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Will Dave Chappelle return to TV?

"Why did Dave Chappelle leave?"

Aren't you sick of that question, too? (Chappelle is, I would imagine.) It's one of those evergreen queries permanently embedded in the Internet hivemind -- and if you don't believe me, type in "why did Dave ..." and let Google complete the question for you.

It's obnoxious, tiresome, a reflection on our world's fixation on the trivial and the over-and-done-with. So let's get to a better question, shall we? Will Chappelle ever return to TV?

David Letterman had Chappelle on "Late Show" the other night, but Dave -- Letterman, not Chappelle -- didn't pursue this more interesting line of inquiry, and instead gave Chappelle an opening for a funny line -- that he never left TV or Comedy Central in 2005, in fact, but that "I'm seven years late for work."

Har. But seriously. Chappelle will be on "The Tonight Show" Friday where the question, or both of them, may even come up again. (Although Fallon is not exactly an interviewer.) What's intriguing about the "Tonight" appearance, in fact, are the Roots -- former music advisers, maybe even performers on Chappelle's old Comedy Central show. Maybe one of those guys will do the asking.

Another question I would hope Jimmy asks is this: How are you and Neal Brennan getting along these days? Chappelle and Brennan go way back -- they produced the ineffably awful movie, "Half Baked," went on to co-create and produce "Chappelle's Show," then when Chappelle walked away, they had a bitter falling out. But apparently they're friendly again. Could a Brennan/Chappelle reunion on TV even happen?

But before we can ask the "will he?" you have to get a little bit closer to the "why did he?"

That's not so easy to come by. One possible explanation is that Chappelle has long had a tortured relationship with his fans -- many of them white, many of them guys, many of them weaned on sketch material that even Chappelle came to belatedly recognize wasn't a send up of racial stereotypes, but a reinforcement of them. Chappelle, in other words, was feeding the beast, not taming the beast, and didn't know it until it was too late. (The famous anecdote, first reported by Time, was that he was horrified when he saw some white guy laughing uproariously at a "black pixie" joke -- an indication to Chappelle that he'd unintentionally wandered into quasi-minstrel territory, or so he had feared.)

Another question Letterman left unasked was -- what happened in Hartford this time last year? Chappelle, essentially in the midst of his comeback, walked offstage at the Comcast Center to jeers and boos. Reasons are still unclear what happened -- videos indicate enough blame to go around everywhere, for Chappelle simply lost control of a crowd that was clearly filled with drunken idiots.

He won't have that walk-off option when he begins a series of gigs at Radio City later this month, but the spotlight is once again on him, and the questions will simply keep coming.

Will Chappelle return to CC? Will Fallon ask him that tomorrow night? Will Chappelle give him a straight answer if he does?

My hunch, and this is a hunch only, is that the door remains open for Chappelle at CC. There are no bad feelings, I believe, but no discussions either. Both parties have simply not been in contact.

Nevertheless, who knows, really. A return to the network in any capacity would be huge news, especially huge for Chappelle, who would certainly be guaranteed a vast audience, if only even an initial sampling to see what all the fuss was about in the first place. Is that what he wants or will his audience just want to hear the old songs, so to speak?

Here's the Letterman interview again (above), but if the "whither Chappelle" story is one of those tales you just can't get enough of, go to YouTube to find his various appearances on "Inside the Actors Studio" -- they're the best online resource to the Mind of Chappelle.

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