Dave Chappelle, Rematerializing Guy

The comic told Oprah what it would take to get him back on Comedy Central.
The comic told Oprah what it would take to get him back on Comedy Central. (By Julie Jacobson -- Associated Press)
By Lisa de Moraes
Saturday, February 4, 2006

Dave Chappelle told Oprah Winfrey yesterday that he'll come back to his Comedy Central show if he can redo his $50 million contract so that half of the revenue from DVD sales of his series goes to charities of his choice.

On the other hand, he also told Oprah that he already gets half of the so-called back end on DVD sales, and "I would like to contribute my half of the DVD revenue to some of these causes."

So why doesn't he just cut a check to his fave charities?

Oprah didn't ask. Oprah doesn't do follow-up questions unless you're an author who's embarrassed her by fabricating portions of a supposed memoir she's plugged for her book club.

Chappelle's appearance was his first television interview since April, when -- about eight months after signing the $50 million deal to keep his series going for a third and fourth season, making him one of the most highly paid people in the television industry -- he abruptly bolted from production, aborting the debut of the third season, which the network had already spent millions promoting.

Chappelle fled to Africa, setting off a torrent of reporting that he was (a) missing, (b) on drugs, (c) spinning out of control, (d) checking into a mental health facility or (e) other.

Comedy Central suits have said repeatedly that they would love for him to come back to work. In December they finally announced they were going to put on a third "season" of the series with or without him, in an effort to recoup some of the money they'd already spent. The new season would have at least four half-hour episodes, composed of material Chappelle had shot before vanishing.

"Here's the scenario that I could come back to the show," Chappelle said during his much ballyhooed appearance on Oprah's syndicated show, which was taped last week and aired yesterday. This kickoff of his I'm Not Crazy I Just Play That Way Tour (second stop: "Inside the Actors Studio" on Feb. 12) -- in another of those incredible coincidences that make covering this industry so spiritually fulfilling -- just happens to fall a few weeks before the March 3 release of his docu-flick, "Chappelle's Block Party."

"I do want to do my show again, provided . . . I can make the proper work environment. . . . But more importantly . . . contribute my half of the DVD revenue to some of these causes. I would rather give the money to the people," he said, mentioning "people who suffered in Katrina and . . . people who need the money, and I can give back to my high school."

"Be careful, you need boundaries . . . you're on national television," cautioned Oprah.

"You cannot just say, 'I want to give money to the people.' . . . You just can't do that -- people will be lined up at your farm with every sad sob story in the world," she added, showing viewers some of that compassion for which she is so loved by her fans that they lobbied to get her the Nobel Peace Prize.

Chappelle insisted he is not angry at the folks at Comedy Central or his writing partner of many years, Neal Brennan, who is the co-creator of "Chappelle's Show."

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