Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
This Kindle Single attempts to explain the rise and then disappearance of comedian Dave Chappelle; a disappearance that happened by choice, the comedian walking away from a huge payday, taking off, disgruntled, bored, bemused, not wanting to be a walking catchphrase.
The reason for this e-book – now – is due in part to Chappelle’s very subtle re-emergence. He’s fronting up to comedy clubs, performing; it’s on his terms. He talks about his life, he – like Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Richard Pryor – is performing sets that are more conceptually funny than laugh-out-loud funny; full of wry observations and dry laughs, an unpacking of his life and frustrations – he’s driven still by the work, almost entirely uninterested in the celebrity.
Journalist Jason Zinoman does a fine job of condensing down the timeline and contextualising Chappelle’s place as a humourist, as a comedian who died a thousand times on stage and signed up for a sitcom that bombed and a handful of close-to-dud movie appearances before his own show become the cult-hit that would go on to be an influence now on so many TV shows by comedians (Key & Peele, Inside Amy Schumer).
But in the end Zinoman doesn’t have a lot to say from the sources – he gets interviews with Chappelle’s Show cast and writers but they clearly don’t want to go on the record with a lot. Little bit-sized quote-nibbles are all that’s offered, crumbs of suggestions. Zinoman does a decent job of stitching it all up, of providing the thread to link Chappelle’s rise with his decision to walk away.
But the chances are – if you’ve at all followed Chappelle’s career you don’t really need to read this short book; you won’t really learn a lot. Still, a good attempt at shining the light on one of the most influential comedians of the last decade; something of an inspiring tale too – in that Chappelle (demons to battle and all) had the strength to walk away, to not be reduced to the McMakeMillions pantomime puppet.