Here in America we tend to treat our celebrities like royalty, whether they deserve it or not. We cheer for them as they win awards and spout platitudes about how much they owe everything to their fans. In reality, we know that most of them are nothing but self-absorbed parasites more than willing to sell their artistic credibility for yet another big payday (see any movie with a numeral at the end of the title).
There are also artists who I have a great deal of respect for who I know are just awful people to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Guys like the late Mitch Hedberg, who was more than happy to have long chats with fans after shows, are few and far between. I root hard for people I respect as both artists and good human beings, and that’s why I want to offer my sincere heartfelt prayers for Dave Chappelle.
Sightings of Dave Chappelle have been scarce since he spurned his $50 million dollar contract with Comedy Central in 2005 to do a third and fourth season of his wildly popular Chappelle’s Show. Shortly afterwards, Chappelle made an appearance on James Lipton’s Inside the Actor’s Studio, where for two hours he came off as a sincere, intelligent, caring, and hilarious artist. He was a man who was not just concerned about spewing out product for cash, but rather someone who felt responsible for the messages that he put out into the world. He seemed genuinely willing to retire to his farm in Ohio rather than fall prey to Hollywood’s seedier motivations.
He related his concerns that the comedy bits from his show were not being laughed at for the right reasons, and in a deeply moving story shared his regret that he had once left his father’s deathbed to fly to Hollywood to discuss a possible sitcom.
Since that appearance, Chappelle has done no movies or television, and no more than a handful of standup gigs. I miss Dave Chappelle. The entertainment world could use more guys like him, but honestly, if he needed to be away from the spotlight to remain sane then I wish him all the best and thank him dearly for the memories.
Sadly, the last two bits of Chappelle news have been worrisome. About a year ago TMZ issued this report about a disastrous private jet outing by Chappelle:
During the flight, we’re told Dave "freaked out" and refused to put his seat belt on. Then — according to sources — Dave repeatedly walked into the cockpit, asking how much longer the flight would be, and started grabbing the pilot’s arms.
Sources say the pilot determined Chappelle was a safety risk and diverted the plane to Pittsburgh.
We’re told Chappelle then checked into a nearby hotel for the night. Sources at the hotel tell us Dave has been telling hotel employees he wanted to rent a car to drive back to Ohio only he couldn’t remember where he lived.
Chappelle was spotted wandering out of the hotel early this morning.
A rep for Chappelle explains the incident to TMZ by saying Dave really needed to use the restroom — he ate something that didn’t sit well — and the bathroom on the plane was "not the kind he needed."
Sure, it was via TMZ, but after five years of zero news, it was still somewhat disconcerting.
Last Friday there was more news for his fans to fret over. Chappelle was doing a charity stand-up gig in Miami and seemed to have some sort of personal meltdown where instead of telling jokes, at one point he did nothing but check the text messages on his phone, while the crowd became restless and booed. Eventually, the jokeless show came to an ugly end.
Happily, Chappelle returned the next night without incident, but you just know that the tabloid media smells blood and will be more than happy to over-examine any future Chappelle appearances, either public or private.
Not me. Frankly, I miss Dave Chappelle as much as anyone does. If he chooses to remain the comedy world’s Greta Garbo and stays glued to his farm in Ohio that’s fine with me too. I owe Dave Chappelle for the thousands of times that he’s made me laugh and made me think, and I hope he does whatever it is he needs to do to keep himself grounded and happy.