As of 12 a.m. Tuesday, Netflix had released the first of its three Dave Chappelle comedy series, which have marked the comedian’s comeback to television. But on Monday, the Washington, D.C.-raised comic spoke about the break he took from his career, as well as his issues with Key & Peele.
“I was in this very successful place, but the emotional content of it didn’t feel anything like what I imagined success should feel like. It just didn’t feel right,” Chappelle said of the popular show he had and his rise to fame.
Chappelle’s Show first aired in 2003 at a time when not only was there a lack of black comedians on television, but also when sketch comedy featuring black people hadn’t been popular since the days of In Living Color and MadTV. But even then, Chappelle’s Show pushed boundaries where those shows didn’t when it came to the topic of race. After a three-year run, Chappelle called it quits.
“Chappelle’s Show [was] like breaking up with a girl and you still like her. But in your mind, you’re like, ‘That bitch is crazy. I’m not going back,’” he said.
And sure enough, when he ended it, there were two other black men eager to step in and take over. Comedy Central came back with Key & Peele, which some people have called a watered-down, cornier version of Chappelle’s Show, but one that became the network’s most successful and even garnered a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Variety Sketch Series.
Chappelle has never held back when it comes to discussing his feelings about the men, of whom he says he’s actually a fan, and he told Gayle King in an interview exactly how he felt.
“I fought the network very hard so that those conventions could come to fruition,” he said. “So, like the first episode I do, that ‘Black White Supremacist’ sketch. And it’s like, ‘Well, that’s 10 minutes long. It should be five minutes long.’ Why should it be five minutes long? Like, these types of conventions. I fought very hard. So when I watch Key & Peele and I see they’re doing a format that I created, and at the end of the show, it says, ‘Created by Key and Peele,’ that hurts my feelings.”
Jordan Peele has given Chappelle his props, and even credited him in an interview for paving the way for his show.
“We knew from the very beginning we had to do something different than Chappelle’s Show,” he said. “That show is such a monster. It’s a classic and it’s a big influence. But it turned out to be a positive for our show because we said, ‘We can’t do what could have been done seven years ago. We have to make these 2013-2014 sketches that we can only do now.’ That’s the power of sketches”
As for Chappelle’s Netflix series being called a comeback, over the last two years, Chappelle has been popping up at surprise shows honing his comedic skills, but at least now we have the opportunity to Netflix and chill with a comic genius.