Dave Chappelle Electrifies Duke Ellington Commencement

Brian Nielsen

D.C. native Dave Chappelle created and ran one of the best, funniest shows on TV for a few years there in the early aughts. Then he disappeared.

Sure, the 41-year-old comedian emerged from exile, putting on stand-up shows here and there, getting booed in Connecticut, and popping up every so often on TV or online for special occasions. But for many in the ever-distracting Internet age, he’s long gone, remembered as the man behind uproarious, politically incorrect skits that brought us “Black Bush,” hilarious takes on Rick James, Prince, Lil’ Jon, Wayne Brady and countless others, and, of course, the “Racial Draft.”

For one sweltering Sunday, Chappelle was back, bringing some of that magic from his old show with him for a speech at Duke Ellington’s commencement ceremony at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium and an interview with the Washington Post.

Chapelle harked back to the “Racial Draft” when discussing the absurdity of Rachel Dolezal posing as black, quipping that black people “would take her all day, right?” (He told the Post after the speech: “I’m probably not going to do any jokes about her or any references to her for awhile ’cause that’s going to be a lot of comedians doing a lot.”)

He also tried to shine some light on the booing incidents that seem to have plagued his one-off shows, saying, “They said I got booed off stage on TMZ. I got booed, but I didn’t leave. I was contracted to do an hour and that’s exactly what I did. And then a few people got mad and said, ‘We want our money back!’ And I said hell no! I’m Evel Knievel. I get paid for the attempt.”

Other highlights include Chappelle knocking on algebra (saying he didn’t need to use it even though he has “millions of dollars”), quipping, “You don’t need to be smart because the Internet,” and arguing his life now is “happier,” “rounder,” and “fuller” than when he was working on his Comedy Central show.

He harked back to his time at Duke Ellington School, saying he attended the high school to learn how to act – so that he could ultimately be a comedian. He also told a story about almost not graduating from his alma mater because of overdue library books.

He says he has a “few things I filmed I’ve been sitting on” but gave the sense that they wouldn’t see the light of day anytime soon. If only they would – and turn out anything like Chappelle’s return to Washington on Sunday – Chappelle’s legacy could be something bigger than "Chappelle's Show." For now though, all fans can do is sit and wait for the legendary comedian’s broader return to form.

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Fri, 26 May 2017 16:46:35 -0400

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