Judge Ryan Keefer's favorite word is fried, and his least favorite word is vegetarian.
"You can't get un-famous. You can get infamous, but you can't get un-famous."
The year 2005 was known for many events in the entertainment industry, but none more intriguing than when one Dave Chappelle walked away, took some time off, and disappeared to South Africa, leaving the hit Comedy Central show bearing his name for no apparent discernible reason. These circumstances were made all the more confusing due to the recent rumored $50 million deal given to Chappelle for his work and services. While he did not rule out the possibility of returning to finish what he started, the door of goodwill was apparently closed when Comedy Central decided to air the handful of completed episodes from the show's third season and subsequently push them to DVD. In early 2006, Chappelle started on the road to public relations recovery with an interview with Oprah Winfrey, followed by an extensive interview with Inside the Actors Studio host James Lipton. The latter interview can be found here on this disc.
The disc starts with a new introduction by Lipton, as he briefly provides backstory on Chappelle's circumstances, along with recalling the events of the night (crowds lined up at 5 p.m. for a 7 p.m. interview, which ultimately wasn't completed until 2 the following morning) before presenting the piece. Sure, there are the usual moments that make Lipton out to be the lapdog to the stars people know and love, but along the way, there are moments of great introspection provided by Chappelle which are a window into the mindset of this performer.
The show itself is widely known for the amount of research and intriguing questions that its host poses, and it tries to cover as much of the subject's life as possible. This one is no exception, as Chappelle discusses his early beginnings and his desire to be a stand-up comedian. He would perform at nights while attending high school during the days. His mother, who helped develop African studies courses in the early '70s, was one of the first people to do so; his father died when he was relatively young. Although young, Chappelle had already gained a relatively firm grip in the performing arts.
As I mentioned before, there are a lot of moments that are just plain silly, including one that gives Lipton a chance to further promote his man-crush (or comedic distaste) for the Will Ferrell impersonation of him, but he manages to connect with Chappelle on a couple of different levels. As a result, you can see Chappelle begin to relax and open up more. When Lipton shows a clip of one of Chappelle's stand-up shows and explains the joke to the students, Chappelle's demeanor brightens almost immediately, as if Lipton was in the room when the joke was written (or came together) and was impressed by Lipton's understanding of the joke; Chappelle says so.
At the end of the day, though, the show serves Chappelle's purpose equally well, as not only does he get a chance to get some things off his chest, but does so early on in the piece. When he talks about recalling his declaration to his family that he was going to be a comedian, his father had some words for him that turned out to be strangely prophetic: "He said, 'Name your price in the beginning. If it ever gets more expensive than the price you name, get out of there.' Thus, Africa." That's one of several great moments in the interview where Dave talks about the Hollywood system ("What is happening in Hollywood when a guy that tough (friend Martin Lawrence) will be on a street, waving a gun, screaming 'they are trying to kill me?' What's going on?"), perceptions of himself and others during his sabbatical ("The worst thing to call a person is 'crazy.' It's dismissive. I don't understand this person, they're crazy. That's bulls***."), and other moments that take you away from the guy who was crazy and went to Africa, and make you realize that Dave is a guy that has been burned quite a few times by the industry in some very crucial moments in his life, and he won't kowtow to the system that's still around to this day.
Aside from the show, which is very good, there's some additional footage that didn't make the episode's final cut, which included some additional recollections about pitching the show to Comedy Central, and meeting and getting advice from other comedians like Whoopi Goldberg. With any luck, Lipton has got more fresh footage for further DVD releases of his popular Bravo show. If you haven't seen Chappelle's response to things before, it's worth taking the time to see this, as it's perhaps one of the best interviews he's granted and it may be the best interview that Lipton conducted. Not guilty.
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