348: Dave Chappelle’s Line

June 18, 2020 by Joshua
in Podcast

Dave Chappelle set a line for himself that when he became famous he would not cross it. His life crossed it and he left a successful show and a $50 million contract.

He returned to become more successful than ever. I recently saw him win the Mark Twain award.

Here’s Wikipedia on him staying true to himself:

Season 3 was scheduled to begin airing on May 31, 2005, but earlier in May, Chappelle stunned fans and the entertainment industry when he abruptly left during production and took a trip to South Africa. Chappelle said that he was unhappy with the direction the show had taken, and expressed in an interview with Time his need for reflection in the face of tremendous stress:

“Coming here, I don’t have the distractions of fame. It quiets the ego down. I’m interested in the kind of person I’ve got to become. I want to be well-rounded and the industry is a place of extremes. I want to be well-balanced. I’ve got to check my intentions, man.”

Immediately following Chappelle’s departure, tabloids speculated that Chappelle’s exit was driven by drug addiction or a mental problem, rather than the ethical and professional concerns that Chappelle had articulated.

Chappelle’s decision to quit the show meant walking away from his $50 million contract with Comedy Central.


In an interview with Oprah Winfrey that aired on February 3, 2006, Chappelle explained his reasons for quitting Chappelle’s Show. He also expressed his contempt for the entertainment industry’s tone-deafness regarding black entertainers and audiences:

When I see that they put every black man in the movies in a dress at some point in their career, I start connecting the dots.


Chappelle said on Inside the Actors Studio that the death of his father seven years prior influenced his decision to go to South Africa. By throwing himself into his work, he had not taken a chance to mourn his father’s death. He also said the rumors that he was in drug or psychiatric treatment only persuaded him to stay in South Africa. He said,

I would go to work on the show and I felt awful every day, that’s not the way it was. … I felt like some kind of prostitute or something. If I feel so bad, why keep on showing up to this place? I’m going to Africa. The hardest thing to do is to be true to yourself, especially when everybody is watching.

Draw your line

Where do you draw your line to prioritize acting on the environment? Does billions of people restricted to their homes not cross it? How about rivers catching on fire?

You will love life more if you don’t allow yourself to watch ourselves cross our lines. You will love the meaning and purpose you create by making the environment your priority.

Whatever you give, the work will return more.

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