You start out laughing


No more “Chappelle.” The show, not the comedian.

Tonight was the last episode of “Chappelle’s Show” on Comedy Central.

I won’t pretend to understand why Dave Chappelle — who finally landed some place where he could have creative control, be unbelievably funny and insightful and make unprecedented money — walked away from it all. This is after years of being the second banana in lousy sitcoms and so-so movies.

But that’s showbiz.

The first two seasons are comedy legend, right up there with Bill Cosby’s and Richard Pryor’s best albums. It’s raw and hilarious and unflinching in his one-man take on why we really can’t get along.

blackbush.jpgMy favorite sketch was Black Bush, Dave’s take on a world in which the president would receive intense scrutiny for his actions, simply because he was black.

Not every sketch was about race, but the ones that focused on it were sharp and painfully real. Chappelle did it better than any of his contemporaries.

And America recognized. The DVD sales set records, and Comedy Central gave him $50 million for the third season.

Finally, he was getting his due.

As he began writing and filming the new sketches, and after he walked away, the rumors flew. Chappelle said in several interviews that one of his main concerns was that in his comedic musings on race, some people were laughing for all the wrong reasons.

It’s not unprecedented. Pryor stopped using the word “nigger” in his routines after a spiritual awakening of sorts during a trip to Africa. He said the word was dehumanizing.

Yet Pryor’s standup routine took ownership of the word, shedding light on just how the other half lives in a so-called colorblind society. And it was funny as shit.

Chappelle said he felt socially irresponsible by continuing to make racial sketches that could be interpreted the wrong way. It’s commendable that he has the conscience to agonize over the issue and the ability to walk away from all that money. But …

He was making a difference. He was getting people to laugh and think about how society operates on different levels. By getting worked up over a few idiots who won’t ever get it, he let political correctness rob the world of his talent and his voice.

Sure, Chappelle will still make movies and do standup, but a “Chappelle’s Show” comes along once in a lifetime. Maybe someday he’ll do another TV series, but will it be fresh or watered down, edgy or wimpy?

Damn, Dave, we need you.


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