Earlier this week, Dave Chappelle appeared on Letterman and finally addressed what it felt like to walk away from his infamous $50 million Comedy Central contract. If you recall, Dave shocked the world when he suddenly walked away at the ultimate peak of his sketch series Chappelle's Show. For those of you who may not have been old enough or paying attention, it's hard to describe just how popular Chappelle's Show was. The show was a cultural phenomenon. I was in college at the time (pre DVRs) and the entire campus would literally shut down when a new episode was airing. The next day, you couldn't walk 10 feet without hearing someone quote a sketch (WHAT!??? OK!). The show had such a big impact on me personally, that it was a big reason why I spent a summer in New York working as an intern at Comedy Central. I literally worked an entire summer for free hoping that I'd get to meet Dave (I did not).
After two seasons, Dave Chappelle was a superstar and Comedy Central moved to lock him down with a monster $50 million long term contract. Then, out of the clear blue sky, he walked away from everything and disappeared to South Africa. A shortened third season was hastily thrown together without Dave, but that was the end. In total the world only got 28 episodes of Chappelle's Show.
In 2004, Dave told one of his standup audiences that the show was ruining his life. He intimated that being constantly bothered with his famous catchphrases was driving him insane and the actual day-to-day work of putting a show together had become a horrible grind. It was also making it impossible for him to perform stand up, which has always been Dave's one true passion. During the David Letterman interview (which we are posting below and is 100% worth watching in its entirety), Dave addresses the lost $50 million directly:
"There's not too many people that don't think I'm crazy. So I look at it like this: I'm at a restaurant with my wife. It's a nice restaurant. We're eating dinner. I look across the room and I say, 'You see this guy over here across the room? He has $100 million. And we're eating the same entree. So, OK, fine, I don't have $50 million or whatever it was, but say I have $10 million in the bank. The difference in lifestyle is minuscule. The only difference between having $10 million and $50 million is an astounding $40 million. Of course I would like to have that money… There's nothing anyone can say. It's just you do what you feel like you need to do… I've felt a variety of ways in the last 10 years. You know, whenever there's something that I'd like to have that I could've afforded that I can't now afford, well then I'm upset about it."
"Money is the fuel for choices. Money gives me choices. That's not nothing, that's something. I can choose where my kids go to school, I can choose what I want to eat in a given day. But it's not the end all be all. There are other things in my life that I did not purchase with money that are very valuable."
Amazing right??? Seriously, just watch the whole interview (jump to 6:20 for the money stuff):