mooney) – a black prophet and fortune teller (a satire of Nostradamus). In the sketch, people (mostly white) ask him various questions such as "Negrodamus, why do white people love Wayne Brady so much?" to which he replies "White people love Wayne Brady because he makes...Bryant Gumbel look like Malcolm X." (This clip was later shown as a drug hallucination in the Wayne Brady sketch.)
Tyrone Biggums (played by Chappelle) – A squeaky-voiced crack addict recognized by his white, blistered lips and constant scratching. His first appearance was in the second episode of Season 1. He is often heard saying "I smoke rocks" and "SHAZAM!" Tyrone enjoys eating peanut butter and crack sandwiches, and was the spokesman for "Red Balls," an energy drink made from cocaine. He also made an appearance in a Fear Factor spoof sketch on the Wayne Brady's Show episode, wherein he was exceptionally willing to do gross challenges, and was nonreactive to the hot coals underneath his feet, which lit his big toenail on fire (the same fire from which he would later light a cigarette).
Andy "Silky" Johnston (played by Chappelle) – A notorious player hater who won the fictitious "Hater of the Year" award twice (one of which was for calling a bomb threat on the Special Olympics), and who later traveled back in time to "hate" in the past.
Chuck Taylor (played by Chappelle) – The lead "white" anchor on the fictitious "News 3", played by Chappelle in whiteface makeup and a blonde wig. Taylor has appeared in a few sketches, the first of which was the Reparations sketch from Season 1.
Leonard Washington (played by Chapelle) – Washington first appeared in the first season sketch Trading Spouses, wherein he acted as the patriarch of a white family for a month. Notably, when entering rooms unfamiliar to him, Washington will look out the windows to see if he is being followed. He also expressed his displeasure that many white families do not use washcloths when taking a shower or bath. One of the only things that can make Leonard Washington back down is being shot. When asked for his hometown in the World Series of Dice sketch, Washington replied, "Where I'm from? A little town called none ya goddamn bidness." He has a wife and a son, T-Mart. He is seemingly unaware of white culture, unknowing of Renée Zellweger (as he stated in "Trading Spouses" after reading "White People Magazine").
Ashy Larry (played by Donnell Rawlings) – A shirtless black man with flaky-white skin and chapped lips, who is always seen wearing a pair of white boxer shorts. He appeared in the World Series of Dice sketch, in one of Chappelle's daydreams during a boring dinner conversation, and was seen holding Dave Chappelle's 50 million dollar check in one of the Lost Episodes. "Ashy Larry" is also one of the names Wayne Brady calls the PCP he gives to Dave in the Wayne Brady sketch. Rawlings briefly reprised his role as Ashy Larry in the sketch comedy show, In The Flow with Affion Crockett, encountering Chappelle (played by Crockett).
Robot Dancing Man – Set designer Karl Lake did the Robot dance in random places, including a barbershop, club, and a courtroom (in a deleted scene). In the sketches, he is generally not acknowledged, despite the out-of-place behavior, nor does he acknowledge anyone. There have been a few exceptions to this rule. One of them is during the Slow-Motion sketch, in the club, when Dave acknowledges him by saying "The Robot", and emulating him. Another is when Wayne Brady "takes over" the show, during one of the commercial break intros; Wayne is looking at Robot Man's moves and then proceeds to dance with him. Also, in the opening theme for Season 3, Charlie Murphy and Donnell Rawlings have hogtied and taken the place of the two men who start off the show. Robot Man is seen in the background doing his dance and the harmonica player yells out "Robot, help us!", but to no avail.
During a June 2004 stand-up performance in Sacramento, California, Chappelle left the stage due to audience members interrupting the show by 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.
The third season of Chappelle's Show was scheduled to premiere in February 2005. This date was pushed back to May 31, 2005, when production fell behind schedule in December 2004 because, according to Comedy Central, Chappelle had fallen ill with the flu (Chappelle later told Oprah Winfrey that this was untrue and that stress had caused him to leave). On May 4, 2005, just weeks before the anticipated premiere, Comedy Central announced that Chappelle's Show would not be ready by the announced date and that production had been suspended "until further notice." No reason for the delay or suspension was given and there was no response from Chappelle. One week later it was reported (most notably by The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly) that Chappelle had previously flown to South Africa on April 28 to stay in an undisclosed psychiatric facility.
On May 14, Time magazine announced that one of their reporters, Christopher John Farley, had interviewed Chappelle in South Africa, and that no psychiatric treatments were occurring or necessary. Chappelle returned shortly thereafter and quelled rumors of psychiatric or substance abuse problems, and emphasized that his trip was a "spiritual retreat" intended to keep his sense of reality outside the bubble of intense pressure and fame and to keep his humor fresh.
