It might have been the single greatest act of celebrity self destruction since Nick Nolte showed up at the Toronto International Film Festival in his pajamas or Courtney Love flashed the crew on Letterman.
On April 28th, Dave Chappelle walked away from his comedy series and a new $50 million contract. Rumors flew. His credibility plummeted. A brilliant career was suddenly in shambles. Dave was now rumored to be in South Africa…strung out or stark raving made.
It was time for a little “damage control.” Like all great communicators, Chappelle reached for metaphor.
“It was a clumsy dismount,” he said to explain his abrupt departure.
The metaphor invited us to accept: a) that the departure was necessary (all pommel horse routines must end), b) that it was bound to be difficult (this is always most difficult part of the routine), and c) that, hey, he missed this one (no big deal, everyone does).
Great save, Dave. I believe you stuck it.
Farley, Christopher John. 2005. Dave Speaks. Time Magazine. May 23, 2005. p. 68.
I wonder if he’s harder hit since i) he’s actually hot right now versus so many of the others that implode publicly, and ii) he deals with street (i.e., black, i.e., drug) culture as part of his comedy, so one wants to assume the root cause of his malfunction.
And who remembers “Kidder, Downey, and Heche: Professional Intruders” from Robert Smigel’s TV Funhouse show? Awesome.
Steve, great points, both of them. Icarus gets his just rewards, as it were. The Time interview is actually pretty revealing. Getting that rich and famous makes the world slick with peril. and apparently, Dave found himself listening to the people who said that he was giving comfort to racists. Both of these are grounds for suffering a massive loss of humor. Thanks, Grant
BoingBoing points to this piece today
In just two weeks, Chappelle’s ordeal went from celebrity train wreck to run-of-the-mill exhaustion, a sure sign that today’s entertainment news cycle moves faster than the news itself. The hunger for celebrity gossip, particularly scandal, has become more insatiable than ever with the viral proliferation of media covering it, from “60 Minutes” to Internet bloggers to every cellphone camera owner on the street.
Just before the Chappelle story hit, the media had been doggedly covering two lukewarm scandals: Pat O’Brien’s rehab for alcoholism and Paula Abdul’s alleged affair with an “American Idol” contestant. And as Chappelle’s scandal dissipates, the media is poised to move on to more fertile ground, such as Britney Spears’ pregnancy and the latest rumored indiscretions of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. “Nowadays, there is no privacy,” says Allan Mayer, managing director of the crisis communication firm Sitrick and Co. “Everything is played out in public view … the more you feed it, the bigger it gets.”
As a result, every story has an abbreviated life span, accelerating the demand for more news. Ultimately, this adds up to exaggerated expectations of celebrities. If they can’t maintain their public persona, they’re devoured for our entertainment instead. “I call it the piñata syndrome,” says publicist Howard Bragman, founder of the Hollywood PR firm Bragman Nyman Cafarelli. “It’s really about the media. They’re only lifting you up so that they can take sticks and beat you and see what comes out.”
Steve, I used to say whom the gods would destroy they first make famous, but now I am beginning to think there is something more Mayan about the whole thing. We build them up and we tear them down, and as you point out, its hard to tell which makes us happier. Thanks, Grant