For years, what happened to Dave Chappelle was a complete mystery. Prior to his two Netflix stand-up specials that hit the streaming service in 2017, Chappelle had remained largely absent from the entertainment scene. In 2005, Chappelle abandoned a $50 million deal with Comedy Central, along with his legendary, genre-defining comedy show, Chappelle's Show. Many speculated that he had a mental breakdown, while others believed he had succumbed to addiction.
Since his return, Chappelle's double dose of comedy specials have earned accolades and garnered controversy. But, where did Dave Chappelle go for those 10 years? What happened to Dave Chappelle in his decade-long absence? Well, as it turns out, there are a lot of things you didn't know about Dave Chappelle's mysterious time away from our screens.
He Walked Away From A $50 Million Deal With Comedy Central
What made Dave Chappelle walk away from a multi-million dollar deal with Comedy Central in 2005? Most people wouldn't think twice about signing the dotted line for a cool $50 million. However, Chappelle found the intense public scrutiny, pressure from the network, and the fact that the content of Chappelle's Show was moving in a direction he wasn't comfortable with were all reasons he was unable to take the deal. In 2006, Chappelle expanded on his reasons to leave Chappelle's Show on Oprah:
"I was doing sketches that were funny, but socially irresponsible... feel like I was deliberately being encouraged and I was overwhelmed."
Many Conspiracy Theorists Think He Was Blackmailed By Hollywood Elite
A number of conspiracy theorists across the internet believe that Chappelle disappeared for such a long period of time because he was being blackmailed by the high powers. One such conspiracy loving writer, Trent Lapinski, wrote for Medium about his theories regarding Chappelle going off the map:
"Few people understand that Hollywood is essentially a cartel with ties to the CIA Deep State, and has become one of their most profitable and powerful factions."
Lapinski claims that Chappelle was merely a Hollywood puppet, and he broke out of the system before it could consume him. While this conspiracy theory isn't too wild, there are a few that are. A now-defunct website called Chappelle Theory claimed that an elite group of black celebrities - including Oprah Winfrey, Bill Cosby, Louis Farrakhan, and Al Sharpton - conspired to ruin Chappelle's career, even threatening to kill him if he didn't stop.
Some claim Chappelle received a voodoo doll of himself as his crack-addicted character Tyrone Biggums stuffed with pins and a noose around its neck. A note that read, "What you're doing is hurting the African American community - it needs to stop," allegedly accompanied the doll.
Another conspiracy story floating around is one time Chappelle was at the movies with his mom and Sharpton snuck up behind him and scolded him, saying, "I didn't appreciate the mockery directed at reparations in last season's shows. You should be ashamed of selling out the community for cheap laughs and ratings."
He's Made Several Appearances On 'Inside The Actors Studio'
During his entertainment hiatus, Chappelle made time to appear on Inside the Actors Studio on three different occasions. In February 2006, he made his first appearance in which he addressed a lot of the rumors circling his disappearance. Chain smoking throughout the entire interview, Chappelle told host James Lipton and audience members about all of the heartache Hollywood can cause:
"You guys are students now, so you're idealists. You don't know about where art and corporate interests meet yet. Just prepare to have your heart broken... get your Africa tickets ready, baby. Because you have no idea!"
In 2008, Chappelle returned to the show as a guest host, interviewing Lipton himself. He returned once again in 2013, just before he started to re-emerge on the comedy scene.
He Hosted 'SNL' A Week After Trump Was Elected And Won An Emmy For It
On November 12, 2016, Chappelle hosted Saturday Night Live for the first time in his career. His opening monologue was met with acclaim, but many felt that it ended on a sour note when he insisted that America should "Give Trump a chance"; he has since retracted that sentiment.
Aside from the controversial opening monologue, the sketch show was one of the best in SNL history, earning Chappelle his first Emmy for Best Comedy Guest Actor.