Stand-up comedian and actor, Dave Chappelle, made a name for himself on the New York City comedy circus. But where did he grow up?
Dave Chappelle was born in Washington D.C., USA. He lived in Silver Spring, Maryland as a young child. After his parents divorced, he returned to Washington D.C. to live with his mother, but would live in Ohio with his father during the school summer break.
Let’s explore the life and career of Dave Chappelle in further detail.
Becoming a Comedian
David Khari Webber Chappelle’s parents both worked as college professors and were political activists.
Chappelle attended Woodlin Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland.
He took comedic inspiration from Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor. He graduated from Washington’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts, where he studied theatre arts, 1991.
Chappelle’s early introduction to comedy came when he was featured on ABC’s America’s Funniest People in 1990, as part of a montage of members of the public telling jokes.
He moved to New York City to pursue a career on the comedy circuit. He performed at “Amateur Night” at the Apollo Theater and was booed off the stage.
He described the experience as formative to his career, stating how it gave him the necessary courage to pursue comedy and lessened his fear of rejection.
Chappelle talked about the experience, saying, “I’d never been booed off stage before, but I just remember looking out and seeing, like, everybody booing—everybody! Even old people. I was like ‘who booes a child pursuing a dream?’”
He continued, “And that was the best thing that happened to me […] That night was liberating because I failed so far beyond my wildest nightmares of failing […but I realized] this is not that bad, and after that I was fearless.”
After this experience, Chappelle quickly started to make a name for himself on the New York comedy circuit and began to appear on comedy television shows.
Making It in Comedy
In 1992, his popularity grew from his appearance on Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam.
He then began to regularly appear on late-night shows, such as Politically Incorrect, The Late Show With David Letterman, The Howard Stern Show, and Late Night With Conan O’Brien.
He even gained a nickname from the esteemed Whoopi Goldberg—“The Kid.”
Watch young Dave Chappelle’s act back in 1992:
Aged 19, Chappelle made his film debut, playing “Ahchoo” in Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men in Tights. The same year, he was offered the role of “Bubba” in Forrest Gump, but turned it down, believing the character to be demeaning.
In 1997, Chappelle parodied the film in a short, Bowl of Pork, where he played a “Black Forrest Gump,” and had the lines, “Would you like some of my chitlins [boiled intestines]? Momma always said life was like a bowl of pork. They save the worst bits for black people.”
Aged 19, Chappelle was the opening act for soul singer Aretha Franklin.
In 1998, Chappelle co-wrote and starred in the cult stoner movie Half Baked.
Later the same year, Chappelle was given another opportunity to work with Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail, where he played Hanks’ character’s friend.
Chappelle was eventually given his own weekly sketch show—Chappelle’s Show—which ran from 2003-2006, until Chappelle unexpectedly took a trip to South Africa during filming.
He talked about his motivations to leave the country, saying, “I would go to work on the show and I felt awful every day, that’s not the way it was […] If I feel so bad, why keep on showing up to this place? I’m going to Africa…”
Abandoning the show meant losing his $50 million contract with Comedy Central.
Chappelle continued his comedy career until 2014 with various shows and appearances, although his projects were less frequent than before.
In 2014, Chappelle made his first large-scale New York City appearance in 11 years, with 10 stand-up nights at Radio City Music Hall. He promoted the nights with appearances on The Today Show, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Show with David Letterman.
In 2016, Chappelle made his hosting debut on Saturday Night Live to critical acclaim.
Soon after, Netflix announced an upcoming three-part special from Chappelle, with Chappelle being paid $20 million per episode. Once aired, Netflix reported the specials were the most viewed in comedy specials in the broadcaster’s history.
Chappelle continued to see further success in the following years, including winning several Grammy awards.