It’s hard to believe that Dave Chappelle has been in the comedy business for 30 years. Now in his mid-forties, Chappelle just threw himself a month-long, star-studded party at Radio City Hall to mark his three decades on stage. Performing one night at the famed venue would be impressive enough from most comedians, but we know that’s exactly what Dave isn’t: like most comedians.
In the early years of his stand-up career, Chappelle also had small parts in movies like You’ve Got Mail, and wrote and starred in Half-Baked and produced other movies, building a skill set that is rarely found among his peers. Chappelle has always had a keen sense of the American psyche, complete with its twisted rationales on issues including race, class, and gender. He knows how to express these things we all think. The offensive, horrible, hilarious things we all think. Unlike so many comics, however, he actually manages to remain unvarnished, free of conceit. Sorry Eddie Murphy, but compared to Dave you’re pretty tame. And Kevin Hart, the only other mega-famous black stand-up performer, is incredibly mild in comparison. The only comedian I can think of that makes you cringe and audibly gasp is Richard Pryor.
Dave Chappelle is back, America. Big time.
Chappelle was only 14 years old when he began his stand-up career, so young that his mother had to accompany him to every performance because teenagers weren’t allowed in comedy clubs in his hometown of Washington, D.C. With mom in tow, Chapelle performed regular gigs in D.C. clubs until he got his degree in theatre arts in 1991, and moved to New York.
Always the controversial comedian, he learned early on how to deal with hecklers (he was booed off stage in his first amateur performance at the Apollo). His groundbreaking Chappelle Show on Comedy Central ended in a murky contract debacle, leading him to withdraw temporarily from film and stage. The following years would prove difficult, performing only occasionally, including attempting a 24-hour comedy marathon at L.A’s Laugh Factory (he failed, owing to nature’s call). But his style has remained raw, offensive, shocking, and irresistibly hilarious.
Erykah Badu was Chappelle’s guest on the night I attended Chappelle’s Radio City Hall residency. Dave would share the stage with musicians as well as comedians on the marquee, including Chris Rock, The Roots, Chance the Rapper, Donald Glover, Michael Che, Ali Wong and Trevor Noah, Amy Schumer and Colin Jost, Leslie Jones and Marlon Wayans…
Dave is king again in comedy land. And he knows it. He knows how brutally funny, offensive and irresistible he can be. He acknowledged as much from the stage on that night: “If you think that was bad you’re in for a long night.” Somehow his acknowledgment and understanding make it easier to take, although at no point is he ever apologetic because why should he be?
Dave Chappelle is back. Big time.
The CHA-PA-PELLE Cube
Experience the many faces and variety of facial reads from the man himself. Key or touch LEFT, RIGHT, UP or DOWN to move the cube; the faster you move, the quicker is flips. Try to land on your favorite Dave Chappelle character in three spins or less in 5 seconds.