Newsweek Article on Chaphelle Show

TV News | May 9th, 2005

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Friends of Chappelle Say Cause of Latest Delay of ‘Chappelle’s Show’ Is Combination of Pressure, Partying And Rift With Comedy Central

‘I Think He Was in Shock After the First Season,’ Says a Celebrity Friend. Then During the Second Season, ‘It Hit Him That He Was the Man. That Freaked Him.’

NEW YORK, May 8 /PRNewswire/ — Friends of comedian Dave Chappelle interviewed by Newsweek say the real cause of the turmoil that led to the abrupt postponement of the third season of his Comedy Central show is that he’s been worn down by a toxic combination of too much pressure, too much partying — and a creative rift with the network. Senior Writer Devin Gordon reports in the current issue that Chappelle’s staggering $50 million deal to produce two more seasons of “Chappelle’s Show” transformed him from a funny guy with a decade’s worth of false starts to the hottest comedian in America, and he wasn’t prepared.

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“I saw him start trippin’ when the buzz started to get real loud,” one celebrity friend tells Newsweek. “I think he was in shock after the first season, and then during the second, it hit him that he was the man. That freaked him. And then came the pressure of living up to expectations for the third season. He’s never been there — where something’s so good and you got to come even stronger the next time. It was too much.” The partying apparently made things worse. “Everyone knows Dave likes to have fun,” says a music-industry pal. “I wouldn’t say it’s out of control…but at some point that has to affect you if you’ve got a regular gig.”

Neither Chappelle’s publicist, Matt Labov, nor Comedy Central’s spokespeople are offering any explanation for the latest delay. Labov denies that his client has a drug problem. And a source close to Chappelle believes this latest stoppage is more about the show itself than the health of its star, Gordon reports in the May 16 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, May 9). Eager to top his previous work, Chappelle wants to push the racial envelope even further in the third season — and network executives, according to this source, are afraid he’s crossing the line. “Dave is not compromising what he wants to do,” he says. “He’s waited a long time for this chance, and he’s not trying to do anything that isn’t 100 percent his vision.” Last week, though, Comedy Central flatly denied any conflict, as did an employee in Chappelle’s camp, who insists the current delay “is not a network issue.”

Gordon was on the show’s set in November 2004, just a few weeks into shooting on the third season. He found Chappelle in blackface, with white painted lips, white gloves, a red vest, a black cane and a Pullman Porter cap. The scenes shot that day are part of a delicately titled sketch, “The N—-r Pixie,” in which Chappelle plays a cackling, devil-on-the-shoulder creation who serves as the self-hating conscience of famous black men, such as Tiger Woods and Chappelle himself.

As the minstrel-accented pixie, he kept busting up the crew with his profane ad-libs over footage of Woods attempting a putt. Between takes, he would snap back into regular-guy mode, chatting quietly with wife, Elaine, and horsing around with his two little boys, who were visiting from the family’s home in rural Ohio.