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Dave Chappelle got candid about the problem with being a comedian in the Trump era in a recent wide-ranging interview with The New York Times.
The stand-up veteran, who has three specials headed to Netflix, told the publication, “The whole Trump thing makes it harder” because “he’s so skewed, it’s hard to find an angle that sounds fresh. If you talk about him, it’s almost like you’re part of the chorus and not a soloist.”
Chappelle recalled being given the difficult task of hosting Saturday Night Live in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 presidential election. As President Donald Trump racked up more Electoral College votes in a stunning upset over Hillary Clinton, the writers’ room fell silent.
“Everyone was just staring at the TV. I saw people tear up sketches they were writing. They’d assumed Hillary was going to win. Now there was essentially no show on Saturday,” he recounted. “It was like the wind got knocked out of the writers’ room. I was really worried.”
Chappelle also opened up about his reaction to the untimely death of music icon Prince, whom he frequently impersonated on Comedy Central’s Chappelle’s Show, and the rape allegations against his childhood “hero” Bill Cosby.
“The Bill Cosby thing was tough for me. I’m not saying that to detract from his alleged victims at all. But he was a hero of mine,” he said. “So many bad things happened to our heroes: Muhammad Ali had Parkinson’s; Richard Pryor had M.S.; Prince died too young. And Bill just looked like one of the guys who was going to get to the finish line and just die of old age. And this happened. Jesus Christ. It’s awful.”
On Prince’s passing, he added, “I looked up to him like everybody did. … He fostered a community among artists. I think when he died, there was the icon dying, but then there was this pillar in the community of people dying.”
Over a decade since his abrupt exit from Chappelle’s Show, the comedian says quitting the show helped him reaffirm his love for stand-up, and he doesn’t see himself leaving the comedy world anytime soon.
“A lot of times when you’re a famous dude, you don’t really feel like a person is actually looking at you,” he told NYT. “I felt like after I quit my show, the crowds could actually see me. The audience recalibrated with me. They listened to me again. And it was great. … In the last few years, I’ve found an altitude I’m comfortable with.”
Two of Chappelle’s stand-up specials, Deep in the Heart of Texas and The Age of Spin, will begin streaming on Netflix March 21.
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