Once again, comedian Dave Chappelle has been the talk of controversy for his transphobic comments during his last Netflix stand up comedy special, The Closer, which premiered last week on the streaming platform. As long as he’s been in the industry, Chappelle has made large amounts of money from his often unfiltered and brutally candid style of comedy; but over the past few years, Chappelle has really pushed the envelope as he’s tackled more recent topics like the #MeToo movement and the LGBT community. But it seems this time he may have pushed a little too far. Crazily enough, as much as he’s been in the social media crosshairs, Dave Chappelle has kept a relatively low profile since his career’s peak on The Chappelle Show and not too much is known about him outside the stage. So who is Dave Chappelle?
David Khari Webber Chappelle was born on August 24th 1973. Raised in Washington DC, Chappelle grew up idolizing Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor which moulded a big part of his humorous antics and monologues. And after graduating from The Duke Ellington School of The Arts in 1991, Dave moved to New York to pursue a career in comedy.
Once on the New York comedy circuit, Dave managed to snag appearances on HBO’s Def Comedy Jam in 1992; which propelled his name into the comedy spotlight. He soon became a regular guest on the late-night circuit and appeared on shows like The Late Show with David Letterman, The Howard Stern Show, and Late Night with Conan O’Brien.
His rise to comedy stardom soon led him to his first film debut in the 1993 Mel Brooks comedy Robin Hood: Men in Tights. He even played a small part in Eddie Murphy’s feature film, The Nutty Professor in 1996. And all of this was before he reached his mid-20s.
But it wasn’t until he co-wrote and starred in the stoner film Half Baked in 1998 that Chappelle finally reached comedy celebrity status. Like any normal TV celebrity comedian, Chappelle attempted to capitalize on his success by pitching several television pilots to major networks but didn’t see any progress until he inked a deal with Comedy Central for his sketch comedy series, The Chappelle Show in 2003.
The show would go on for two seasons before Chappelle abruptly left during the production of the third; citing that creative differences and strenuous work schedules were the reason for his departure. Unfortunately for Chappelle, his sudden leave of absence breached his contract and he ended up losing his $50 million-dollar deal with Comedy Central.
Afterward, Chappelle disappeared back into the shadows, and rumors circulated that he no longer lived in the United States; supposedly having moved to South Africa to avoid the press coverage from the fallout with Comedy Central and reconnect with his roots. The comedian did visit for a bit, but no reports had ever proven that he had truly forsaken the U.S. and actually lived there for an extended period of time.
Which kind of makes sense, given that Chappelle returned to the spotlight in 2004–only a year after his separation from Comedy Central– to release Dave Chappelle’s Block Party; a documentary that captured a rap concert hosted by Chappelle in Brooklyn, New York.
Between 2005 and 2013, Chappelle appeared in various TV show appearances before making his career comeback in 2014 on the New York City comedy circuit. After rebuilding his stand-up comedy popularity, Chappelle went on to host Saturday Night Live in 2016; for the first time since the start of his career in 1999. His Saturday Night Live appearance and sketch performance reinvigorated his career and that same year, Dave signed a deal with Netflix to deliver three stand-up specials for $60 million. The specials were well-received and since then, Chappelle has once regained a foothold in the entertainment industry.
The 6-foot comedian (he doesn’t look really that tall, does he?) even made a return to film when he co-starred in Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born with Lady Gaga in 2018. In the film, Chappelle played Noodles; a best friend and advisor to Bradley Cooper’s character, Jackson Maine. As you well know, the film went on to win numerous awards, and Chappelle being part of it only added to his growing resurgence in Hollywood.
But now, that he’s in hot water again for his comments In The Closer, his slow climb to comedic dominance may be put on pause for a while. However, that has never made the 48-year-old comedian afraid to speak his mind and it seems he has few regrets for his past comments. Currently worth $50 million–according to Celebrity Net Worth– his only true regret is that he walked away from The Chappelle Show and another $50 million. And understandably so, for had Chappelle stayed, he’d probably be worth over $100 million or more right now.
Of course, anyone would like to be $100 million richer, but it doesn’t seem like Chappelle is motivated entirely by money; which may be the reason why he never censors himself during his stand-up or worries about any financial repercussions he might suffer after walking away from a project. For Chappelle, it seems that his peace of mind is his biggest priority and sometimes that includes expressing how he feels about the world. But it also includes his family; who have been nothing short of a big source of strength during his lowest moments.
Since 2001, Dave Chappelle has been married to Elaine Mendoza Erfe. They have three children; his sons Sulaiman and Ibrahim and a daughter, Sanaa. For the last twenty years, they have remained strong as a family unit despite Chappelle becoming Public Enemy #1 on several occasions. And although it’s true Chappelle keeps his private life pretty close to the chest, if there was any trouble in paradise we would have heard about it by now, so it’s safe to say that Dave’s newest controversy isn’t going to change his family life very much.
However, with everything going on, Dave and his family may just decide to leave the United States and head for Africa again. He’s already talked about moving to Ghana before in a 2014 No Filter interview with former model Naomi Campbell and back then, he seemed quite passionate about the idea. Now, that he’s become America’s most recent “cancel culture” villain–currently taking over the reins from DaBaby–he and the family might take that permanent one-way trip a lot sooner than later.