Dave Chappelle

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Dave Chappelle
Dave Chappelle (cropped).jpg
Dave Chappelle, 2007
Birth nameDavid Khari Webber Chappelle
Born(1973-08-24) August 24, 1973 (age 40)
Washington, D.C., U.S.[1]
MediumStand-up, television, film
Years active1987–present
GenresSatire/political satire, improvisational comedy, character comedy, observational comedy, surreal humor, sketch comedy, black comedy, blue comedy
Subject(s)Racism, race relations, American politics, African American culture, pop culture, recreational drug use, human sexuality, morality
InfluencesRichard Pryor,[2] Eddie Murphy,[2] Mel Blanc,[2] Chris Rock,[3] Robin Williams
SpouseElaine Chappelle (2001–present) 3 children
Notable works and rolesHimself and Various in Chappelle's Show
Himself in Dave Chappelle's Block Party
Achoo in Robin Hood: Men in Tights
Thurgood Jenkins in Half Baked
SignatureDave Chapelle Signature.svg
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Dave Chappelle
Dave Chappelle (cropped).jpg
Dave Chappelle, 2007
Birth nameDavid Khari Webber Chappelle
Born(1973-08-24) August 24, 1973 (age 40)
Washington, D.C., U.S.[1]
MediumStand-up, television, film
Years active1987–present
GenresSatire/political satire, improvisational comedy, character comedy, observational comedy, surreal humor, sketch comedy, black comedy, blue comedy
Subject(s)Racism, race relations, American politics, African American culture, pop culture, recreational drug use, human sexuality, morality
InfluencesRichard Pryor,[2] Eddie Murphy,[2] Mel Blanc,[2] Chris Rock,[3] Robin Williams
SpouseElaine Chappelle (2001–present) 3 children
Notable works and rolesHimself and Various in Chappelle's Show
Himself in Dave Chappelle's Block Party
Achoo in Robin Hood: Men in Tights
Thurgood Jenkins in Half Baked
SignatureDave Chapelle Signature.svg

David Khari Webber "Dave" Chappelle[4] (/ʃəˈpɛl/, born August 24, 1973) is an American comedian, screenwriter, television and film producer, and actor. After beginning his film career in 1993 as Ahchoo in Mel Brooks' Robin Hood: Men in Tights, he landed minor roles in box office hits including The Nutty Professor, Con Air, and Blue Streak. He co-wrote himself into his first lead role in Half Baked (1998), which was directed by Tamra Davis.

In 2003, he became more widely known for his sketch comedy television series, Chappelle's Show, co-written with Neal Brennan, which ran until his retirement from the show two years later. By 2006, Chappelle was called "the comic genius of America" by Esquire[1] and, in 2013, "the best" by a Billboard writer.[5] The show continues to run in popular late-night syndication and on television networks around the world. Comedy Central ranks him No. 43 in "the 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time."[6]

He lives with his family in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and continues to perform stand-up, recently touring the U.S. as part of the 2013 Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival.[7]

Early life[edit]

Chappelle was born David Khari Webber Chappelle in Washington, D.C., on August 24, 1973,[1] the youngest of three.[1] His father, William David Chappelle, III, worked as a statistician before becoming a professor at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.[2] His mother, Yvonne (née Reed), was a professor at Howard University, Prince George's Community College, and the University of Maryland, and is also a Unitarian Universalist minister.[8][9] Chappelle also has a stepmother and a stepbrother.[1]

Chappelle grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland, and attended Woodlin Elementary School.[2] During young Chappelle's formative years, his parents were politically active, and the family house was visited by notable individuals including Pete Seeger and Johnny Hartman.[1] The latter predicted he would be a comedian and, around this time, Chappelle's comic inspiration came from Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor.[2] After his parents separated, Chappelle stayed in Washington with his mother while spending summers with his father in Ohio. In 1991, he graduated from Washington's Duke Ellington School of the Arts, where he studied theatre arts.[2]

Early career[edit]

