As hopes for a third season of "Chappelle's Show" fade into the distance, fans of Dave Chappelle's comedy can take heart in a bit of good news: Dave's back onstage.
It's not the set of his Comedy Central show, but Chappelle is in the midst of a U.S. tour that kicked off with a five-night stand at the Funny Bone in Newport, Kentucky, last week that found the comedian playing two shows a night to packed houses.
With the exception of two surprise sets at comedy clubs in Los Angeles earlier this summer, Chappelle has been mostly off the grid since unexpectedly halting production on his popular sketch-comedy show and taking off for a "spiritual retreat" in South Africa in May (see "Dave Chappelle Reportedly In Mental Health Facility"). The 10 sold-out shows at the 325-seat Newport venue — which is less than 45 minutes from his 65-acre farm near Yellow Springs, Ohio — are the start of a tour that will include a stand at the Pittsburgh Improv in Pittsburgh from Thursday to Saturday.
In one of his first interviews since returning from South Africa, Chappelle told The Cincinnati Enquirer that one of the hardest parts about his still-unexplained departure from the show — which he's been referencing in his set — is the rampant tabloid speculation about him being on drugs or having a breakdown. "It was a little weird," Chappelle told the Enquirer. "It felt like some of the stuff [in the media] was real tabloid, like raw speculation. It was like stuff I would normally buy and believe. ... I just took it as a learning experience. It was like becoming a public person and learning all the responsibility that comes with that."
Chappelle opened up a bit about the pressure he felt to follow up the wildly popular first two seasons of the show, saying it's "stuff that's not in the brochure. Stuff that you have to wrap your mind around." Even though he's been doing stand-up for more than 15 years, the intense scrutiny he experienced while working on the third season was too much.
"A lot of people didn't understand when I did it, but sometimes in your life it just doesn't matter," Chappelle said about leaving the show. "And as far as I'm concerned, it just doesn't matter. It was about taking myself out of a situation I wasn't cool with. ... These are the kind of circumstances that you have to be there to understand. A lot of people will say what they'd do, but very few people get into these positions. I care about the work I do. But I'm not going to say that money's not an issue. This is the only job I've had since I was 14. My wife asked me once if I weren't a comedian what I would do. I couldn't answer the question. I never imagined doing anything else. Maybe until six months ago, anyway," he laughed.
Chappelle said he still gets a charge from standing up in front of an audience and seeing that "wall of people smiling at you," which is something most people will never experience. But, somehow, the roller coaster of the past year has changed his comedic voice, even if he's not exactly sure how. "The technique will be there, but the content is changing," he said. "I don't want to say how it's changing, but I can feel it, which is always great, kind of exciting for the comedian."
The comedian also sang the praises of Ohio, explaining why he's rejected living in New York or Los Angeles full-time in favor of staying near Antioch College, where his father taught music. "I love Ohio. ... Being famous is great, it's not like bad or horrible or anything," he said. "But it has nothing to do with who you actually are. And that's a real important lesson to learn, because I'm telling you, this can be overwhelming. So I like Ohio because it reminds me of that. It's hard to get comfortable, but I've managed to get comfortable. I still travel all the time, but it's still nice to have 65 acres to just chill out. And the idea is it'll keep you balanced."
As for what's next for him, Chappelle still doesn't have any answers beyond "I don't know."
Chappelle's movie "Dave Chappelle's Block Party" is set to premiere at the Toronto Film Festival on Monday night (September 12), according to his spokesperson. The stand-up/concert/documentary was directed by Michel Gondry ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind") and features a reunion performance by the Fugees (see "Fugees — Yes, Even Lauryn — Reunite For Dave Chappelle's Block Party").
Chappelle stand-up dates, according to his spokesperson:
- 9/15 - Pittsburgh, PA @ Pittsburgh Improv
- 9/16 - Pittsburgh, PA @ Pittsburgh Improv
- 9/17 - Pittsburgh, PA @ Pittsburgh Improv
- 9/22 - Eugene, OR @ McArthur Court at University of Oregon
- 9/23 - Davis, CA @ UC Davis
- 9/24 - Fresno, CA @ Save Mart Center
- 9/30 - Ypsilanti, MI @ Eastern Michigan University
- 10/1 - Lexington, KY @ Rupp Arena
- 11/12 - San Antonio, TX @ Municipal Auditorium
- 11/13 - Austin, TX @ Frank Erwin Center
- 11/14 - Denver, CO @ Comedy Works
- 11/15 - Denver, CO @ Comedy Works
- 11/16 - Denver, CO @ Comedy Works
- 11/17 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Jon M Huntsman Center
- 11/18 - Reno, NV @ Silver Legacy Casino
- 11/19 - Las Vegas, NV @ Caesars
- 11/20 - Tucson, AZ @ Anselmo Amphitheater