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Comedian Chappelle Surfaces in 'Time'

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

An update now on a story we reported last week, the mystery of comedian Dave Chappelle's whereabouts. In late April, he walked away from his top-rated show on Comedy Central and disappeared. Comedy Central said they had no idea where he'd gone. His agent had no comment. His writing staff was in the dark. And there were published reports that Chappelle has checked into a mental health facility in South Africa. Well, Chappelle put those rumors to rest in an exclusive interview with Time magazine. Christopher John Farley is a senior editor for Time magazine. He wrote that article, and he joins us now.

Christopher, it turns out that Dave Chappelle is in South Africa, but he says he's not in a mental health facility. What's the story?

Mr. CHRISTOPHER JOHN FARLEY (Senior Editor, Time Magazine): Yeah, during most of this controversy, I had been in touch with Dave Chappelle. I had been on the phone with him. And so when I talked to him a bit about--to really explain himself, he said, one, he's not crazy, two, he's not on drugs. He doesn't smoke marijuana anymore, he says. He said he put that aside a couple months ago, and that he was stressed out, and that's why he made the break with Comedy Central and the show and took off for South Africa.

NORRIS: So why this quick and mysterious departure, what he calls in your article `this clumsy dismount'?

Mr. FARLEY: Well, his take on things is he was not happy with the direction of the show. He thought that--you know, the show deals with some very difficult material, sexual, racial, political, and he wanted to come out exactly the way he wanted to come out. And so that's why he left, 'cause he felt that Comedy Central had set a very tight deadline for him, May 31st. He didn't feel like he could deliver the kind of show with the kind of quality he felt his fans expected and deserved by that May 31st deadline.

Now on the other hand, I also talked to his longtime writing partner, Neal Brennan, a guy that Chappelle did not tell he was heading to South Africa. And Neal--who's very outraged by the whole situation and really feels betrayed and feels like he's owed an apology--Neal felt like they were given total creative control, and that the deadline was reasonable and they could have made it, and they had a lot of great stuff in the can.

NORRIS: So now we know where Dave Chappelle is. The big question: What happens to his show?

Mr. FARLEY: Well, that's a big question. When I asked Chappelle about, you know, `Are you going to start up the show again?' he thought that when he came back, he was going to sort of get a take on the lay of the land and take it from there, and he seemed to indicate that he wanted to get the show going again.

But talking to the president of Comedy Central, Doug Herzog, he made it clear that right now the show is on hold, but he also left the door wide open by telling me, `Listen, Dave Chappelle's a comedy genius, and we would love to work with him again.'

NORRIS: But for now that part of the mystery continues.

Christopher, thanks for talking to us.

Mr. FARLEY: Thank you.

NORRIS: Christopher John Farley is a senior editor for Time magazine. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Norris
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