A quick follow up on a really interesting piece that Jonesy wrote yesterday about the fallout surrounding Dave Chappelle’s show in Hartford. The most interesting part of the entire situation is that ‘people’, which now refers to the collective majority on twitter, are shouting out that:
“Dave lost it again”
“Dave melted down”
I found that to be a bold statement. Why is it if someone walks off stage, when being heckled, their crazy? Kramer (Michael Richards) dropping the N-bomb 100 times on stage, in response to being heckled, that is crazy. But walking off stage, calmly? That seems rather controlled and rational to me. However, the fact that Dave has a history, in the public mind at least, of being crazy is probably what fueled that commentary. The funny thing is that this is exactly what Dave was referring to when discussing with James Lipton on Inside the Actor’s Studio, the reasons behind going off to Africa (see the link below).
When Dave walked away from a $55m deal with Comedy Central and went to Africa, people immediately branded him as “crazy”. But as Dave says (around minute 34 of this interview), calling someone “crazy”, because you don’t understand why they made a certain decision, is dismissive. People couldn’t fathom walking away from a sum of money most could only dream of being offered, so they branded him as insane. Is there really no reason that person might not be made happy, simply by earning a big paycheck? As he elaborates on later (around minute 48), the higher he went the more unhappy he was. There is a pressure that comes with being famous, an even greater pressure that comes with success, and as Dave alludes to an even greater pressure when you’re pushing the envelope with a show like his. While he is clearly proud of what he accomplished with The Chappelle Show, there is also clearly a part of him that wonders if it was all good. He made light of so many racial and social stereotypes, that maybe he wondered if he was truly making the right social statement?
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it was as simple as Chappelle just wasn’t sure if he could handle the pressure that came along with that big check. However, either way, I’m sure of one thing; walking away from $55m doesn’t make someone crazy. Just like walking off stage when being heckled doesn’t equate to a meltdown. The thing is, because of the power of social media, it is really easy for allegations and indictments to come off like fact. I’m sure Dave will return to stand up soon, and this incident will be in the past. I’m sure Dave Chappelle will be funny again (even though I never really thought he stopped being funny), and people will forget that he bombed in Hartford. However, that’s all it really was, and that’s what the headline should have been. “Dave Chappelle Bombed in Hartford”. I guess that’s not as likely to trend on social media though. Sometimes the truth isn’t as interesting.