Dave Chappelle Once Disappeared to South Africa Without Telling His Wife

In 2005, Dave Chappelle walked away from his highly successful sketch comedy series, Chappelle’s Show, and disappeared. The move surprised Comedy Central and fans. It also surprised his wife. Chappelle once revealed that his decision to leave the show behind and go to South Africa completely shocked his wife.

Former Chappelle's Show host Dave Chappelle wears a black jacket and sunglasses.
Comedian Dave Chappelle | Christopher Polk/Getty Images for NARAS

Dave Chappelle hosted the wildly successful ‘Chappelle’s Show’

In 2003, Chappelle began hosting Chappelle’s Show, a half-hour sketch series that aired on Comedy Central. Each show featured a brief stand-up set by Chappelle before shifting into pre-recorded skits. Most episodes also included a musical performance. Its barbed satire and punchy commentary pushed comedic boundaries and lifted the show to massive success. 

The show ran for two full seasons. After Chappelle exited the series, Comedy Central released a series of previously unaired sketches to constitute an abbreviated third season.

He walked away from the program in 2005

Ahead of the third season, Chappelle exited the series. Comedy Central offered him a staggering $50 million for the new season, but Chappelle could not emotionally continue with the show.

“I wasn’t walking away from the money. I was walking away from the circumstances,” he told Oprah in a 2006 appearance on her show. 

“When you’re a guy that generates a lot of money, people have a vested interest in controlling you,” he added. 

Dave Chappelle in a white jacket onstage in 2003.
Dave Chappelle (Photo by M. Caulfield/WireImage for Essence Entertainment)

According to Chappelle, he felt suffocated as he worked on the series and reached a point where he had to leave. He decided to walk away from the deal and go to South Africa, where he had family friends. Ahead of the decision, he called his brother to make sure someone knew his whereabouts. Ultimately, though, he didn’t tell his wife before he got on the plane.

“It wasn’t like I didn’t tell my wife. It was like, I’m not telling her until after I’m gone, which was a mistake. But it wasn’t a crazy mistake. It’s just a dude’s,” he explained.

Fortunately for Chappelle, his wife forgave him, and they’re still happily together. He noted that she wasn’t entirely thrilled with the decision, however.

“My wife’s still a little salty… She’s not mad at me, but don’t think you’re going to walk away from $50 million, and your wife’s just gonna be cool with it,” he said on Late Night with Conan O’Brien

‘Chappelle’s Show’ is available for streaming

Recently, Chappelle’s Show arrived on Netflix and then abruptly left. In the fall of 2020, Chappelle asked fans to boycott the show so that ViacomCBS could rectify their contract. He alleged that the company licensed the show for streaming without providing him with any additional compensation. Ultimately, the boycott worked, and streaming services pulled the show. 

In February 2021, the show returned to Netflix and HBO Max. 

“When you stopped watching it, they called me,” The New York Times reported that Chappelle said on his Instagram. “And I got my name back, and I got my license back, and I got my show back, and they paid me millions of dollars. Thank you very much.”

Chappelle’s Show is currently still available for streaming on Netflix and HBO Max. 

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