15 Fun Facts About Chappelle's Show

Comedy Central
Comedy Central

Considered by many to be one of the greatest sketch comedy shows of all time, Chappelle’s Show tackled race, contemporary issues, and the misadventures of Eddie Murphy’s older brother in an unflinching—and hilarious—way. The show’s meteoric rise in popularity during its second season led to its star, Dave Chappelle, signing a massive contract, only to then retreat from the spotlight, resulting in the show’s cancellation, which permanently cemented its place on the list of beloved television shows that ended too soon. Here are some facts about the series, which premiered 15 years ago today.

1. HUGH HEFNER INSPIRED DAVE CHAPPELLE TO CREATE THE SHOW.

One night, Dave Chappelle watched a special on Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner that was designed to resemble one of Hefner's Playboy parties. The host of the party interviewed musicians and comedians, who would then perform for Hef, some Playboy Bunnies, and other guests. On Inside the Actors Studio, Chappelle told James Lipton that he was weirdly inspired by it and called his Half Baked (1998) co-writer Neal Brennan to talk about it. “We started talking about variety shows, we wanted to do something that was real personal,” Chappelle recalled of their conversation, which led to the creation of Chappelle's Show.

2. HBO PASSED ON THE SHOW.

Not everyone was immediately sold on the concept. “We pitched to HBO and they looked at us like we were lepers,” Brennan told Free Press Houston.

3. CHAPPELLE AND BRENNAN LEARNED HOW TO WRITE THE SHOW BY READING A BOOK ABOUT SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.

The two read Live From New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told by Its Stars, Writers, and Guests, the oral history of the iconic sketch show compiled by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales, before shooting the pilot and writing sketches for the first season. Brennan said the book was “really informative and really helpful” to them.

4. DONNELL RAWLINGS CAME UP WITH HIS PLAYER HATER'S BALL CHARACTER ON THE FLY.

In an interview with King magazine, writer/actor/comedian Donnell Rawlings shared that his Player Hater's Ball character didn't come together until the very last minute. “Ten minutes before we go shoot ‘Player Haters’ Ball, my character didn’t have a name or anything,” Rawlings said. “I went to hair and makeup, told them to give me a Jheri-curl wig. Then I went to props, and I asked for a Moét bottle with an activator on it so I can just squirt my hair down. They didn’t have that, so they gave me the aerosol can … I didn’t have a name, dialogue or anything. Neal told me to make my name up. I walked past the mirror like twice, looked in it, and said, ‘Man, I feel beautiful!’ That’s when ‘Beautiful’ was born.”

5. WAYNE BRADY DIDN’T LIKE WHAT NEGRODAMUS SAID ABOUT HIM.

Wayne Brady was a fan of Chappelle’s Show and never missed an episode. But when he watched Paul Mooney, as Negrodamus, say “White people love Wayne Brady, because Wayne Brady makes Bryant Gumbel look like Malcolm X" in a sketch, he got upset. After buying drinks for some of the crew of the show at the NAACP Image Awards, Brady brought up his feelings about the sketch. Chappelle called him the next day, which led to a famous sketch in which Brady shows off his dark side.

6. CHAPPELLE WASN’T PLANNING ON PLAYING SAMUEL L. JACKSON IN THE SAMUEL JACKSON BEER COMMERCIAL.

Dave Chappelle and Bill Burr in 'Chappelle's Show'
Comedy Central

"We cast people, they'd do it, and we knew that wasn't how it needed to be done," Brennan said. "Dave knew how he wanted it so he just would do it. Instead of counting on someone else to capture our imagination, we just did it ourselves."

7. THE GUY DOING THE ROBOT WAS THE SHOW’S SET DESIGNER.

Karl Lake first found his way in front of the camera during an And-1 sketch. "We thought it would be funny if people were just bugging out," Brennan told The Root. "To heighten the bug out, [set designer] Karl Lake just started doing the robot. It's so dumb that we kept doing it, and it just became a thing."

8. THEY FILMED THE RACIAL DRAFT SKETCH ACROSS THE STREET FROM JAY Z’S (THEN) FINAL CONCERT.

RZA disappeared for one hour during the shoot, delaying the production. He came back and explained he went over to Madison Square Garden to watch some of the concert.

