After nearly a decade since he abruptly quit his cable TV show, comedian Dave Chappelle is back in New York with a nine-show engagement at Radio City Music Hall that already is a success (the first five nights are sold out) and already a source of speculation:
Could all this be a warm-up for a return to Comedy Central, which he back-doored in 2005 after signing a $55 million deal to continue the hit "Chappelle's Show" for just two more seasons?
"Technically, I never quit," he told David Letterman last week. "I am seven years late for work."
Chappelle, in fact, quit, but on the eve of the Radio City run, there's little if anything to suggest he is about to go back to the network or to TV. There have been no discussions between Chappelle and Comedy Central in years, and while relations between both are believed to be cordial, that doesn't exactly mean another show is in the works. Comedy Central declined to comment.
In mid-2005, Chappelle quit production of the third season of "Chappelle's Show" and headed to Africa, leaving a storm of speculation and innuendo that questioned his sanity or lack thereof. But after just two weeks in Africa (he told Letterman) he was back in the States, and then back at work onstage. When Comedy Central aired "Chappelle's Show: The Lost Episodes" in 2006, he was doing gigs on the West Coast (and famously set a stand-up endurance record of six hours at Los Angeles' Laugh Factory in 2007).
Since then, his return to the stage has not necessarily been smooth -- he walked out on an audience in Hartford last year. But the Radio City tour, his first in New York in a decade, at the very least avoids one potential risk: Chappelle won't be going it alone. A musical guest is scheduled for most of the nights, including Nas (Monday) and Busta Rhymes, DJ Premier and Janelle Monáe (June 25). Moreover, Radio City promises "a full orchestra to enhance the concert experience."
WHO Dave Chappelle
WHEN | WHERE Wednesday night-June 26 at 8 p.m., Radio City Music Hall, Manhattan