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June 03, 2002 - Image 45

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2002-06-03

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he Michigan Daily - Orientation Edition 2002 - 29

Dave Chappelle hits up A2
Youngest old-school comedr onfame rndflm

By Andy Taylor-Fabe
Daily Film Editor
At a time when most comedians have
settled into a comfortable rut of post-
Seinfeld observational humor or Def
Comedy Jam-style "white people vs.
black people" behavioral shtick, there
are precious few comedians out there
today who are defining their own styles
and relying on their own wits. Dave
Chappelle, one of the brightest and fun-
niest young comedians today, feels that
comedy must go deeper than most
comics take it.
"You've got to have a more keen
understanding of the situation. Some
people do those kind of (racial) jokes
because that's all they got, you know, all
their stuff starts like 'when brothers are
on a plane, they be like ... 'And you
know, some people like that ... but I can
pull my dick out and people will think it
is funny, but you've got to go deeper
than that"
Chappelle started his career in come-
dy as a teenager in Washington, D.C.,
with his mother driving him to his club
shows. Developing his comedic style in
the late '80s, his influences were clear to
him. "When I started out, my favorite
was Eddie Murphy. That was when he
was getting really big, but later I started
listening to (Richard) Pryor a lot, and I
actually like Pryor's stuff better ... you
know, there's a real depth to it, but I
always like Eddie's movies better. I
never really liked Pryor's movies that
much, but for straight comedy, you
couldn't beat Pryor."
Although he became a hit on the East
Coast club circuit, the beginning of his
widespread success began when he was
20, when he made his Hollywood
breakthrough in Mel Brooks' spoof
"Robin Hood: Men in Tights." His
scene-stealing performance as Ahchoo
soon led to roles in other films as well
as a sitcom called "Buddies."
In 1996, he appeared in "The Nutty
Professor" as an audience-abusing
comedian who goes toe-to-toe with
Eddie Murphy, and in 1997, he
appeared in the high-budget action flick
"Con Air" with Nicholas Cage, John
Malkovich and John Cusack, in which
I * .
1 o\\iard

he plays the devious inmate, Pinball. "If
I had to choose one role where I look at
it and think, yeah, I was good, that
would be it ... because my character is
just crazy, man."
Chappelle's largest success, however,
came from "Half Baked," a munchie
and burnout-filled salute to weed that
Chappelle co-wrote and starred in.
- Along with Jim Breuer and Harland
Williams, Chappelle combined the
everyday adventures of
the stoner with crazy
schemes and screwball
comedy. The film became D
an instant cult classic j C-A
among chip-and-twinkie-
eating college audiences.
Chappelle has also co-starred in
many films since, including "Woo"
(1998), "You've Got Mail," (1998), t
"Blue Streak," (1999), "Screwed"
(2000) and the upcoming "Undercover
Brother," in which he plays Conspiracy
Brother, who sees conspiracies where
they sometimes may not exist. Acting is
something that Chappelle will continue
to pursue, but his hope is that his roles
will become more diverse as he goes
on. "I want to eventually play a regular
guy - you know, a real character."
So far, Chappelle has not been bom-
barded with offers to play the leading
man. When asked why, he said, "Cause
I'm funny looking. You know, when
they're making a regular romantic com-
edy, they don't exactly come running to
me. I'm on the short list to be (the lead-
ing man's) funny best friend." But as his
career in Hollywood continues, he has
been able to have more input into the
creative process. "Yeah, I usually get a
lot of freedom when I'm acting, espe-
cially when it's a comedy, so the direc-
tor will let me go for a while, and if I go
too far, he'll pull me back."
As passionate as Chappelle is about
movies, he is equally dispassionate
about sit-coms, which are usually seen
as the Holy Grail for comedians. "For
me, it's the opposite - They're
unholy. Some comedians, their comedy
works real well in that format - like
Ray Romano, his stuff works like that,
but I don't feel like it works for me. It's


so planned out. You have to worry
about pleasing every audience, you
know you have the network saying that
you can't say or do certain things,
because you have to worry about spon-
sors too, but I always wondered how
come the commercials can be all dis-
gusting but we can't do what we want
on the show?"
Like most comedians, Chappelle
faced some difficult times after Sept.
11 when people were
too shocked to laugh
and wondered if come-
AVE dy and irony could
recover. "I found that
PPELLE for a few weeks, I had
to tone down my stuff
because people were pretty out of it,
and I've found that since then, I've had
to quit doing some of my more politi-
cal stuff with certain audiences
because at first, they weren't really
enjoying some of it. Sometimes they
get in there and once I start, they're
really into it and they seem relieved.
But every audience is different, and
you have to judge it based on how they
react to everything. If you feel like
they're not into it, you can feel them
turning against you."
Chappelle also faces the same prob-
lem that actors and comedians alike

and then you've got people
who want to talk to you
because they know you're
famous. And I don't even
really need to be there for
that - because it's really
just them talking at me.
They usually want to talk
about other famous people
that I know. 'How was it
working with so-and-so?' I
get tired of that pretty
Chappelle's comedy
ranges from subtle political
insight to relationship
jokes to discussion of the
way that white people talk,
which he describes as
being very "eeeven." He
said that his highly utilized
white guy voice is "a com-
posite character."
Chappelle is able to move between
the profound topics and goofy material
with the ease. "That's why I really like
the college audience, because they can
deal with the smart stuff and still laugh
at the low brow stuff. I mean, when I
started out in comedy and was playing
colleges I was younger than most of the
people at the shows, but now I'm older
but I can still relate to them, you know,

Courtesy o Daveehappellexom
we listen to the same music and shit.-
However, Chappelle doesn't see his
comedy as being aimed at one specific
demographic. "I don't feel like I have
one target audience. I mean, certain
people are going to think some stuff is
funny and other stuff isn't, and I'm
always happy to see them there, and if
you like me, then I love you, and if you
don't, thenfuck you!"

. __

must face when inr

public or even
around friends -
that everyone wants
you to be funny.
"People always
expect you to be
on, butI always try
to be nice. It
depends on what
kind of mood I'm
in and what I've got
going on, what's on
my plate. There's
two kinds of people
who will come up
to you. There are
people who want to
talk to you because
they like your
work, and they're
usually really cool,

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