Before all the hoopla surrounding Dave Chappelle's abrupt exit from his cable series, there was his comedy. Before rumors swirled that he required psychiatric or rehab stays, there was the comedy.
And before anyone forgets that, they should tune in to Comedy Central Sunday, July 9, when "Chappelle's Show: The Lost Episodes" kicks off a night of first-run comedy. Carlos Mencia's "Mind of Mencia" continues in its second season, and those inept cops of "Reno 911!" return for season No. 4.
As funny as the other shows are, it is Chappelle, whose "Chappelle's Show: Season 2 Uncensored" DVD set was a top seller, who will reel in viewers. He will also keep them.
The man is funny. He's also smart, incisive and fearless. So many comedians think meanness is enough, but without edge it's just flat. Chappelle has a finely honed edge. Yes, some of the sketches are mean, but there is nothing undeserved or random. Certainly much of it is untoward, and this is not for anyone who is bothered by vulgarity.
Though the cablenet has three episodes, it only released one to the press. "Chappelle's Show: The Lost Episodes Uncensored" DVD goes on sale July 25.
Considering that Chappelle, who walked off during the taping of the third season, vowed to not return if Comedy Central aired these, it's a pretty good bet that this is the end of this particular Chappelle show.
One can't be sure since his representatives did not return calls, and Comedy Central has no authority to make him respond.
But the comedian to whom Richard Pryor said he handed his mantle is clearly not leaving the stage. He is constantly on tour.
Though Chappelle isn't talking, one of his former co-stars, Donnell Rawlings, is. Rawlings and Charlie Murphy provide the banter or wraparounds weaving the shows together and padding out the sketches to fill time on the three episodes.Rawlings takes a realistic approach to Chappelle's absence.
"You have a star quarterback," he says. "And your star quarterback decided he doesn't want to play on the team anymore. I was on the benches and wanted to play."
Rawlings freely admits that he very much wanted the skit show to continue and has no idea why Chappelle walked off. He's not in touch with Chappelle but recently ran into him at a comedy club in New York.
"He looked good," Rawlings says on a break from filming "Twist the Cap" in Harlem. "I was just talking to a fan, and she asked, 'Oh, when is the show coming back?' I told her, 'I guess that's up to Dave.' He was 15 inches from my face. I was happy to see him.
"I just wanted to smack him and hug him at the same time," Rawlings says. "We were right at the point where we were going to do something really huge, and it just stopped."
The skits that were shot are right up there with what made this show such a favorite.
The first skit of the new show has Chappelle at a barbershop in St. Thomas. It's crowded, and the men are all watching television, on which a segment about Chappelle appears. As his barber shaves his head in front of a blackboard that says haircuts are $8, the announcer says Chappelle is making $55 million.
The mood in the barbershop changes. Suddenly, the haircut is $11,000. When Chappelle balks, the barber flashes his handgun, shoved into his waistband.
In the next scene, when Chappelle goes to pay for an advertised $28 carwash, it's now $173. Again, an argument ensues, but ends when the carwash worker flashes his gun. This gets taken as far as the IRS, and Chappelle calls everyone -- regardless of race -- the same slur.
In another skit, Chappelle seeks revenge on anyone who did him wrong. He visits his former girlfriend's home and smirks that her husband has a doughnut shop, when he is rolling in real dough.
Chappelle proposes, says he has never stopped loving her and gives her a week to leave her husband and child. She obtains a quickie divorce and meets him at the designated spot, so he can laugh in her face and introduce his wife and child.
He explains that he's petty and vengeful. The same skit has him shredding the career of a casting agent who said he lacked talent and showing no compassion to a club owner who wound up in a wheelchair.
As cruel as some of these jokes are, one can't help but laugh.
His closing line, one that became Rawlings' catchphrase, is "I'm rich, bitch."
Now, however, Rawlings, just laughs as he says, "I'm broke, bitch!"
A morning DJ on a New York hip-hop show, Rawlings is also working on a pilot with Murphy. He's under the impression their show, which he describes as an "Amazing Race" with two people, is a definite, but Comedy Central spokesman Tony Fox says the station produces many pilots and picks some to continue as series.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times