On July 14, Comedy Central president Doug Herzog announced that Chappelle was welcome back any time, but that the comedian had said he was still not ready to return. Herzog put a positive spin on negotiations, but conceded that he did not expect Chappelle's Show to return in 2005. It was also reported in The New York Times that Chappelle explained to Herzog, over dinner, that his success was getting to him and that "he wanted to be wrong again sometimes, instead of always being right."
In an August 2005 interview with TV Guide, Charlie Murphy said that Chappelle's Show was finished.[clarification needed] On December 11, during Comedy Central's Last Laugh '05, a promo for the third season of the show was aired.
On January 24, 2006, the program premiered uncensored on the UK's FX, starting with the second season. The first episode featured the "Slow Motion" sketch, one of the most famous in the United Kingdom, popularized by the Internet. It was well received by critics, with outspoken TV critic Gary Naysmith declaring it, "The finest piece of television I've seen all year."
On February 3, 2006, Chappelle made his first television interview since production ceased on Season 3, on The Oprah Winfrey Show. He stated that burnout, losing his creative control, and a work environment that was uncomfortable, were some of the reasons why he left the show. He also stated that he would be open to producing the remainder of Season 3 (and perhaps a Season 4) only if his demands were met, one of which was to ensure that half of the proceeds of future Chappelle's Show DVD sales would go to charity. Chappelle claimed that if Comedy Central aired the unaired episodes, the show would be finished. After that announcement, Comedy Central stopped advertising the release of the third season for a period of time.
The "Lost Episodes"
In April, the network wrapped up production of the third season, taping the live studio audience segments for three episodes. In place of Chappelle, the last episodes were co-hosted by regular cast members Charlie Murphy and Donnell Rawlings. Advertised as the "lost episodes", they began airing on July 9, 2006. The third and final episode aired on July 23, 2006. The DVD collection of the lost episodes was released on July 25, 2006.
When asked if he felt guilty about carrying on with the lost episodes without Chappelle, Donnell Rawlings replied:
I’m a loyal person, but I know that as a professional, I’ve got to keep my career going, and I felt it was an opportunity for me, for people [to] see what I do as funny...without knowing what Dave Chappelle’s agenda is, the reasons why he left, with no communication saying, ‘Hey guys, I feel this way. I would much rather you not be a part of this process.’ Had I had a conversation with Dave like that then there’s a possibility that I would reconsider me hosting it.
The DVD sets for Seasons 1 and 2 of Chappelle's Show have sold extremely well since their release. As of 2005, the first season DVD was the best-selling TV series set of all time, beating out other popular shows such as The Simpsons (the first season of which held the record beforehand), American Dad!, Family Guy, Friends, and Seinfeld.
The episode "Music Jump-Off" which featured Chappelle visiting his old high school, The Duke Ellington School of the Arts, intercut with previously unaired sketches and musical performances did not make either DVD set.
On October 11, 2005, the first half of the first season was released on UMD.
On May 23, 2006, the first uncensored season was made available for purchase on the iTunes Music Store, and on June 20, the second uncensored season was also made available on iTunes.
On June 5, 2007, Comedy Central released a compilation DVD titled The Best Of Chappelle's Show which highlights 25 of the most popular sketches in all seasons.
On November 20, 2007, Comedy Central released a boxset with Season One, Season Two, and "The Lost Episodes" titled Chappelle's Show – The Series Collection.
This 2 disc box set includes 12 episodes from Season 1. Bonus features include Deleted scene/Gag reel, 20 Minute Featurette Ask A Black Dude with Paul Mooney, Audio commentary on 5 Episodes and on the Deleted scenes/Gag reel.
Season 2 Uncensored
May 24, 2005
This 3 disc box set includes 13 episodes from Season 2. Bonus features include New Stand Up Material From Chappelle, Uncut Rick James interview, Gag reel and Deleted scenes.
# of Eps
The Lost Episodes Uncensored
July 25, 2006
This single disc box set includes the 3 episodes from the unfinished third season. Bonus features include unaired sketches, Fabulous Making of Chappelle's Show Documentary, Audio commentary by Charlie Murphy, Donnell Rawlings and Neal Brennan, Blooper reel and Deleted scenes.
The Best of Chappelle's Show Uncensored
June 5, 2007
This compilation highlights 25 of the most popular sketches in all seasons in an uncensored format.