It’s always exciting when you hear that some of the best comedians out there experienced the most rejection. Dave Chappelle not only had to work his way up in stand-up, but he also worked pretty hard on his acting resume, a typical outcome for those who graduate from a performing arts high school.
Chappelle’s ambition started early on, around 14, when he decided that he wanted to be a comedian. He was so focused on making that dream reality that he is the one who sought out art school. He was the one who asked to be driven to comedy clubs performing at open mics.
This determination landed him a spot, at 16, during the Apollo Theater’s Amateur Night. An iconic venue where many successful artists got their start, from Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown and Michael Jackson. That night, however ,had a different effect on Chappelle; After going through a comedians biggest fear he quickly learned how to deal with rejection, which Chappelle is still no stranger to even after years of success.
The now fearless Chappelle took off after high school performing stand-up and auditioning for every opportunity. He performed on HBO’s Def Comedy Jam to Star Search in 1993, the same year Beyonce made an appearance with her girl group.
Chappelle was no stranger to disappointment which helped him pursue an acting career. Unfortunately he struggled to fit in Hollywood TV. He did get his name out there filming 11 pilots. One did get picked up, but it was canceled after five episodes (Buddies).
It was in film where Chappelle was offered more roles, one in particular that boosted his social status, the 1998 cult favorite Half Baked. This opportunity all0wed him to showcase his writing abilities as well.
That success was enough for Fox execs to offer him his own show. Their only condition was that they wanted Chappelle to hire more “white” characters. However, he walked away from Fox’s offer only to find himself a better deal at Comedy Central where he started the Chappelle’s Show.
In 2003 it became the highest rated show for Comedy Central. Such pressure of success came tension that was apparent when Chappelle disappeared in 2005 before filming a third season. Chappelle did what other actors only dream of, he was able to escape Hollywood. He was gone long enough to put things in perspective and map out his own future.
After taking a eight year hiatus, in February 2013 at New York’s Comedy Cellar, Chappelle surprised fans by performing a set and returning to where he excels. The man does stand up so well it’s a shame to see him anywhere but in front of a mic.