Chappelle Says Stress -- Not Insanity -- Caused Him to Walk Away
2/3/2006 1:41 PM PT
By ANNA JOHNSON, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CHICAGO -- Comedian Dave Chappelle told Oprah Winfrey he was stressed out and not crazy or on drugs when he abruptly left his hit Comedy Central show last spring during production.
In his first television interview since ditching "Chappelle's Show" in May, Chappelle said that after he signed a $50 million deal for the third and fourth seasons in August 2004, too many people were trying to control him and his show.
"I wasn't crazy but it is incredibly stressful," Chappelle, 32, said during his appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" that aired Friday.
"I felt in a lot of instances I was deliberately being put through stress because when you're a guy who generates money people have a vested interested in controlling you," Chappelle said.
Last May, with the premiere date looming for the third season, Chappelle stunned his fans and the entertainment industry by leaving the show in mid-production. He spent two weeks in South Africa before returning home to his farm near Yellow Springs, Ohio, about 75 miles northeast of Cincinnati. Chappelle has since resumed performing live standup.
The provocative and sometimes raunchycomedian denied reports that his mysterious departure was caused bymental or drug problems. But he told Winfrey that other people weretrying to get him to take psychotic medication when he decided toleave the show and country, without telling anyone except hisbrother before he left.
Chappelle stressed that the fame thatgrew as his show become increasingly popular wasn't the problem,but instead he felt awful going to work.
"I would go to work on the show and Ifelt awful every day, that's not the way it was" he said. "I feltlike some kind of prostitute or something. If I feel so bad, whykeep on showing up to this place? I'm going to Africa. The hardestthing to do is to be true to yourself, especially when everybody iswatching."
The comedian did not rule out returningto film the rest of third and fourth seasons of "Chappelle's Show"but only under certain circumstances. For example, Chappelle saidhe would like to donate a portion of the proceeds from DVD sales tothe less fortunate.
The status of his show has hung in limbosince May. Comedy Central announced in December that four half-hourepisodes of "Chappelle's Show" -- based on what Chappelle tapedbefore leaving the production -- will premiere in weekly airingsthis spring. A full season would have been between 10 and 13episodes.