It’s been seven years since Dave Chappelle famously receded from public life, and though he’s cropped up for stand-up performances across the country since then, the comedian made his highest-profile appearance yet on Tuesday night when he appeared on “The Late Show.”
Chappelle, who is gearing up for a series of shows at Radio City Music Hall in New York City later in June, has been quiet about the departure for years but he opened up to host David Letterman. “I don’t talk about it,” he said. “Listen, here it is: Technically, I never quit. I’m seven years late for work.”
Chappelle suddenly quit his eponymous Comedy Central show in 2006, in the middle of the third season at a time when he was considered America’s most successful comic. At the time, the media speculated that Chappelle left due to substance abuse or mental health-related issues; it was later reported that he walked away, in part, because he felt his audience was using his comedy to perpetuate stereotypes and because he was getting lost in a world of extremes.
With the heavy media coverage, that period of time “was like living on the corner of perception and reality,” he told Letterman. “It’s a weird place to be.”
And he realizes why the media and general public may think he’s crazy — it’s hard to walk away from money. “It’s very hard to go through something like this because no one has really done it before,” he said. “So there’s really not too many people that don’t think I’m crazy.”
But is seems like the comic was able to hang on to some valuable perspective and has no regrets about the choice he made. “Money is the fuel for choices. Money gives me choices. So that’s not nothing, that’s something,” he said. “I can choose where I want my kids to go to school, I can choose where I want to eat in a given day. But it’s not the end all be all. There are other things in my life that I did not purchase with money that are very valuable.”