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.
In 2003, Chappelle's Show featured a sketch where Chappelle mocked a video that reportedly showed R. Kelly urinating and deficating on underage girls. On January 16, 2019, Chappelle did a set in West Hollywood at The Improv, and he confirmed that the R&B singer confronted him about the video.
During a Common show, some of Kelly's "goons bust in my room... I don't know if it was his goons, but they sure did like him." Chappelle continued the saga, claiming that R. Kelly asked him, "How you gonna do a video of me peeing on a b*tch like that?" to which Chappelle replied, "How YOU gonna do a video of you peeing on a b*tch like that?"
Chappelle Show co-creator Neal Brennan corrobarated the story, saying, "R. Kelly wanted to fight Dave. He literally stepped - his goons stepped to Dave in Chicago - and Dave's goons intervened, and the goons negotiated."
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."
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."
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.