Over at NPR, Andrew Lapin makes the argument that Dave Chapelle left show business, and stayed away, because his fans simply became too obnoxious. Lapin uses Chappelle’s stand-up showdown in Florida, among other instances, to chide Chapelle’s devotees into calming the hell down so he can be great again. Personally, I’m not buying it.
Now, clearly, I’m not saying Chappelle should enjoy it when people scream “Fuck your couch!” while he’s buying light bulbs, but it seems pretty clear from his abrupt exit from the limelight that Dave’s inner turmoil had more to do with the concept of creative control and the pressure of production and the philosophy of the craft than from his fans being big barking morons. I’m also pretty sure claims like “He’s still a show business pariah for quitting Chappelle’s Show” underestimates how much the industry values someone who’s had a hit, even if he then left that hit in a huff and retreated to the Midwest. If we’re willing to suggest that audiences chanting “I’m Rick James” might be, as Lapin puts it, “part of the reason he originally left us,” we also have to admit that moments like those are born out of our pure, dumb love for the man and his comedy. We can vow to be on our best behavior, but let’s also be realistic: no one is going to stop quoting Tyrone Biggums to him anytime soon.