Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Will Charlie Murphy tell the story better?

Despite reminding myself constantly, I missed Dave Chappelle's appearance on Oprah (or is it The Oprah Winfrey Show?) last Friday. But after reading accounts of the show, such as this one by Lisa de Moraes in the Washington Post, I'm still not sure what to think of the guy. As Mis Hooz reminded me, he's still funny as hell, and I'll always enjoy reruns of Chappelle's Show. But it's difficult not to look at the guy differently after he cut and ran.

When Chappelle left his show and fled to South Africa, it looked like a drastic, crazy move - the kind of move someone makes when they've cracked under the pressure of expectations and completely freaked out. It's also somewhat understandable; $50 million is, well, fifty million dollars. Who wouldn't feel some pressure with that kind of cash being pushed across the table? Of course, no one was twisting Chappelle's arm into signing that contract. Don't take the money if you don't think you're up to the challenge.

Speaking of the money, Chappelle said he might come back to do the show if Comedy Central would donate half of the revenue from DVD sales to his favorite charities. Say what? If he feels that strongly about it, why not take the money he would've been paid and give it to those same charities? Wouldn't that do the trick? Chappelle also took a shot at his writing partner, Neal Brennan, for not checking in to see how he was doing. Gee, Dave - maybe he was a little miffed that he wasn't going to get his cut of fifty million dollars.

If Chappelle was concerned that the material on the show was becoming "socially irresponsible," began to wonder if he was doing the right thing, and felt guilty because of that, then that's different. But if that's really the case, why not just stick to that as your story? Why take shots at Comedy Central, even if they criticized you in the press? Why complain about how hard it is to be a celebrity? Why go on Oprah's show (and Inside the Actors Studio) if you really just want to be left alone?

Maybe Chappelle wants to make sure his side of the story is heard. Maybe he feels he owes his fans an explanation. But he also seems like a really confused guy right now, someone who wants to live his life on his terms, yet obviously cares what people think of him. And no matter how funny I'll always think he is, it's hard to look at him the same way anymore.