Not many comics can hold a mic to Dave Chappelle. His mixture of parody and social critique is revered as today’s gold standard of comedy. After trading a skyrocketing career for a life of privacy back in 2005, he’s back on the national stage. Word has traveled fast about his now-infamous August show in Hartford, Conn., which he ended early because of some imbecile hecklers. This week, Eugene has the chance to witness something just short of a comedy miracle: two live Chappelle shows in one night at McDonald Theatre. So please, Eugene, do everyone a solid and zip it. Let the man do his thing. To prep for that, here’s a look back at some of his finest moments:
Chappelle’s Show, Season 1, Episode 1
‘Clayton Bigsby’ (2003)
Chappelle’s take on modern racism is the equivalent to Jonathan Swift’s classic satire “A Modest Proposal.” The skit’s premise is spot-on in its absurdity: a blind black man who, unaware of his race and raised in a white supremacist environment, becomes a leader in the KKK.
Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)
Anything Mel Brooks touches is comedic gold, but mix in a young Dave Chappelle (in his film debut as “Ahchoo”) and you have the comedian’s best supporting role. The highlight: During a brawl he pauses his attackers to pump up his Reeboks. There’s also that snapback Robin Hood hat.
Inside the Actor’s Studio (2006)
Chappelle’s candid interview with host James Lipton — one of the show’s most popular episodes — was the perfect way to reenter the spotlight after his hiatus. Discussing the gossip about his mental state when he walked away from Chappelle’s Show, he said, “The worst thing to call somebody is crazy; it’s dismissive. I don’t understand this person, so they’re crazy. That’s bullshit. These people are not crazy; they’re strong people. Maybe the environment is a little sick.”
Dave Chappelle: For What It’s Worth
‘Bus Hostage’ (2004)
Chappelle released this magnificent stand-up special only a year after his show debuted. The most memorable bit? A homeless man holds a bus hostage via an act of masturbation. Enough said. YouTube it.
Chappelle’s Show, Season 3, Episode 2
‘The skit that made him quit’ (2006)
The recount of what happened that fateful day on set has been skewed and misunderstood like a game of telephone, but some facts are consistent. The story goes that while shooting a sketch involving a fairy on Chappelle’s shoulder spewing racial stereotypes to passengers on a plane (e.g., he advises Chappelle to order the chicken dinner), he overheard a white crewmember laughing a little too hard at the jokes. This notoriously dark eureka moment sparked Chappelle to drop his show, fame and career. He realized that instead of fixing a societal racial problem, he was perpetuating it. After returning to comedy, Chappelle commented on those who congratulated him on upholding his honor. “That’s great,” he said. “I’m going to go home and make my kids some integrity sandwiches.”
Dave Chappelle performs at 7:30 and 10:30 pm Saturday, Oct. 12, at McDonald Theatre; $55.