9. BOBBY BROWN WAS GOING TO DO THE STD PUPPET SCENE, BUT HE GOT ARRESTED.

To replace Brown for the Kneehigh Park sketch, they called Andre 3000 and Pharrell, with no luck. Q-Tip said yes, and Snoop Dogg went from being cast in a “Weed Olympics” sketch that got cut to get involved, too.

10. IT’S CREDITED WITH MAKING LIL JON POPULAR.

Chappelle's “A Moment in the Life of Lil Jon” sketch launched the hip-hop artist into super-stardom. “This Dave Chappelle sh** just really put me on a different level," Lil Jon told MTV. "He basically has thrusted me into pop culture, and not just urban but white society as well. I was in the airport like three weeks ago, this 60-year-old white lady came up to me and was like, 'Aren’t you Lil Jon? … Don’t you do that 'Whuuuut? Yeeeaaah! Okaaayyy!' That’s you, right?’” After Chappelle witnessed fans shouting lines from the show at Lil Jon at the MTV Video Music Awards, Chappelle apologized to him.

11. CHARLIE MURPHY GAVE CHAPPELLE THE IDEA FOR THE RICK JAMES SKETCH OVER LUNCH.

Charlie Murphy and Chappelle were at the lunch table during a break from shooting the “Calvin’s Got a Job” sketch. Murphy, who passed away in 2017, regaled the table with his stories about hanging out with Rick James when Chappelle said it should be reenacted for the show.

12. EDDIE MURPHY THOUGHT THE RICK JAMES SKIT WAS GENIUS.

Charlie showed his brother the sketch. Eddie Murphy watched the whole thing in silence. Once it ended though, he said it was “genius” before laughing and insisting Charlie play it again.

13. CHAPPELLE AND RICK JAMES HAD MET YEARS EARLIER.

A then-19-year-old Dave Chappelle was in Los Angeles filming Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993). Young Dave and James hung out at the hotel bar together a few times. The sketch ultimately led to some problems for a politician named Rick James; when he ran for city council in Hattiesburg, Mississippi in 2005, many of his campaign signs were stolen or defaced by people who added the word “b*tch!” James claimed he saw signs of his as far as 100 miles away.

14. PRINCE GOT HIS REVENGE.

The singer/songwriter confirmed the story about beating Charlie Murphy at basketball, which was ultimately turned into a sketch. But Prince claimed that it wasn’t because he was particularly good at the sport; it was because Charlie Murphy was bad.

In 2013, Prince released his single “Breakfast Can Wait” with a picture of Dave Chappelle dressed as Prince from the show on the cover. “What am I going to do—sue him for using a picture of me dressed up like him?” Chappelle asked rhetorically at the time.

15. CHAPPELLE GREW FRUSTRATED AT STAND-UP AUDIENCES SHOUTING LINES FROM THE SHOW.

Dave Chappelle
Christopher Polk, Getty Images

Chappelle infamously told a 2004 stand-up crowd that they were “stupid” for shouting “I’m Rick James, b*tch” when he was trying to perform, and told them that the show was ruining his life. Chappelle later walked away from a reported $50 million contract before recharging his batteries in Africa.

Chappelle appeared on Oprah in 2006 and said he felt manipulated by those around him. "I felt in a lot of instances I was deliberately being put through stress because when you’re a guy who generates money, people have a vested interest in controlling you,” he said. He told Comedy Central he wanted to restructure the deal and to give his money away to help people. Instead, the network aired an abbreviated “lost episodes” third season using the footage that had been shot, hosted by Rawlings and Charlie Murphy.

7 of the Best Double Features You Can Stream on Netflix Right Now

Sylvester Stallone and Talia Shire in Rocky (1976) and Liev Schreiber in Chuck (2016).
Sylvester Stallone and Talia Shire in Rocky (1976) and Liev Schreiber in Chuck (2016).
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and IFC Films

For many of us, movie night can turn into a movie marathon. If you’re logged into Netflix and pondering what to watch, check out these double feature suggestions that each offer a perfect pairing of tone, topic, or an ideal double dose of Nicolas Cage.

