'Chappelle's Show': THR's 2003 Review
On Jan. 22, 2003, Comedy Central premiered Chappelle's Show at 10:30 pm. The Dave Chappelle variety series went on to run for 28 episodes over three years. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below.
This being Super Bowl week, here's a football metaphor that describes Dave Chappelle's new Comedy Central program: solid play calling, poor execution.
Chappelle's Show, a half-hour sketch series packed with potential, drops the ball in its premiere episode as one great setup after another falls flat in the delivery. There are some amusing moments, but the bits are mostly one-joke premises that wear thin too quickly, a la neo-Saturday Night Live.
Best known for his late-night talk show appearances and the red-eyed 1998 giggle-fest Half-Baked, Chappelle is an expressive, wiry writer-performer with a reliably quirky worldview. So it's frustrating to watch the talented comic and his cast repeatedly resort to gratuitous bleeping as a conduit for laughs.
Example: In a training film for new employees of a chain of photocopy outlets, the humor comes mostly from workers spewing expletives at daunted customers. Even the two funniest sketches — about a "home stenographer" who reads back exactly what people have said, and a blind white supremacist who doesn't know he's black — can't sustain their early momentum.
Chappelle, who created the 12-part series with Half-Baked buddy Neal Brennan (both exec produce along with Michelle Armour), introduces the bits in a stand-up forum with a live audience. Keeping with the ongoing revival of the variety format, future episodes will include hip-hop and R&B performances along with the skits.
It's premature to dismiss Chappelle's Show after one subpar episode, it's worth a second chance on the host's cred alone — assuming the same problems don't persist. — Erik Pedersen, originally published Jan. 22, 2003.