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, but he was booed off stage. Chappelle described the experience as the moment that gave him the courage to continue his show business aspirations.[2] He quickly made a name for himself on the New York comedy circuit, even performing in the city's parks. Whoopi Goldberg nicknamed him "The Kid."[1] At 19, he made his film debut as "Ahchoo" in Mel Brooks' Robin Hood: Men in Tights. The same year, Chappelle was offered the role of Benjamin Buford "Bubba" Blue in Forrest Gump. Concerned the character was demeaning and the movie would bomb, he turned down the part.[10][11] He parodied the film in the 1997 short "Bowl of Pork," where a dim-witted black man is responsible for the Rodney King beating, the LA riots and OJ Simpson being accused of murder.[12] Chappelle played another supporting role in an early Doug Liman film, Getting In in 1994.[13]

He attracted the attention of TV network executives and developed numerous pilots, but none were picked up for series.[2][14] In 1995, he made a guest appearance on an episode of ABC's popular sitcom Home Improvement. The storyline had Chappelle and real-life friend and comedian Jim Breuer ask Tim Taylor for advice on their girlfriends.[15] 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 five episodes out of 13 that were produced. Nine years later, in May 2005, 10 of the episodes were released on a single-disc DVD to capitalize on Chappelle's new-found fame.[16]

After the failure of Buddies, Chappelle starred in another pilot. According to Chappelle, the network was uncomfortable with the African-American cast and wanted white actors added.[17] Chappelle resisted and subsequently accused the network of racism. Shortly afterwards, Chappelle's father died and he returned to Ohio, considering leaving the entertainment business.[2][14]

He later appeared as a nightclub comedian in the 1996 comedy The Nutty Professor starring Eddie Murphy, one of his major comedic influences. The movie grossed nearly $129 million on a budget of $54 million.[18] He had a minor role in 1997's Con Air which made $26 million after production costs.[19] At the beginning of 1998, he did a stand-up performance for HBO Comedy Half-Hour.[20] That same year, he appeared in "Pilots and Pens Lost," a 1998 episode of The Larry Sanders Show's sixth season, in which he and the executives of the show's nameless television network satirized the treatment to which scriptwriters and show creators were subjected, as well as the executives' knee-jerk tendencies toward racial stereotypes.[21]

He and Neal Brennan co-wrote the 1998 cult stoner film Half Baked, Chappelle's first starring role, about a group of marijuana-smoking friends trying to get their other friend out of jail. It made money at the box office and remains a stoner classic.[22][23] In December 1998, Chappelle appeared as Tom Hanks' character's friend and confidant in You've Got Mail. The $65 million movie made nearly $116 million at the box office.[24] In 1999, he appeared in the Martin Lawrence film Blue Streak, which made $68.5 million at the box office.[25]

In 2000, Chappelle recorded his first half hour-long HBO special, Dave Chappelle: Killin' Them Softly, in Washington, DC.[26] He followed this up with an appearance as "Conspiracy Brother" in the 2002 racial satire Undercover Brother.[27]

2003–2006: Standup and Chappelle's Show[edit]

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.

Due to the show's popularity, Comedy Central's new parent company Viacom[1] 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 has said that sketches are not his favorite form of comedy,[1] and that the characteristics of the show's format were somewhat like short films.

In June 2004, based on the popularity of the "Rick James" sketch, it was announced that Chappelle was in talks to portray James in a biopic from Paramount Pictures, also owned by Viacom.[28] James's estate disagreed with the proposed comical tone of the film and put a halt to the talks.[29]

That same month, Chappelle recorded his second comedy special, this time airing on Showtime, Dave Chappelle: For What It's Worth, at San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium,[30] where his idols, including Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, and Robin Williams, had performed. He joked about the city being "the gayest place on earth," touched upon an encounter on a public bus, in a New Mexico Wal-Mart, smoking in a strip club, and cultural differences in food and other topics.[31]

Season three turbulence[edit]

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 his popular "Rick James" sketch. After a few minutes, Chappelle returned and resumed 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 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.[32]

Season 3 was scheduled to air on May 31, 2005, but in that month, Chappelle stunned fans and the entertainment industry when he abruptly left during production of the third season of Chappelle's Show and took a trip to South Africa.[1] Chappelle said that he was unhappy with the direction the show had taken.

