“I Never Quit — I’m Seven Years Late to Work”: Why Dave Chappelle Doesn’t Owe Us an Explanation

Last night, Dave Chappelle showed up on David Letterman’s show, and two things happened: 1. Letterman demonstrated just how good he (still) is at getting good responses from people most interviewers are too timid to approach. 2. Chappelle opened up about that whole thing where he walked away from $50 million and one of funniest shows in American television history. As Chappelle put it, “I never quit — I’m seven years late to work.”

I’ll admit that when Chappelle walked away from being the ruler of the comedy world, I too wondered what had happened. Rumors circulated, (news didn’t spread at Twitter speed just yet), and I was forced to watch and re-watch my Chappelle’s Show DVDs, hoping that he’d return sooner or later. He did return, eventually. Performing standup rather than playing characters on television, Chappelle didn’t disappear off the face of the earth, he just didn’t want to do his show anymore. That should be easy enough to understand, right?

But it hasn’t been. People still want answers, they still want to know why Chappelle walked away, where he went, and how he’s doing now. It’s something, just watching him talk with Letterman, that you can tell he’s sick and tired of being asked about, but he knows that if he’s going to go on sit on Letterman’s furniture, he’s going to have to answer Letterman’s questions.

And now, it should be settled. Chappelle shouldn’t have to answer any other questions about why he walked away, why he didn’t take the money, and what he was thinking or going through. If anything, he should be commended for knowing when it was time for him to walk away from a show that was a phenomenon the likes of which we probably won’t see again anytime soon. Be it the pressure or simply the fact that he didn’t want people to yell, “I’m Rick James, bitch,” at him for the rest of his life, that he wanted to be known as a comedian and not one of his characters, is a testament to Chappelle’s integrity. He’s a comedic genius who doesn’t want to do something just because the money is great. For that alone, we should just stop bugging him about things that happened in the past.