The following biography
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David Khari Webber "Dave"
Chappelle (pronounced /ʃəˈpɛl/;
born August 24, 1973) is an American comedian, screenwriter, television/film
producer, actor, and artist. Chappelle began his film career in the film Robin
Hood: Men in Tights in 1993 and continued to star in minor roles in the films
The Nutty Professor, Con Air, and Blue Streak. His first lead role in a film was
in Half Baked in 1998. In 2003, he became widely known for his popular sketch
comedy television series, Chappelle's Show, which ran until his abrupt
retirement from the show in 2005. Several "lost episodes" were aired in 2006,
and the show still plays in syndication on several television networks despite
the relatively small number of episodes compared to most American syndicated
television programs. Chappelle is ranked forty-third in Comedy Central Presents:
100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time.
Birth name David Khari Webber
Born August 24, 1973 (1973-08-24)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Medium Stand-up, television, film
Years active 1987–present
Genres Satire/political satire,
improvisational comedy, observational comedy, surreal humor, sketch comedy,
black comedy, blue comedy
Subject(s) Racism, race relaions,
American politics, African American culture, pop culture, recreational drug use,
human sexuality, morality
Influences Richard Pryor, Eddie
Murphy, Mel Blanc, Chris Rock
Spouse Elaine Chappelle
(2001-present) 3 children
Notable works and roles Himself and
Various in Chappelle's Show
Himself in Dave Chappelle's Block
Achoo in Robin Hood: Men in Tights
Thurgood Jenkins in Half Baked
Chappelle was born David Khari
Webber Chappelle in Washington, D.C. on August 24, 1973. His father,
William David Chappelle III, was a professor at Antioch College in Yellow
Springs, Ohio. 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. Chappelle grew up in
Silver Spring, Maryland and attended Woodlin Elementary School. During young
Chappelle's formative years, his comic inspiration came from various comedians,
particularly Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor.
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.
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. The
performance resulted in him being booed off the stage. Chappelle has described
the experience as the moment that gave him the courage to continue his show
business aspirations. He quickly made a name for himself in the New York
comedy circuit, even performing in the city's parks. At the age of 19, Chappelle
made his film debut as "Ahchoo" in Mel Brooks' Robin Hood: Men in Tights. In the
same year, Chappelle was offered the role of Benjamin Buford "Bubba" Blue in
Forrest Gump. Not realizing the effect this future Academy Award winner for Best
Picture would have, and concerned about what seemed to be a racially demeaning
character, he turned down the part. He has since admitted to regretting the
decision. Chappelle played another supporting movie role in 1994's
little-seen Getting In. He attracted the attention of TV network executives and
developed numerous pilots but none of them were picked up for series. In
1995, he made a guest appearance in an episode of ABC's highly rated sitcom Home
Improvement. The storyline had Chappelle and real-life friend comedian Jim
Breuer ask Tim Taylor for advice on their girlfriends. 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 four
episodes out of thirteen that were produced. Nine years later, in May 2005, ten
of the episodes were released on a single-disc DVD to capitalize on Chappelle's
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.
Chappelle resisted and subsequently accused the network of racism. Shortly after
this incident, Chappelle's father died. Chappelle returned to Ohio and
considered leaving the entertainment business.
He later appeared as a nightclub
comedian in the 1996 comedy The Nutty Professor starring Eddie Murphy, one of
his major comedic influences. He also had minor roles in 1997's Con Air. He and
Neal Brennan co-wrote the 1998 cult stoner film Half Baked, Chappelle's first
starring role, about a group of marijuana-smoking best friends trying to get
their friend out of jail. 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 subject, as well as the executives'
knee-jerk tendencies toward racial stereotypes. In December of that year
Chappelle appeared as Tom Hanks' friend and confidant in You've Got Mail. In
1999, he appeared in the Martin Lawrence film Blue Streak.
In 2000, Chappelle recorded his
first HBO special, Dave Chappelle: Killin' Them Softly, in Washington, DC.
He followed this up with an appearance as "Conspiracy Brother" in the 2002
racial satire Undercover Brother.