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.[33]

The break from Comedy Central also meant a rift with longtime collaborator Neal Brennan.[1]

Dave Chappelle's Block Party[edit]

Chappelle was the star and a producer of the Michel Gondry-directed documentary Dave Chappelle's Block Party, which chronicles him hosting a free concert in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn on September 18, 2004.[1] Several musical artists, including Kanye West, The Roots, Erykah Badu, Mos Def, Dead Prez and Jill Scott, are featured in the movie both performing in the concert and in conversation off-stage. He brought Yellow Springs residents to Brooklyn at his own expense.[1] Another surprising highlight of the event was the (temporary) reunion of popular 1990s hip-hop group The Fugees.[34]

Chappelle toured several cities in February and March 2006 to promote the film under the name "Block Party All-Stars featuring Dave Chappelle". Universal Pictures' genre division, Rogue Pictures, released the film in the U.S. on March 3, 2006. It was a success, grossing a total of $11.7 million on a $3 million budget.[35]

2005–present: Stand-up and TV appearances[edit]

Work and media appearances, 2005–06[edit]

In June 2005, Chappelle performed impromptu stand-up shows in Los Angeles.[36][37][38] He then went on a tour that began in Newport, Kentucky, not far from his Ohio home.[39] He 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!."[40] 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.[41] Four days prior, he introduced the musical tribute to Sly Stone at the 48th Annual Grammy Awards.[1]

Chappelle said on Inside the Actors Studio that the death of his father seven years prior 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.[2] He said,

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 said that he felt some of his sketches were "socially irresponsible."[42][43] 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.[44] 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 think.[42][43] Chappelle said, "It was the first time I felt that someone was not laughing with me but laughing at me."[42]

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 desired to donate half of the DVD sales to charity.[45] 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.[43] 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.

The show still plays in syndication on several television networks, despite the relatively small number of episodes compared to most American syndicated television programs.[46]


In April 2007, Chappelle set a stand-up endurance record at the Laugh Factory Sunset Strip comedy club, beating comedian Dane Cook's record of three hours and 50 minutes. In December of the same year, Chappelle broke his own record with a time of six hours and 12 minutes. Cook reclaimed the record in January 2008, with a time of 7 hours.[47] On November 19, 2009 Chappelle performed at the Laugh Factory again, where it was speculated that he would attempt to take back the record. However, he was disqualified according to the club owner after he left the stage five hours into his routine.[48]

Chappelle again appeared on Inside the Actors Studio and, in celebration of the show's 200th episode, he humorously interviewed the show's usual host, James Lipton. The episode aired on November 11, 2008. He appeared again on Inside the Actors Studio in 2013, for its 250th episode.

He continues to make impromptu and unannounced appearances at comedy venues across the country, including performing a two-hour set at Chappelle's Show co-creator Neal Brennan's weekly show at M.I.'s Westside Comedy Theater in Santa Monica in July 2013.[49]

In August 2013, Chappelle returned to stand-up[50] when he embarked on the Oddball Comedy & Curiosity festival. Sponsored by Funny or Die, the video sharing website of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, Chappelle co-headlined with comedy act Flight of the Conchords.[51] At the Hartford show, Chappelle walked off the stage due to hecklers in the crowd.[52] A few days later, to follow up on the Hartford incident, Chappelle stopped in Chicago for a performance where comedy website DaLaughingBarrel.com acquired and released audio of him being heard on stage responding to the heckling in Hartford by saying "Fuck Hartford!"[53]

In popular culture[edit]

In 2009, his show was the subject of a book of critical essays, The Comedy of Dave Chappelle, edited by University of Maryland doctoral student K.A. Wisniewski.[54] His work, as well as that of Margaret Cho, was also the subject of a book by a Canadian dramaturg Elizabeth Ludwig that was published at the end of 2010.[55]

