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The Real Reason Dave Chappelle Quit His Sketch Show

For two glorious seasons, Dave Chappelle delivered some of the best sketch comedy ever made on his landmark Comedy Central series Chappelle's Show. The show tackled everything from race relations to drug use with everything handled in Chappelle's signature comedic style. The show was a massive hit. It received outstanding ratings for Comedy Central to the point where the network offered the comedian $50 million to keep going on. At that point, the unthinkable happened: He walked away.

The world was stunned to hear the news that there would be no more Chappelle's Show. While Dave would eventually return to stand-up comedy, releasing several Netflix specials over the years, it doesn't seem like he has any interest in going back to his old format, despite his inarguable success. To this day, there remains a lot of conversation regarding his infamous decision, and Chappelle himself can't seem to get away from questions about his choice to leave what was a surefire moneymaker. He's still dogged by questions about it, as evidenced by a recent episode of My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman. The host asks about the incident that made Chappelle decide to leave his show for good, and the comedian's answer provides some much-needed closure for anyone sad they won't ever get to see the 2020 Player Haters Ball. 

Spoiler alert: Chappelle has no regrets.

Dave Chappelle thought people were laughing at the wrong thing

Early in the interview, Letterman broaches the subject of what precisely caused Chappelle to leave his show. They get to talking about how Chappelle was filming a certain sketch, and a crew member laughed at a beat that he thought wasn't really the point of the sketch. While there was racial humor in the sketch in question, the laughter seemed to stem from something not related to the satire. The crew member laughed at Chappelle rather than with him by the sound of it. As Chappelle puts it, "It just raised an interesting question to me, which I was already wrestling with in the first place." 

It sounds like Chappelle was already grappling with a serious dilemma: Did his show satirize racial stereotypes or reinforce them?

He seems to have understood the immense power and respect the show gave him. At one point in the interview, Chappelle mentions that he was "bigger than [he] was comfortable with." Even if his intentions were good, the way it was coming across to audiences, including that one crew member, seemed to be getting lost in translation, and he rightfully wondered how he should proceed with his career. He goes on to qualify that the one incident wasn't the only reason he left the show, but it did play a part. 

Letterman asks about the specific sketch in question and what it was about. Chappelle describes it as such: "The sketch wasn't that bad. It's actually funny. It was a pixie. It was me dressed in blackface who'd pop up anytime a person felt the pains of racism, which is a tough trick to pull off. It's not a bad sketch, but hearing the wrong laugh, while you're dressed that way, it makes you feel shame." 

Considering Dave Chappelle's current net worth is estimated to be around $50 million, it's safe to say he's doing just fine for himself without his own sketch comedy series and hopefully he's in a much happier place than he was all those years ago. The full episode of My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman featuring Dave Chappelle is now available to watch on Netflix.