2006 standup and Chappelle's Show
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. Chappelle's pointed social and
political commentary quickly helped the show garner critical and commercial
success as well as controversy. Richard Pryor, one of Chappelle's
comedic influences, was a fan of the show and stated that he had "passed the
torch" to Chappelle. Chappelle received two Emmy nominations for the
show. Additionally, the DVD set became the best-selling DVD of a television
show to date, overtaking the previous best-selling, The Simpsons first season
DVD. It had sold over 3 million copies. Due to the show's popularity, Comedy
Central's parent company Viacom 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 had stated that sketches are not his favorite form of comedy, 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 Rick James in a biopic from Paramount Pictures (also owned by
Viacom). James's estate disagreed with the proposed comical tone of the film
and put a halt to the talks.
In 2004, Chappelle recorded his
second comedy special, this time airing on Showtime - Dave Chappelle: For What
It's Worth, at San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium.
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 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.
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. Chappelle has since stated
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,
In June 2005, Chappelle performed
impromptu stand-up shows in Los Angeles. He then went on a tour that
began in Newport, Kentucky, not far from his Ohio home. He also made a
surprise appearance on HBO's Def Poetry where he performed two poems, titled
f*ck Ashton Kutcher and How I Got the Lead on "Jeopardy!." 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. Chappelle stated that the death of his father in 1998 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.
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 also said that he felt
some of his sketches were "socially irresponsible." 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. According to Chappelle, during
the filming of the sketch, a crew member was laughing in a way that made him
feel uncomfortable and made him rethink the show. Chappelle said, "it
was the first time I felt that someone was not laughing with me but laughing at
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 also stated he would like to donate half of the
DVD sales to charity. 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. 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.
Dave Chappelle's Block Party
Chappelle was the star and producer
of the Michel Gondry-directed documentary Dave Chappelle's Block Party, which
chronicles a Chappelle-hosted concert in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of
Brooklyn on September 18, 2004. 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. The most
surprising highlight of the event was the "last minute" reunion of popular 1990s
hip hop group The Fugees. Chappelle toured several cities in February and March
2006 to promote the film under the moniker "Block Party All-Stars featuring Dave
Chappelle". Universal Pictures' genre division Rogue Pictures released the film
in the United States on March 3, 2006.
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 3 hours and 50 minutes. In December of the same
year, Chappelle broke his own record with a time of 6 hours and 12 minutes. Cook
reclaimed the record in January 2008, with a time of 7 hours. On November
19, 2009 Chappelle performed at the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles, where it was
speculated that he would aim to take back the record. However, he was
disqualified according to the club owner, after he left the stage, five hours
into his routine.
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
Chappelle lives with his wife
Elaine, two sons, Sulayman and Ibrahim, and daughter Sonal, on a
65-acre (260,000 m2) farm, just outside Yellow Springs, Ohio. He also
owns several houses in Xenia, Ohio. Regarding his home in Yellow Springs, Ohio,
Chappelle says, "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," he stated at a blues and jazz festival in the town in
mid-September 2006. "That's why I came back and that's why I'm staying."
Chappelle is a Muslim, having
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."
This section requires expansion.
Year Film Role Notes
1992 Def Comedy Jam Himself
1993 Robin Hood: Men in Tights
1993 Undercover Blues Ozzie
1995 Home Improvement Dave One
1996 The Nutty Professor Reggie
1996 Buddies (TV series) Dave
Carlisle Discontinued same year
1997 Con Air Pinball
1998 Half Baked Thurgood Jenkins /
1998 You've Got Mail Kevin Jackson
1999 200 Cigarettes Disco Cabbie
1999 Blue Streak Tulley
2000 Screwed Rusty P. Hayes
2002 Undercover Brother Conspiracy
2003–2006 Chappelle's Show Himself
2005 Inside the Actor's Studio
2006 Dave Chappelle's Block Party
2007 I'm Rick James Himself
2008 Inside the Actor's Studio
Year Album Role Notes
2000 Killin' Them Softly Executive
Producer Stand Up
2004 For What It's Worth Executive
Producer Stand Up
1.^ a b c Powell, Kevin
(2006-04-30). "Heaven Hell Dave Chappelle". Esquire.
http://www.esquire.com/features/ESQ0506CHAPPELLE_92. Retrieved 2008-11-01.
2.^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Dave
Chappelle". Inside the Actors Studio. Bravo. 2006-02-12. No. 10, season 12.
3.^ Wolk, Josh (2004-03-19). "Chris
Rock On Fire". Entertainment Weekly.
http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,600310,00.html. Retrieved 2007-10-13.
4.^ "Obituaries: Henry T.
Chappelle". Yellow Springs News. March 1991.
