He's Judge David Johnson, b****!
Our reviews of The Best Of Chappelle's Show (published June 27th, 2007), Chappelle's Show: The Complete First Season Uncensored! (published March 11th, 2004), Chappelle's Show: Season Two (published June 1st, 2005), and Chappelle's Show: The Series Collection (published November 21st, 2007) are also available.
Gone, but not forgotten.
The swan song of one of the upstart major players on the television comedy scene, this disc chronicles the last material Dave Chappelle laid down before sneaking away into the sunset.
Facts of the Case
It's blown over by now, but Dave Chappelle's shocking abandonment of his major hit Comedy Central show and the publicized $50 million payday he took for continuing it shook showbiz silly. Eager to salvage as much money-generating power from their former superstar as possible, Comedy Central has released this three-episode collection of the sketches that Dave filmed before jumping ship.
Though there wasn't a ton of material to draw upon, with the help of some clever editing and not-so-clever filler, the Comedy Central execs were able to siphon enough Chappelle out to make three full-length shows, hosted by Charlie Murphy and Donnell Rawlings (a.k.a. Ashy Larry). But really, these shows are a send-off to Chappelle himself, permeated by an overwhelming sense of "what could have been."
There's something surreal about these episodes. I get the fact that Comedy Central is looking to cash in a little bit more and that if you have this footage lying around, might as well release it. Heck, there's a lot of stuff here that's funny and vintage Chappelle. But there's no getting around the fact that Chappelle's sudden disappearance was pretty much bat-@#$% crazy, and though Murphy and Rawlings do their best to defuse the big elephant in the room (there's a mixed metaphor for you), I never quite escaped the feeling that this was just weird, and perhaps unnecessary.
Aside from a few interviews, Chappelle has pretty much dropped off the face of the earth. The dude went from a guy who just detonated and was poised to rule Comedy Central for some time, to an odd bit of celebrity trivia. And seeing these episodes has "Blair Witch" feel to it, as if someone had unearthed footage from a secret crypt featuring a once-hilarious comic who felt overwhelmed for whatever reasons and bolted, leaving many friends, coworkers and fans hanging.
Now, the guy did what he felt he had to do, so fine. While walking away from a lucrative deal and shying away from unrestrained fame might seem odd to some folks (myself included), Chappelle obviously felt moved in some deeply personal way and chose to follow his heart or stay true to himself or whatever other cornball euphemism you can think of. I guess it was the shocking, out-of-the-blue, manner of his departure that was made the affair so lurid.
That's enough of my Chappelle rant. Bottom line, the guy made me laugh very, very hard and it sucks that he's gone. So do these Lost Episodes soothe pain of his absence? Well, briefly, but only like lotion on a second-degree sunburn. It's a nice little dose of Chappelle's brand of comedy but not really near the quality of most of his stuff from that stellar second season. The sketches are primarily about either race or Dave's new-found wealth and celebrity. I probably enjoyed the latter more, because it was new and led to some outrageous moments, particularly the "vengeance" skit, where Dave uses his money to screw over people from his past (he throws a wheelchair-bound man down a flight of stairs and drop-kicks a baby among other things). There's one extended bit with Dave gaining entrance into the world of celebrity that seems a bit too self-reflective (as if he were already questioning his career path), though the Cribs spoof is easily the funniest sketch on the disc.
The race stuff is obviously trademark Chappelle's Show grist, and while there are certainly some funny moments, mostly they felt forced and preachy, as if the writers felt they needed to go way overboard to drive home their point. Nothing exemplifies this more than the "pixies" sketch, where people attempt to repel the "racial pixies" that pop up (played by Chappelle) and tempt them to fit into their respective stereotypes. It was controversial and had been fingered by Chappelle himself as a sketch that made him uneasy. To pad the runtime, the producers devoted the entire half of the show to audience comments about the skit and about racial comedy in general and, frankly, it was cheesy and tedious.
So, a mixed bag as far as the sketches go, but, hey, decent Chappelle comedy is better than zero Chappelle comedy. For the extras: Neal Brennan, Charlie Murphy and Donnell Rawlings do some good commentary tracks for all three episodes (including some insight into the pixie sketch), a batch of relatively funny unaired sketches, bloopers, deleted scenes, a great making-of feature and musical performances.
This disc feels like a eulogy. Dave, you will be missed.
Not guilty, but the sketches, taken as a whole, never exceed "pretty funny" versus "bowel-clearingly hilarious" from the last season.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Comedy Central
• Commentary with Neal Brennan, Charlie Murphy, and Donnell Rawlings
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