INTERVIEW: Dave Chappelle, on weed

Crashed out on the couch, unmoving, inert. The quiet is calming. You smile, noticing your heart pumping blood up and down your arms in short, quick bursts. Your roommate sits quietly flicking his toenails with focused fascination.

“Oh glory days,” you think. Your freshman paranoia has passed. “No CFs are coming in here, and even if they do, we’ve got that two-way fan in the window.” Suddenly, in a rush it strikes you. Pausing only a moment to wonder what happened to your bag of Cheetos, you declare in the proudest of stoner voices, “We should watch Half Baked.” Giddy laughter ensues. After a moment your roommate responds, “get the tape.” Eventually you will, but for now you’re overwhelmed by a new urge. “We should order a pizza.”

As American as apple pie, as classic as Cadillac … it’s marijuana.

“As far as drugs are concerned, Americans consume 70 percent of all the illicit drugs on Earth. Obviously drugs are a part of this culture,” he says.

It’s Dave Chappelle – on weed.

Chappelle, best known for his role in stoner classic Half Baked, has made a name using his offbeat humor. Spouting one-liners about racism and pot, he’s maneuvered gracefully in the comedy world, starred on the silver screen and now found his niche in television as the star of Comedy Central’s aptly name “Chappelle Show.”

On the other end of the phone Chappelle is quiet, composed and at times disinterested with the interview. Every question becomes an attempt to perk him up after a long day of spitting quotes at unwieldy journalists. So Mr. Chappelle, do you get offered a lot of free weed on the road?

“For sure,” he responds, adding later, “(But) I’m certain there’s more to me than that.”

Really? Then why all the weed jokes last year when you performed in GW’s Smith Center?

“I was probably on stage, noticed a lot of stoned people, and said ‘I’m gonna tell them weed jokes.'”

Fair enough Dave. So what about this so-called serious side? Born in D.C., Chappelle made his way at the illustrious Duke Ellington School for the Performing Arts. He may have been a serious student, but that doesn’t mean he had an easy time coming up.

“I was in high school during the ’80s when D.C. was the murder capital, because of the crack trade,” says Chappelle, pausing briefly. “It was a racist city. It was a segregated city. It was a drug-infested city. All these things have made a major impression on me.”

Well yeah, but how specifically?

“I look at that time period as having a lot of gravity on my life. In the District of Columbia a lot of people being murdered were young men, my age. It forces you to make serious decisions about what you would and wouldn’t do.”

So what did you decide?

“Everyone wants to be money. But I had to realize I didn’t want to sell drugs for my money. I didn’t think it was morally right, and it just looked scary. If the stakes were death and jail, I just didn’t want to go that far.”

Good boy, Dave. Another thing Chappelle has decided, more recently as it turns out, is to write and produce a sketch show for Comedy Central. The road has been good to him, so the question begs asking, why the move? Why TV?

“The thing about the show is, it’s real specific. It’s the kind of thing where you might gain some fans, you might lose some fans. I just needed a place for me and my real fans to meet every week.”

Fair enough, but what makes this comedian qualified to spread his face across the airwaves? As Chappelle sees it, he’s got a one-up on everyone else out there. “I’m a young dude. I’m still in my 20s,” he says.

Chappelle said the source of his humor is his ability to connect with his audience. He’s into the same music and riding the same trends. In other words, he knows what’s cool. While his target audience might get it, Chappelle admits that sometimes the execs, and indeed his mother, do not.

“There’s things that this generation deals with that are very specific,” Chappelle said. “There’s certain jokes that I might do on my show that my mom will hear and think I’m crazy.”

Mothers aside, Chappelle admits that some jokes are in poor taste.

“I’d say I censor myself more then the network does. There’s some things that I cut out because I’m like “eww, I don’t wanna go that far.”

This coming from a man whose GW performance included sex jokes, weed jokes and a rather unfortunate bit about a goat? Chappelle says that the road show is different.

“I’m sure that there’s stuff that happens that I might not touch, just for fear of being misunderstood,” says Chappelle. “I’m sure that I have a my limit, but as a policy, (I) just kind of go for it.”

So we know he’s having fun, but is there a serious message in Chappelle’s comedy? Does he feel he’s making a statement?

“Who? Me? Nahhh,” says Chappelle. “Nobody comes to Hollywood to make a statement. People come to Hollywood to make money. I ain’t the cat that you should be getting your moral spiritual guidance from. I’m a comedian.”

One statement that Chappelle does make onstage and onscreen is that he loves the female form. Should people take offense to the comedian’s love of breasts?

“It’s harmless,” says Chappelle. “I mean, women have breasts. Men like breasts. It’s a fact of life. I didn’t create the facts, I’m just throwing in my opinion.”

And that opinion is?

“I concur, they’re great.”

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