I’m worried about Dave Chappelle.
Okay, I’m not worried about his ability to feed his family, with the $50 million deal he signed with Viacom to continue Chappelle’s Show on Comedy Central. That should keep him in high grade weed for a long as he lives (as long as he keeps away from Wayne Brady and his Sherman Hemsley). I am worried that Chappelle’s has peaked as an artist.
First of all, with all his current success, I don’t think Chappelle is an all time great comedian. He, in my opinion, pales in comparison with Sam Kinison (for generating humor out of shocking material), and Chris Rock (for generating comedy from the black experience) for example. I won’t even mention Richard Pryor, who will be the funniest man in the world a year after he dies.
Second of all (and I hope I’m wrong), I don’t know if Chappelle can be as funny as he has been now that he has ‘made it’ financially. Can and will Chappelle keep his nose to the grindstone and put out top flight, original comedy, even though he can take his ball and go home? Chris Rock has been forced to dig deep and bring the funny every time out because, with all his critical achievements, he never truly ‘made it’. I love Chris Rock’s comedy, and he couldn’t get me to see Head of State or Down To Earth. He may be rich, but he doesn’t have f^%k you money. Chappelle has f^%k you money. Eddie Murphy has f^%k you money, and he has become Mr. Safe Family Comedy. It is hard to rage against the machine under 350 count sheets.
Most importantly, Chappelle seems to curse what the success of his show has brought him; more notoriety. I saw him in concert after his first comedy special (Killin’ Them Softly) struggle with a drunken fan, throwing out lines from the special. The guy wasn’t maliciously heckling; he loved the performance so much he couldn’t help himself. One of the main themes of his latest comedy special, Dave Chappelle: For What It’s Worth (which seemed rudderless and rushed on a whole), was how his show made him so famous he couldn’t interact honestly with the public, making it harder for him to entertain and mine for further material. He touched on that problem again at the MTV Music Video awards, apologizing to rapper/producer Lil’ Jon for ruining Jon’s life (Chappelle did a number of skits, impersonating Lil’ Jon, single handedly increasing Jon’s Q rating).
I’m convinced none of the public figures Chappelle lovingly impersonated* (Lil’ Jon, Prince, the late Rick James) minded the attention. Rick James was so offended, he did a tricky double reverse at the 2004 BET Awards; impersonating Chappelle impersonating himself with the now famous ‘I’m Rick James, bitch’ line. The only person struggling with higher notoriety is Chappelle himself.
I hope I’m wrong. The third season of Chappelle’s Show (along with the release of the second season on DVD) was scheduled to begin around this time. According to Comedy Central, the premiere was pushed back to May because of an illness to Chappelle that postponed production. Hopefully, the extra time will be used by Chappelle to recharge his batteries, figure out how to deal with the fame and come out stronger then ever. I’m not betting $50 million on it though.
* This does not include R. Kelly. I’m surprised the Awrra can leave the house after the ‘Piss On You’ and ‘Piss On You (remix)’ videos Chappelle put out.