Why would anyone turn down $55 million dollars? Well, when you're regarded as the funniest man in America, you can always make more money, but you can't make more freedom. Dave Chappelle could have wound up as the comic Jimi Hendrix, or the black Lenny Bruce. Instead, he packed it in after 2.3 seasons of his cutting edge, critically acclaimed show on Comedy Central.
Chappelle's Show returned in July with the "Lost Episodes," containing routines already in the can when Dave announced that he would not be back for a third season. This is the last we'll see of a show that took a Gen X sensibility and blended it with the variety show style of Carol Burnett and Flip Wilson.
That sucking sound you hear is the air being let back into the room as the comedy world fills the void with offerings like Mind of Mencia (Comedy Central's erstwhile Latino Chappelle's Show) and Jesus is Magic, the stand-up film by shock-J.A.P. Sarah Silverman. Chappelle raised the bar for sketch comedy's requisite laugh quotient, and in terms of using his comedic scalpel to dissect racial stereotypes.
Following the Seinfeld/Harvey/DeGeneres/Lopez era, when the ultimate goal of comedians everywhere was to grab a sitcom pilot, Chappelle once again made comedy about raw, un-stepped on humor. Since then, P. Diddy resurrected the ghost of Def Comedy Jam with The Bad Boys of Comedy, and Patton Oswalt and friends did their slacker/disturbed/alt.-indie oeuvre with The Comedians of Comedy (peep white girl Maria Bamford's Alicia Keys impression). They all owe their success to Chappelle, who whetted the public's appetite for something edgier than SNL or Ray Romano.
But none of them is as funny as Chappelle. He will say anything to make you piss yourself. He can break down the difference between white and black people to drinking grape juice instead of grape "drink," then segue to a riff about Botoxing his scrotum.
So, what do you do now? Enjoy the Lost Episodes (my favorite skit -- Tupac rapping "I wrote this song in 1994") and don't worry about Dave. He's rich, bitch.