If the entertainment biz was high school back in 2005, Dave Chappelle was the Big Man On Campus. The comedian rose quickly in the New York stand-up circuit, and broke into film at the age of twenty, starring in Mel Brooks‘ Robin Hood: Men in Tights. After a few failed TV shows, a film flop (Half Baked), and the disastrous decision to turn down the role of Bubba in Forrest Gump, he scored a serious hit on Comedy Central with Chappelle’s Show.
Dave combined comedy sketches (which often commented on pop culture, race, and class issues) with stand-up and live hip-hop acts, and the formula worked. In just two seasons the show had legions of fans, earned two Emmy nods, and the Season One discs became the bestselling TV-series DVD of all time–surpassing the 3 million mark. TV execs freaked and forked over a $55 million contract to try and snag the star for two more seasons. Instead, in May 2005, Chappelle ran out during production of season three, hopping a plane to Africa and ending the show for good.
Dave later returned to the States, though not to the small screen. In his first interview since his bizarre meltdown, he told Oprah Winfrey, “I wasn’t crazy but it is incredibly stressful … I felt in a lot of instances I was deliberately being put through stress because when you’re a guy who generates money, people have a vested interest in controlling you.”