What Does Neal Brennan Think White People Need To Know About Black People?
A Q&A on race, comedy, and society with the co-creator of Chappelle's Show on the eve of his own Comedy Central stand-up special. "Everyone’s racist, white people just make laws about it — that’s the big difference."
Very few white Americans are as willing and eager to talk about race — our country's thorniest topic since, well, before we even were America — as Neal Brennan, the co-creator of Chappelle's Show. Brennan and Dave Chappelle wrote and produced virtually every sketch of the series, which is the best-selling TV show DVD of all time. Today, between writing and directing for network TV and Hollywood, Brennan co-hosts The Champs, a podcast that exclusively features black guests (with rare exceptions for white rappers) and provides a rare candid glimpse into the lives of black performing artists.
This Saturday, Comedy Central is airing his first televised hour-long stand-up special, Women and Black Dudes. In the act, Brennan talks about meeting President Obama, chastises himself for accidentally using the n-word in his interior monologue, and, perhaps most controversially, presents a theory about why women are always complaining about being cold at parties.
This conversation — about everything from the early days of the Chappelle's Show to what he sees as the "gotcha" culture of racial issues on Twitter to the insights he's gleaned about the black experience from Questlove, Eddie Murphy, and others — is culled from four interviews and numerous email exchanges that took place over the last several months.
In a sense, Brennan has made introducing black America to white America his life's work. His advice for how white people should act around black people? "It's an odd thing. You treat them like human beings."
Let's start from the beginning. What were race relations like where you grew up?
Neil Brennan: People always assume I grew up in black neighborhood, but I grew up in Wilmette, which is a rich, white enclave outside of Chicago.
Like, Ferris Bueller?
NB: It's literally Ferris Bueller. I remember when I used to caddy, this guy I worked with said they were shooting a movie at this house in the neighborhood and I said, "Which movie?" It was Ferris Bueller.
You were a caddy?
NB: Yeah, and I caddied at the same golf course that Bill Murray and his brothers caddied at — the one Caddyshack is partially based on.
So your whole childhood was an '80s comedy.
NB: Absolutely. I started caddying when I was 11 and I'd be caddying for people who lived on my street. There was this weird class thing. My dad was a tax attorney, so it's not that I didn't have any money, but my parents were super-duper Depression era — my dad was born in 1930 and my mom was born in 1933 — so they believed in instilling work ethic.
NB: Caddying was so rich with tension — the deference you were supposed to pay to rich guys. Like they were titans.
Some of this experience must have become material.
NB: There's a joke in Half-Baked that was based on my experience caddying. One of the scientists at the lab calls Dave Chappelle's character Thurgood "Janitor" and he responds, "Yes, Scientist?"
That's straight from caddying. They called me "Caddy," and I replied, "Yes, Lawyers?"
Were there any black golfers?
NB: No. God no.
So, not too many black people around where you grew up.
NB: No, Chicago is really segregated. One of my brothers was an usher at the Cubs games. Most of the other ushers were black and when I'd go to the games, they were all super nice to me — all sweet guys. I guess that would be my introduction to black people.
You once said, "The reason I get along with black dudes better … is because they're heartbroken and I'm heartbroken. My family broke my heart and America broke black people's heart." Can you expand on that?
NB: There were things I may not have gotten from my family experience that may also have been missing from a lot of black dudes I'm friends with.
The thing about being one of 10 kids is that it's crazy. I mean, there's a reason why people stopped doing it. It's literally too many people — the whole grab bag for attention, crabs in a barrel thing. Both of my parents later admitted, "Yeah, that was too many people." There were a lot of other things that made it chaotic. Irish. Catholic. Alcohol...
Your father could be described as an alcoholic?
NB: I think he was but I think there are still people in my family who still aren't convinced, because he wasn't a cartoon. But it was insidious. There are people in my family who, if they read this article, will be like, "I can't believe he's saying that."
What did your parents think of Chappelle's Show?
NB: I think they liked how successful I was.
But they didn't like the content of the show?
NB: It was like, "What? What is this?" My mom certainly liked the show. But my dad created a lot of competitiveness between me and my siblings and sort of never gave it up.
So what was the measure of success?
Well, I guess you won.
NB: Yeah. My brother Joey used to keep track of how much all the siblings made. But once I got the show it was like, "OK, this is stupid."
Did your siblings watch the show?
NB: I'm not even sure. I think some of them did and some didn't.
The president of the United States told you he thought Chappelle's Show was one of the greatest shows of all time. And you're not sure if your own family members watched it?
NB: (Pauses) Yeah. I could go down the list and tell you who probably watched it and who didn't, but I honestly don't know. Half of us don't talk to each other.
Did you ever get called "wigger" growing up?
NB: No, I looked like a regular suburban white kid growing up.
Did you ever use your Irish ethnicity as a way to differentiate yourself from "regular white people"?
NB: Chappelle used to do this joke about Irish people being the niggers of Europe. I'm the one who told him that, and when I did, I said it proudly, like "I'm just like you!" But, no, I didn't do a whole lot of salesmanship with trying to get any kind of cred.
Can you talk about the beginning of your friendship with Dave Chappelle?
