Fans who were hoping that Dave Chappelle would soon return to work are not going to want to hear this.
Charlie Murphy, a writer and actor on the funnyman's top-rated Chappelle's Show, dropped a bombshell to the New York Post Wednesday, saying that, to his knowledge, the hit Comedy Central series has officially run its course.
"I don't think Dave is going to do it anymore," Murphy told the Post. "We shot about eight shows for the third season, and they're hilarious. They'll be released on DVD, I'm sure. But that's it."
Murphy, the older brother of comic actor Eddie Murphy, has emerged out of his sibling's shadow thanks to his dual roles as both a writer and performer on Chappelle's Show. Viewers know him best in one skit, Charlie Murphy's True Hollywood Stories, in which he played himself relating real-life tales of hanging out with his more famous brother and whooping funk "Superfreak" Rick James' ass.
The segment caught fire thanks to Chappelle, who played James and turned "I'm Rick James, bitch!" into an instantly popular catchphrase, launching Chappelle's Show into the ratings stratosphere.
Season three of Chappelle's Show was supposed to premiere May 31, but production ground to a halt last April after Chappelle disappeared on an impromptu South African "spiritual retreat".
According to Murphy, all was "fun, very normal" during shooting. One new skit they did for the new season was one of the funniest bits they ever came up with.
"It was hilarious," Murphy recalled to the Post. "I was Frankenstein, Dave was the Wolfman, Donnell [Rawlings] was the Mummy. We were living together and experiencing problems, because we're monsters. But I thought it was because I was black that all these things were happening, not because I was Frankenstein."
All for naught apparently.
Chappelle's abrupt absence led wild press speculation as to why he went MIA.
Newsweek was the first to take a stab, reporting that friends blamed a combination of too much partying, overwhelming pressure to make good on his $50 million contract and creative sparring with Comedy Central executives led to the meltdown.
But Chappelle later said such suggestions were half-baked.
"I'm not crazy, I'm not smoking crack. I'm definitely stressed out," he told Time magazine in his only comments on the matter.
The comedian added that it was only now beginning to dawn on him just how much of a pop culture sensation Chappelle's Show had become, and the trip was necessary to clear his head and mull the show's creative future.
In late May, Chappelle eventually surfaced in his hometown of Yellow Springs, Ohio, before heading back to Los Angeles in early June and performing a series of surprise standup routines in area comedy clubs.
In another interview with TV Guide, however, Murphy indicated that Chappelle decided to pull the plug because he wanted to work on the new stand-up material for a big show he'd like to take out on the road later this year.
"I'm disappointed it ended the way it did, but I'm not angry with anybody," he said. "Chappelle's Show was like the Tupac of TV shows. It came out, it got everybody's attention, it was a bright shining star, but it burned out and for some strange reason, it burned out quick."
But as far as network president, Doug Herzog, has previously stated, the door is wide open for the entertainer's return.
"The ball's in Dave's court," Herzog told the Hollywood Reporter recently. "If you see him, tell him to phone home."
The loss of its top show has turned out not to have done much damage. Comedy Central ratings are actually up a bit this season, though Herzog acknowledged they'd be higher with Chappelle's irreverent humor aboard.
In any case, until they get an official confirmation from Chappelle as to what his plans are, fans will just have to be satisfied with the release of the first two seasons of Chappelle's Show on DVD, both of which have been selling like hotcakes and snagged the title for the fastest-selling DVD of a TV series ever.
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