Dave Chappelle Reveals the Gut-Wrenching Moment He Turned Down $50 Million. tt

Dave Chappelle recently talked about leaving his $50 million Comedy Central contract on Letterman. He cited mental health reasons for leaving at the peak of Chappelle’s Show, highlighting that money isn’t everything.

In the interview with David Letterman earlier this week, Dave Chappelle finally opened up about what it felt like to walk away from his infamous $50 million Comedy Central contract. If you remember, Dave shocked the world when he suddenly departed at the peak of his sketch series Chappelle’s Show. For those who might not have been old enough or paying attention, it’s hard to convey just how massive Chappelle’s Show was. I was in college at the time (pre-DVR era), and the entire campus would practically come to a standstill when a new episode aired. The next day, you couldn’t go ten feet without hearing someone quote a sketch (“WHAT!??? OK!”). The show had such a profound impact on me personally that it played a significant role in my decision to spend a summer interning at Comedy Central in New York. I literally worked the entire summer for free in hopes of meeting Dave (which didn’t happen).

After two seasons, Dave Chappelle was a bonafide superstar, and Comedy Central moved swiftly to lock him down with a massive $50 million long-term contract. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he walked away from it all and disappeared to South Africa. A truncated third season was hastily put together without Dave, but that marked the end. In total, the world only got 28 episodes of Chappelle’s Show.

In 2004, Dave told one of his stand-up audiences that the show was ruining his life. He suggested that being constantly bombarded with his famous catchphrases was driving him insane, and the day-to-day grind of putting a show together had become unbearable. It was also preventing him from pursuing stand-up comedy, which had always been Dave’s true passion. During the David Letterman interview (which is absolutely worth watching in its entirety), Dave directly addressed the lost $50 million:

Dave Chappelle's Betrayal | GQ

“There aren’t too many people who don’t think I’m crazy. So, I look at it like this: I’m at a restaurant with my wife. It’s a nice restaurant. We’re having dinner. I look across the room and I say, ‘You see that guy over there? He’s got $100 million. And we’re eating the same entree. So, sure, I don’t have $50 million or whatever it was, but let’s say I have $10 million in the bank. The difference in lifestyle is minuscule. The only difference between having $10 million and $50 million is an astounding $40 million. Of course, I would like to have that money… There’s nothing anyone can say. It’s just you do what you feel like you need to do… I’ve felt a variety of ways in the last 10 years. You know, whenever there’s something that I’d like to have that I could’ve afforded that I can’t now afford, well, then I’m upset about it.”

“Money is the fuel for choices. Money gives me choices. That’s not nothing, that’s something. I can choose where my kids go to school, I can choose what I want to eat in a given day. But it’s not the end-all-be-all. There are other things in my life that I did not purchase with money that are very valuable.

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