Back in 2005, comedian Dave Chappelle shocked everybody by fleeing to South Africa in the middle of a lucrative deal with Comedy Central while the third season of his sketch series Chappelle’s Show was still in production. But did you know that Saturday Night Live writer and comedian John Mulaney was the one who had to break the news to Comedy Central executives that Chappelle was gone? Learn more in a video explaining how John Mulaney got started in comedy below.
In this featurette from Netflix, you can find out all about John Mulaney’s earliest comedy obsessions before you watch his latest special, John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch. But the real gem comes after college when Mulaney was working as a temp and got assigned to work as the assistant to the head of development at Comedy Central, and occasionally, the assistant to the president of the cable channel.
Mulaney explains that he took the call to Comedy Central explaining that Dave Chappelle had fled to South Africa. After discovering this revelation, Mulaney was told to interrupt a meeting of executives to break the news to them. Initially, they thought Chappelle was only going to be late for a meeting, which was apparently something they were used to. But Mulaney then had to clarify that he was really gone.
Funnily enough, Mulaney says that executives wanted to send him to Los Angeles from New York to get the tapes of what had already been completed for the third season of Chappelle’s Show, just to make sure they didn’t get destroyed. Mulaney never confirms if that’s something he had to do, but that’s a rather interesting connection that he has to modern comedy history.
Chappelle was often mocked for his sudden departure from entertainment, especially at the height of his fame and success. But when you listen to him break down why he left, it all makes sense, and you understand exactly where he’s coming from:
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