5.^ "AaIAnnoying.com - Comedy
Central's 100 Greatest Stand-Ups".
Retrieved 19 Sept., 2009.
6.^ "Yvonne Seon Biography". The
7.^ "Dave Chappelle is Alive and
Well". The New York Times. November 27, 2005.
8.^ "Comedy In Oakland: Dave
9.^ "Forrest Gump Trivia".
IMDb.com. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0109830/trivia. Retrieved 2007-03-23.
10.^ a b c d e Leung, Rebecca
(December 29, 2004). "Chappelle: 'An Act Of Freedom'". 60 Minutes II, CBS News.
11.^ Dave Chappelle: Killin' Them
Softly at Amazon.com; Accessed September 29, 2010
12.^ Feeney, Matt (March 4, 2004).
"Why is Dave Chappelle's Malice So Winning?". Slate.com.
http://www.slate.com/id/2096599/. Retrieved 2007-03-23.
13.^ "Awards for Dave Chappelle".
14.^ Ault, Susanne (June 3, 2005).
"Latest Chappelle DVD is Selling Like Crazy". Video Business.
http://www.videobusiness.com/article/CA627685.html. Retrieved 2007-03-20.
15.^ Rashbaum, Alyssa (June 10,
2004). "Dave Chappelle Is Rick James, Bitch!". MTV News.
16.^ Fleming, Michael (December 13,
2006). "Turner to script singer James's biopic". Variety.
17.^ Dave Chappelle: For What It's
Worth at Amazon.com; Accessed September 29, 2010
18.^ Carnes, Jim (June 18, 2004).
"Dave Chappelle lets rude crowd have it, sticks up for Cosby's comment.".
19.^ Robinson, Simon (May 15,
2005). "On the Beach With Dave Chappelle". Time Magazine.
20.^ Susman, Gary (May 26, 2005).
"The Buckeye Stops Here". Entertainment Weekly.
http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,1065847,00.html. Retrieved 2007-03-20.
21.^ Susman, Gary (June 3, 2005).
"True Hollywood Story". Entertainment Weekly.
http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,1068717,00.html. Retrieved 2007-03-20.
22.^ Itzkoff, Dave (November 27,
2005). "Dave Chappelle Is Alive and Well (and Playing Las Vegas)". The New York
23.^ a b Kaufman, Gil (September
12, 2005). "Dave Chappelle Is Back Onstage". MTV News. http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1509344/20050912/index.jhtml?headlines=true.
24.^ "Def Poetry: Season 5: Episode
1: Summary". HBO. http://www.hbo.com/defpoetry/episodes/season5/episode01.html.
25.^ "Inside The Actors Studio:
Dave Chappelle's Bio". Bravo. http://www.bravotv.com/Inside_the_Actors_Studio/guests/Dave_Chappelle.shtml.
26.^ a b c "Chappelle's Story:
Dave's Moral Dilemma". The Oprah Winfrey Show. http://www.oprah.com/tows/slide/200602/20060203/slide_20060203_284_105.jhtml.
27.^ a b c "Transcript: Interview
With Dave Chappelle, July 7, 2006". Anderson Cooper 360 CNN. http://insidecable.blogsome.com/2006/07/07/dave-chappelle-on-360-tonight/.
28.^ a b Gordon, Devin (May 16,
2005). "Fears of a Clown". Newsweek. Archived from the original on 2007-02-05.
29.^ "Chappelle's Story: Future of
'Chappelle's Show'". The Oprah Winfrey Show. http://www.oprah.com/tows/slide/200602/20060203/slide_20060203_284_109.jhtml.
30.^ "Dane Cook Breaks Dave
Chappelle's Laugh Factory Endurance Record". Fox News. January 4, 2008. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,320330,00.html.
31.^ "Dave Chappelle Fails To Set
Comedy Endurance Record When Nature Calls" The Huffington Post; October 20, 2009
32.^ Klein, Joshua (March 7, 2001).
"The sixth man". The Onion. http://www.avclub.com/content/node/22774. Retrieved
33.^ DAVE CHAPPELLE, WIFE AND KIDS
- Black Celebrity Kids
34.^ The Associated Press
(September 11, 2006). "Chappelle plans to stay in Ohio town". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/life/people/2006-09-11-chappelle-ohio_x.htm.
35.^ Van Agtmael, Peter. "On the
Beach With Dave Chappelle", Time, May 15, 2005
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