Remember when Dave Chapelle chickened out of a great deal with Comedy Central? I do. I didn’t write about it at the time because I didn’t care. His show was kind of funny, — hell some of the skits were brilliant — but I didn’t care one way or the other about the fate of his show. I had opinions on the whole “”he’s crazy/he’s not crazy/he’s coming back/he’s not coming back” business, but I kept them to myself for the most part. That all changed the other day when a clueless mouth breather said, “”You know, that Chapelle guy has a lot of integrity. It took some guts to do what he did. Not everyone could walk away from that much money.”
First of all, he didn’t walk. He ran. There was no integrity, either, and it took no guts. It was a coward’s way out.
Had Chapelle been merely a “”regular” comedian who wasn’t getting the kind of attention he was, and had he been offered a contract for a “”reasonable” amount of money, there would be no discussion. Instead, Chapelle was in the public eye with a super hot show and the kind of contract that would cause most comedians to kill their own mothers. Had he walked away from that because he didn’t want the money, that would’ve been gutsy. Instead, however, he caved to pressure, and it is understandable (though not the least bit respectable).
The pressure must have been huge; besides having a show loved by millions, there was the bounty hanging over his head courtesy of Comedy Central (and if any network is giving you that much money it is not a pay check, it’s a bounty). That kind of pressure must make it hard to create, too, but guess what? That’s his f*****g job. He made the beast that brought him those riches — to suddenly say he can’t perform under such pressure is not only chickenshit, it’s bullshit. Sure, critics may have panned the series’ return, but fans don’t listen to critics too often. Had Chapelle and crew kept on the same course, they would’ve made the fans happy and kept them laughing. Instead, Chapelle spit in the collective face of those people. What made it worse is that he continued to put out a DVD of the unfinished third season, did a movie, and continues to do stand up. What does that say? If he can’t be funny for millions, how do you think he’s going to perform in some comedy club with a $20 cover charge? Seems sort of like a let down, doesn’t it?
Chapelle’s disappearance sparked a lot of discussion. He was accused of everything from being a crack head to doing some kind of spiritual retreat in Africa (or a combination of both), but most people agreed he had lost it. Then he came back and said the pressure was too much and he proved he lost it. People would’ve had more sympathy if he was strung out, but no. He simply got stressed like millions of other Americans do on a daily basis when their jobs get to be a little too much. Of course, when some guy quits because of that, his actions usually only hurt his family. They don’t hurt production crews, network employees or fans.
When Chapelle pulled that little stunt it made him smaller in the eyes of many people, including a good number of his fans (as witnessed by those third season DVD sales). The real tragedy, though, is that Chapelle was worth that money. He brought big ratings to the network, and his DVD sales were excellent until he pissed his pants in the most public way. His contract didn’t seem any more out of line than those given to sports stars. Instead of letting ratings and critics prove he couldn’t deliver the goods, though, he did it himself. Why anyone would do that is beyond me. You’re an artist (and yes, I believe comedians are artists), you create. If the money affects you, you aren’t an artist, you’re an entertainer. And if it still affects you, you aren’t an entertainer, you’re a spineless hack who had only been pretending to have talent. I know that’s not the case with Chapelle, but that’s sure as hell what it looks like.
It took no guts to do what he did. It involved no integrity. He was a deer in the headlights and he bolted. What would a real artist have done? Attacked the damn car and left everyone for dead, that’s what. How you face challenges says a lot about you. How you don’t face them says even more. So what do Chapelle’s actions say about him?
Nothing, but only because nobody cares to listen anymore.