1. Bonnie and Clyde (1967) // The Highwaymen (2019)

In Bonnie and Clyde, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway star as the famous outlaw couple who livened up Depression-era America with their string of bank robberies. More than 50 years later, The Highwaymen shifts the focus to the retired Texas Rangers (Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson) charged with bringing them down.

2. Rocky (1976) // Chuck (2016)

Sylvester Stallone's rousing story of underdog palooka Rocky Balboa pairs well with the biopic of the man who partially inspired Stallone's screenplay. Chuck details the boxing career of Chuck Wepner, a determined pugilist who was given virtually no chance against Muhammad Ali but wound up winning the respect of the crowd. Liev Schreiber stars.

3. Deliverance (1972) // The River Wild (1994)

Water-based getaways become cautionary tales: In Deliverance, Burt Reynolds delivers the performance that turned him into a movie star, a rough and rugged outdoorsman confronted by a group of sinister locals in the backwoods of Georgia. Things don’t get appreciably better in The River Wild, with Meryl Streep as a matriarch forced to navigate the rapids under the gun of criminal Kevin Bacon. Together, the two may have you rethinking your vacation plans.

4. All the President’s Men (1976) // Kill the Messenger (2014)

Newspaper reporting comes under fire in both of these films based on true stories. All the President's Men features Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, The Washington Post reporters tasked with uncovering the Watergate conspiracy. Kill the Messenger stars Jeremy Renner as Gary Webb, the journalist who found a suspicious connection between drug smuggling and the CIA.

5. Carrie (1976) // Gerald’s Game (2017)

After a bad stretch of mediocre adaptations, Stephen King’s work has been seeing an onscreen renaissance. Check out two of the best: Carrie, which stars Sissy Spacek as a telekinetic teen with an overbearing mother and an awkward social life; and Gerald’s Game, which casts Carla Gugino as a woman trapped in handcuffs amid supernatural activity.

6. National Treasure (2004) // The Trust (2016)

Fitting in the very narrow genre of “Nicolas Cage heist movies,” both National Treasure and The Trust are terrific on their own: A double feature contrasts Cage at his blockbuster best with his indie film shades of grey. As Benjamin Franklin Gates in National Treasure, he tries to run off with the Declaration of Independence. In The Trust, he and Elijah Wood are cops targeting a drug money stash. Fans of a more subdued—but still excellent—Cage should find a lot to like here.

7. Inglourious Basterds (2009) // The Imitation Game (2014)

Two very different tales of World War II oscillate from the cerebral to the Nazi-smashing. In Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino offers a revisionist take on the men and women who resisted the Reich. In The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch is real-life scientist Alan Turing, whose work with computers cracked a German code that helped end the war.

How Mister Rogers Used King Friday to Make Friday the 13th Less Scary for Kids

Getty Images
Getty Images

King Friday XIII, son of King Charming Thursday XII and Queen Cinderella Monday, is an avid arts lover, a talented whistler, and a former pole vaulter. He reigns over Calendarland with lots of pomp and poise, and he’s usually correct.

Fans of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood may also remember that the monarch was born on Friday the 13th, because his birthday was celebrated on the program every Friday the 13th. Though the math isn’t perfect—according to Timeanddate.com, Friday the 13th sometimes happens two or three times a year—the heartwarming reason behind the unconventionally-timed birthday celebrations absolutely is.

Fred Rogers explained that he wanted to give children a reason to look forward to Friday the 13th, instead of buying into the negative superstitions that surround the dreaded date. “We thought, ‘Let’s start children out thinking that Friday the 13th was a fun day,’” he said in a 1999 interview. “So we would celebrate his birthday every time a Friday the 13th came.”

Rogers added that the tradition worked out so well partially because the show was broadcast live, and viewers knew to anticipate an especially festive episode whenever they spotted a Friday the 13th on the calendar.

Speaking of calendars: There’s an equally charming story behind the name Calendarland. In the same interview, Rogers disclosed that King Friday once asked children to write in with suggestions for his then-nameless country. One boy posited that since King Friday was named after a calendar date, his realm should be named after the calendar. Then, the lucky youngster was invited to the set, where King Friday christened him a prince of Calendarland.

King Friday might be king of Calendarland, but Mister Rogers is definitely the king of understanding how to make kids feel safe, smart, and special.

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