I was a tad bit late to the party this week in watching the new Netflix Dave Chappelle comedy special, but oh what gems I took when I did watch. Aside from the fact that I just can’t get used to the fact that he looks like he swallowed ALL the creatine to bulk up, I thoroughly enjoyed watching him. Dave has always been one of my favorite comedians, possessing this visceral, gut-punching wit that is draped in the guise of ‘just a guy on the block.’ This guy though has been through hell and back, and as my personal Richard Pryor, I have taken his devilish dance with Hollywood as steps for how I can be successful in my own journey.
We all remember where we were when Chappelle, at the height of his success with Comedy Central, walked away from his $50 million deal in 2005. The headlines rolled in that he was missing, the hood clowned him for being a fool from walking away from that paycheck, mainstream media pegged him as a fading star, and even I sighed at the possibility that he, another amazing black actor, had succumb to ‘crazy-as-shit’ Hollywood. How could I not? Look at Katt Williams, another comedy legend, who at the pinnacle of his success- cracked liked Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast. So in learning of Chappelle’s deal with Netflix, I did the hardest praise dance I could at his accomplishment.
Looking back on the character assassination attempt of Dave, I realized he had chosen his integrity over money and for that, he was vilified. People of color wanted to know “how dare you squander the opportunity to reach this level of success that so few of us are able to?” Whereas corporate America took it as a slap in the face that he wasn’t willing to be bought – literally. Dave Chappelle proved that his integrity was worth more than any reach and visibility that a media mega giant could offer.
We often say what we would do if placed in a situation where our soul was tested and no one ever confesses that they’d compromise. The truth is, a lot of us would buckle under the pressure. I can’t even comfortably say what I’d do if I had to decide between millions of dollars and my peace of mind, but in looking at Dave Chappelle he is an excellent model for the reward that holding fast to your principles will garner.
The deal he’s secured with Netflix is more than what he inked with Comedy Central, so right about now he has 60 million reasons to be happy. Even more than the money, he has the satisfaction that even in the face of judgement and harsh ridicule, he didn’t lose himself. Hollywood tried to destroy him and they lost. Past the ability to tell jokes, I want to be like Dave Chappelle when I grow up. He knows what it takes to make it through the fire and for that he deserves ALLLLLLLL the cheese on his burger now, because no matter what, when it was all said, he got the last laugh.