Dave Chappelle (pictured) is a man whose comedic genius propelled him to new heights when his outlandish comedy series, “Chappelle’ Show,” premiered on Comedy Central on January 22, 2003. The show, which was an instant hit, drew audiences from every walk of life. The sketches were raw, urgently relevant, and outright hilarious, with a successful mix of ingredients. At the height of the program’s popularity, though, the mega-hit series imploded. Many could not explain why only two seasons later, Dave Chappelle stopped appearing on his show without warning. But what happened? Was someone behind his show’s abrupt demise?
Dave Chappelle was the “it” man: His groundbreaking show was No. 1 on Comedy Central and it had a palpable buzz other shows would die for. So why — after signing a $50-million contract in 2004 to shoot Seasons 3 and 4 — was his show was suspended “until further notice”?
Watch a clip of the ‘Chappelle Show’ here:
A self-professed retired public relations executive claimed he had a reason and created the davechappelletheory.com site to pontificate about Chappelle’s sudden departure. According to the anonymous writer, an organization called the “Dark Crusaders,” consisting of Bill Cosby, Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg, Robert L. Johnson, and even Oprah Winfrey, literally ran Chappelle out of town because they felt the show depicted and promoted a demeaning portrayal of stereotypical Black life.
According to the conspiracy, Cosby, who allegedly decided to bring Chappelle down after viewing just two episodes of the young comedian’s show, stood at the helm of the plot. Reportedly disgusted by the “show’s outrageous tone,” Cosby then sought accomplices, such as businessman and former BET owner Johnson, who allegedly joined the group because he had a grave concern over how the show was making Blacks look like “minstrels,” and Winfrey, who allegedly made calls to all of her bigwig friends to alert them about Chappelle’s appalling show, to be a part of the clandestine organization. Cosby also reportedly enlisted Farrakhan to speak with Chappelle, who supposedly befriended the famed minister while seeking spiritual guidance during his conversion to Islam in 1998.
On the surface, the retired executive’s conspiracy theory seemed quite believable…until this part:
With Chapelle’s Show on hiatus before production for season two commences, Chappelle took some down time at his Ohio area farm. It was here that he received a strange package. As told by Dave himself, at around noon, in the middle of an early season Cincinnati Reds game, there was a knock at his door. Chappelle was a bit concerned, as no one except his close family and friends were aware of where he was. When he opened the door, all he found was a crudely wrapped package, with the inscription ‘For Chappelle’ on it.
Inside the package was a voodoo-doll style replica of Chappelle dressed as Clayton Bigsby — the African-American Klansman from his first show. The doll was riddled with safety pins, and had a noose tied sharply around his neck. Accompanying the doll was a message in a childlike scrawl that read, ‘What you’re doing is hurting the African-American community — it needs to stop.’
Chappelle was extremely bothered by the development, but later chalked it up to a local group of Black nationalists — “probably some college kids from Anitoch [a nearby University] looking for kicks.”
Though Chappelle was unaware of it at the time, this was the first assault by The Dark Crusaders aimed at shutting down his comedy career.
Who has been hitting that pipe?!
The theorist’s claims get straight-out ridiculous when he or she also wrote that one day while Chappelle was watching Oprah’s now defunct talk show in his home and she was interviewing Tom Cruise, Winfrey stared in to the TV lens and said, “Dave Chappelle, you should be ashamed of yourself for airing that Ni**ers sketch on your show this week, I’m going to make sure you never work in Hollywood again.”
According to the theorist, Winfrey’s message was heard only by Chappelle, because Johnson used his network ties to ensure that no viewers heard it except for the studio audience.
Although this theorist’s claims seemed to be mixed in with at least one pint of crazy, others speculated that Chappelle was near collapse and having psychiatric and substance abuse problems. Either way, after Chappelle’s show was suspended, he flew to South Africa to stay at an undisclosed location.
On May 14, 2005, TIME Magazine announced that one of their reporters, Christopher John Farley, had interviewed the then-31-year-old Chappelle in Durban, South Africa, and that no psychiatric treatments were occurring or necessary. “I’m not crazy,” Chappelle said. “I’m not smoking crack. I’m definitely stressed out.”
When Chappelle returned shortly thereafter, he put a stop to the rumors and revealed that his trip had been a “spiritual retreat.”
Chappelle also appeared on Oprah’s talk show and again stated that his South Africa sojourn was taken to mourn the loss of his father and to reflect on his career. He also said, “I was doing material that was funny, but was socially irresponsible.” Chappelle went on to describe a sobering moment while taping a sketch, when he caught a laugh from one of the staff that wasn’t a “laugh with me,” but rather a “laugh at me.”
Since Chappelle felt that viewers were not interpreting his humor positively, he faced moral dilemmas about his comedy, so he made the decision to give up the boat load of money Comedy Central had offered him and take his final bow.