comedy history

John Mulaney Happened to Answer the Phone the Day Dave Chappelle Ditched His Show And Went to Africa

It’s an extremely small world, and an even smaller one if you come up in the New York comedy scene. While promoting his new Netflix special John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch, the comedian revealed that he happened to be temping at Comedy Central in 2005, specifically on the day Dave Chappelle famously left production on Chappelle’s Show’s third season, flew to South Africa, and subsequently avoided Hollywood for over a decade. “I took the call when Chappelle went missing to South Africa,” recalls Mulaney. “They were like, ‘You have to interrupt the meeting and tell them.’ I was like, ‘Okay!’ I went in and was like, ‘So … Dave Chappelle’s gone.’”

Beyond being the bearer of bad news, the executives at Comedy Central were also apparently hoping to use John Mulaney as a courier for all the footage Chappelle already had in the can. “They wanted to get season three,” the comedian says. “The tapes from production. They were going to put me on a plane that day and send me to L.A. to get the physical tapes, so they couldn’t be destroyed, and fly back to New York with them.” In the end, Mulaney realized being a sketch mule wasn’t going to help him achieve his personal comedic dreams, and he, too, fled Comedy Central. And the rest is (extremely recently unearthed) comedy history.

John Mulaney Answered the Phone the Day Chappelle Bounced