Hitting the mark with Dave Chappelle Chappelle

By Gus Bode

Hitting the mark with Dave Chappelle

Comedy Central’s newest spokesman comes forward on fame, Michael Jackson and the “n word”

Factoid:”The Chappelle Show” airs at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday on Comedy Central.


There’s Clayton Bigsby, the blind, black leader of a white supremacist sect. There’s a news flash describing the chaos of the day when blacks finally get slavery reparations. And don’t forget about video showing Nat King Cole objectifying women, or the ode-to-breasts parody titled “It’s A Wonderful Chest.”

It all sounds pretty controversial, but that’s nothing new for 29-year-old comedian Dave Chappelle, who spent his young career doing everything from tokin’ down with Mary Jane as Thurgood Jenkins in “Half Baked” to trading wisecracks with Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show.”

Now, as the mind behind Comedy Central’s “The Chappelle Show,” Dave has his best chance ever to send out his own brand of shots. The following excerpts are taken from a recent roundtable interview of Chappelle that the Pulse participated in with other members of the college media.

Q:So, how’s it going, Dave?

Q:So, you seem like a pretty normal guy. What’s it like dealing with all the fame that comes with the show?

A:It’s kind of crazy. The major point that you really got to get used to about fame is that your words carry more weight, whatever that means – I’m not exactly sure what that means – and you have different types of people you have to deal with. I do have a pretty normal life and I want to disrupt that life as little as possible, both for me and for my kids.

Q:What made you go from movies to television?


A:Well, for a while I was doing a lot of press on a lot of shows. On a regular basis I’d be on “The Tonight Show” as a correspondent for Jay Leno on Howard Stern or on Conan. People really responded to what I was doing on these shows. But every time I do one of those shows, I’m on somebody else’s territory. I figure I need a place of my own where me and my most die-hard fans can meet on a weekly basis. For the type of show I’m doing, the only choices I really had were HBO or Comedy Central. Comedy Central was really the first network that invested in me as a talent. A lot of networks would put money in my pocket and say, “Let’s do a show,” but they try to change the essence of what your comedy is. They’ll take Dave Chapelle and throw him in Urkel’s suspenders. Comedy Central was like, “Go on in, do your thing.”

Q:Who or what makes you laugh?

There are few comedians I go out to see. In general, I just like comedy that’s dangerous, something that has someone saying something that’s out there. That could be anyone from Paul Newman, who says some of the most outrageous stuff, to Jim Carrey, who doesn’t necessarily say anything outrageous because you know he’ll do anything to make you laugh. That is dangerous comedy.

Q:Race has played a major role in your first episodes. Is there any message you’re trying to get across?

A:Naw, man. There’s not a message or anything. To me it’s funny first. Race is one of those things that will remain hot in this country for a while. There are so many elements of irony to it. I’m not preaching at people.

Q:What’s your opinion of the whole Michael Jackson interview situation?

A:Man, I just watched that last night. I’ve got mixed feelings about it because part of me feels that maybe Mike just got caught out there. You know what I mean? If he was really sneaking around with kids, he wouldn’t be hanging out with them so openly, would he? You never know with him, but I’m just saying what’s normal for Michael Jackson ain’t normal for us.

Q:So you’re saying you wouldn’t name your child Blanket?

A:Exactly. Like, for him, it’s normal. I can’t imagine what it would be like.

Q:How do you respond to people who criticize your use of the word “nigger” as part of the comedy?

A:Oh. I don’t respond to that, man. They’re free to criticize. I understand it could be painful for some people, but it doesn’t have the same connotation to me. I don’t think the word itself is offensive as much as the malice that is associated with the word, like the hatred that the word embodies. Culturally, that’s been flipped, man. A lot of younger black people yell that word. Even white kids call each other nigger now.

Q:What do you hope to accomplish with “The Chapelle Show?”

A:I don’t have any manifesto about trying to change the world with the show as much as I’m just trying to throw my voice out there. I feel like a lot of the show is a direct response to what I feel like when I watch television. A lot of it can be by the numbers. With this show, we try to make everything a little more authentic. “Saturday Night Live” has arguably one of the best casts assembled in comedy. They definitely have some of the best writers ever. But they’re limited by their format, because in a live format they can’t really improvise away from the script. It’s all about hitting the mark.