In August 2013, Chappelle's impersonation of Prince from Chappelle's Show was selected by the singer as the cover art for his new single "Breakfast Can Wait".[56]

Personal life[edit]

Chappelle lives with his wife Elaine,[1] sons Sulayman and Ibrahim,[44][57][58] and daughter Sonal, on a 65-acre (260,000 m2) farm[2][14] just outside Yellow Springs, Ohio.[39] He also owns several houses in Xenia, Ohio. Regarding his home in Yellow Springs, Ohio, Chappelle said at a blues and jazz festival in the town in mid-September 2006, "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. That's why I came back and that's why I'm staying."[59]

Chappelle converted to Islam in 1998. He told Time magazine in a May 2005 interview, "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 it is beautiful if you learn it the right way."[33] He does not drink alcohol.[1]

Chappelle is a friend of Nas and celebrated the rapper's 40th birthday with him.[60] Another longtime friend is Chris Tucker.[1]



1993Robin Hood: Men in Tights[61]Ahchoo
1993Undercover BluesOzzie[62]
1994Getting In[63]
1996The Nutty Professor[64]Reggie Warrington
1997Con Air[61]Pinball
1998Half Baked[65]Thurgood Jenkins / Sir Smoke-a-Lot
1998You've Got Mail[66]Kevin Jackson
1999200 Cigarettes[63]Disco Cabbie
1999Blue Streak[67]Tulley
2000Screwed[66]Rusty P. Hayes
2002Undercover Brother[63]Conspiracy Brother
2006Dave Chappelle's Block Party[67]HimselfDocumentary


1994Six Comics in Search of a Generation[63]Himself
1994Why Bother Voting?[63]
1994Comic Relief VI[63]Himself (stand-up special)
1995Walt Disney World Happy Easter Parade[63]
19951995 Young Comedians Show Hosted by Garry Shandling[63]Himself (stand-up special)
1995Home Improvement[63]DaveOne episode
1996Buddies[63]Dave Carlisleseries
1997Comics Come Home 2Himself (stand-up special)[63]
1998Comic Relief VIIIHimself (stand-up special)[63]
1998Canned Ham: Half-Bakedl[63]
1998HBO Comedy Half-Hour: Dave ChappelleHimself (stand-up special)[63]
1998Mother Goose: A Rappin' and Rhyming' Special[63]
1998Larry Sanders Show[63]
2000Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist[63]
2000Norman Jewison on Comedy in the 20th Century: Funny Is Money[63]
2002Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry[63]
2002Crank Yankers[63]
2002Heroes of Black Comedy[63]
2003Uncensored Comedy: That's Not FunnyHimself[63]
20032003 Essence AwardsHimself[63]
2003Richard Pryor: Omit the LogicHimselfDocumentary
2003–2006Chappelle's Show[63]Himself and others
2004100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All TimeHimself (stand-up special)[63]
2004Comedy Central's Bar Mitzvah Bash!Himself[63]
20042004 MTV Video Music AwardsHimself[63]
2004VH1 Big in '03[63]Himself[63]
2004Spike TV Presents GQ Men of the Year AwardsHimself[63]
2004Richard Pryor: I Ain't Dead Yet, ----!!Himself (stand-up special)[63]
2004Ride with Funkmaster FlexHimself[63]
2005Inside the Actor's StudioHimself
2005Dave Chappelle: For What It's WorthHimself[63]
2006Comedy Central's Last Laugh '05[63]
2006Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry[63]
20062006 Grammy AwardsPresenter[1]
2008African American Lives 2[63]
2008Russell Simmons Presents Def Comedy Jam[63]
2008Inside the Actor's StudioHimself[68]
2013Inside the Actor's StudioHimself


2000Killin' Them Softly[64]Executive ProducerStand Up
2004For What It's WorthExecutive ProducerStand Up


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External links[edit]