Monday, May 16, 2005

Never underestimate the need for "me time"

My ruby-tressed blogging buddy, Raging Red, has been following the recent Dave Chappelle news pretty closely (i.e., she wrote about it before I could), but this story in yesterday's New York Times was still pretty surprising to me. Check out this quote from Doug Herzog, president of Comedy Central:

"We're now approaching life and the year as if the Dave Chappelle show doesn't exist, because it doesn't. We don't know what to plan for, so we're not planning for it. I keep on telling my guys that we're now the San Francisco Giants, and Barry Bonds, our cleanup hitter, is not available."

It's like a line from The Sopranos - "Dave Chappelle, that #&$%er's dead to me."

But Chappelle has returned from his sojourn to South Africa, and quickly tried to shoot down any talk about him being crazy or a drug addict. Here's what he said in an interview with Time magazine:

"Let me tell you the things I can do here which I can't at home: think, eat, sleep, laugh. I'm an introspective dude. I enjoy my own thoughts sometimes. And I've been doing a lot of thinking here."

Chappelle sounds like a guy who's disenchanted with all the "yes men" around him, people just nodding and smiling, afraid to cancel their meal ticket. Even worse, some of them might be pushing him to produce sub-par material, so those big Comedy Central paychecks can be cashed.

That's certainly nothing I can relate to, nor is flying to South Africa to clear my head, but on some level - narcissism alert! - I understand the frustration of trying to create something good, questioning its merit, and wondering whether you're getting the kind of feedback you really need or people are just being polite to you. I'm lucky enough to have a circle of friends who I trust to give me good criticism, who will let me know when something's not quite working. (Once I'm famous, however, they're not allowed to say anything negative. "Oh yeah? My one million green friends here say the novel is just fine.") Maybe I should pass their e-mail addresses along to Chappelle.

By the way, do you think Simon Robinson, the Johannesburg bureau chief for Time magazine, ever thought he'd hear the words "We need you to find and interview Dave Chappelle" from his editors?