Dave Chappelle on Oprah Winfrey Show

Dave Chappelle was on today’s Oprah Winfrey Show explaining how he walked away from $50 million and how he might be enticed to come back.

Dave Chappelle told Oprah Winfrey he was stressed out and not crazy or on drugs when he abruptly left his hit Comedy Central show last spring during production. In his first television interview since ditching “Chappelle’s Show” in May, the comedian said that after he signed a $50 million deal for the third and fourth seasons in August 2004, too many people were trying to control him and his show.

“I wasn’t crazy but it is incredibly stressful,” Chappelle, 32, said during his appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” that aired Friday. “I felt in a lot of instances I was deliberately being put through stress because when you’re a guy who generates money, people have a vested interested in controlling you,” Chappelle said.

Last May, with the premiere date looming for the third season, Chappelle stunned his fans and the entertainment industry by leaving the show in mid-production. He spent two weeks in South Africa before returning home to his farm near Yellow Springs, Ohio, about 75 miles northeast of Cincinnati. Chappelle has since resumed performing live standup.


The comedian did not rule out returning to film the rest of the third and fourth seasons of “Chappelle’s Show” but only under certain circumstances. For example, Chappelle said he would like to donate a portion of the proceeds from DVD sales to the less fortunate.

The status of his show has hung in limbo since May. Comedy Central announced in December that four half-hour episodes of “Chappelle’s Show” — based on what Chappelle taped before leaving the production — will premiere in weekly airings this spring. A full season would have been between 10 and 13 episodes.

I can certainly understand how he would have felt pressured in that enviroment, although leaving his entire cast suddenly unemployed is hard to justify. This also clears up something I have been wondering since Comedy Central started advertising the new episodes: Chappelle is not back to work, they’re just airing shows he had already taped.



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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jim says:

    My favorite comment from the interview:
    (on people saying he went to a psychiatric hospital while in Africa)

    “I just want to get everyone thinking for a minute. Who goes from America to Africa for HEALTHCARE??”

    …makes sense.