NB: I was going to NYU for film, but I was working the doors at the Boston Comedy Club and I ended up liking comedians way more than I liked film students. At the time, the comedians that I liked were Dave Chappelle, Jon Stewart, Ray Romano, all these unknown comedians. Louis CK and I worked on a couple of his first short films — I'm in a couple of those short films. I remember Louie gave me a hundred bucks to PA and I was fucking horrible. He literally threw the money at me; it was hilarious. In "Caesar Salad" I play Crazy Pumpkin Head Man and in "Ice Cream" I play, like, somebody's brother. There's a period in my life where I had a Kurt Cobain bob and I was hitting puberty at 18, 19, 20. I looked, like, 11 with a bob. I had no cheekbones. I was just this pale…
And me and Dave were the only young guys. We kind of bonded over music, hip-hop, Spike's movies, shared favorite TV shows growing up. And I started pitching stuff to him and we sort of developed this thing — but nothing official at all. Then I moved to L.A. to write for MTV and Nickelodeon and all these shows. He was doing well as a comedian, doing movies like [The] Nutty Professor and Robin Hood: Men in Tights. It was mostly a shared aesthetic.
Was Dave as political as you?
NB: He always referred to left-right politics as wrestling. He sees the whole thing as a farce. I'm not quite as cynical.
I read somewhere that Dave said that your comedy comes from you being obsessed with justice.
NB: He said he never met anyone as obsessed with justice as me. You know that thing where you one person cuts a sandwich and the other person picks which side? The first time I saw that, I couldn't believe how great it was. I was like, "That is so fucking fair, it's crazy."
But generally, I'm interested in the idea of disabusing people of the idea that life is fair — because it's so obviously unfair.
You guys opened Chappelle's Show with "Clayton Bigsby, The Black White Supremacist," arguably the most provocative sketch you've ever done on race.
NB: It was a great sketch and also a really good tone-setter. Dave and I both used to watch Frontline on PBS all the time. The premise is so unbelievably good. It was based on Dave's grandfather, who was mixed race. The day Martin Luther King got shot, he was on a bus, and he was super light-skinned — and blind. A bunch of black dudes surrounded him and were like, "Fuck you doin' on this bus, cracker?" And he literally thought, Who are they talking to? This cracker's in a lot of trouble.
[We wrote the sketch] when the show got picked up, when we first started writing, we were at his house for like two weeks. We used to watch that Lauryn Hill Unplugged over and over again, because the songs were great and she was clearly having a meltdown. It was like, "Oh, this shit is pungent." It's got everything in it: race, class, intelligence, consumerism, religion, pressure.
Did you have a sense when writing that sketch that this might be some really good shit?
NB: No. I can't stress enough how cold both of our careers were. It wasn't like, "This is going to be some really meaningful, great shit." It was like, "I hope, maybe, they'll let us back into show business if we do this." And it was also like, "This could be not funny at all." With comedy it's always just hoping. You don't really know until you do it. You don't really categorize it as different from your other bits.
Were you struggling financially before the show blew up?
NB: No, I was writing scripts, but I wasn't flush with cash. I remember an opportunity came up to write Snow Dogs 2 and I was like, "I'll work in a gas station. I don't give a fuck. I'm not doing bullshit."
Key and Peele is called Key and Peele. Your show was just Chappelle's Show. Was there ever any discussion about calling it Dave and Neal?
NB: Look, Dave's off the charts. He's one in a billion. It's not like I ever thought, That should be me. I should be Tyrone Biggums. Oh, he doesn't have a white crack-friend? This is bullshit. Chappelle's holding me back.
You don't watch Dave and be like, "I could do that." I was talking to Chris [Rock] recently, and he was like, "There's just some cosmic shit about Dave." I'm like, "No kidding!" People wonder how we sold so many DVDs and it's like, "Because people wanna eat his head!"
You've described Chappelle's Show as "racially ambidextrous." What did you mean?
NB: Dave can talk about white people and black people with equal veracity and so can I.
Why is that?
NB: He can switch like that because he's really smart but he can also because he grew up around white people, like half of his childhood was split between Ohio and D.C. And I can do it, I don't know. I guess it's just being observant and then having enough experience with, for lack of a better word, black people. And also, a lot of it's just human fucking behavior. It's not necessarily like, "That's some black shit right there!" It's like, "No, it's just a human thing."
Some people question whether a white person should even be writing black characters.
NB: I think anyone can write about anything that they have knowledge of and exposure to. I think the best black screenwriter is Quentin Tarantino. Quentin may write better black characters than Spike. I mean, Sam Jackson in Pulp Fiction is fucking unbelievable. That would be Exhibit A. I actually think that's why Spike gets mad at Quentin. Quentin happens to write unbelievably rich black characters.
So does David Simon.
NB: There's Exhibit B. Omar is the best black TV character, one of the best TV characters of all time. I think saying a white person can't write black characters is as racist as anything on earth. And it's also insulting to black people. It's like, "So, are you not human?" Because I can write about humans. A white person writing about black people is writing about humanity with a slight vernacular spin.
A lot of people are saying Key and Peele is the best show on race since Chappelle's Show. What do you see as the differences between the two shows?
NB: We were way angrier. Way more, sort of, revolutionary, you know? Not like we started a revolution by any stretch. I'm thinking of the sketch where we had a white girl sing Dave's thoughts and she sang, "Crack was invented and distributed to intentionally destroy the black community. AIDS was too." I can't imagine Key and Peele saying something like that, mostly because I don't think they believe that. There's a good chance Dave did/does. It was funny, but it's definitely from an angry, paranoid place.
Key and Peele approached you to direct the first episode. Why'd you say no?
NB: I get all these offers to do the black thing. I've had two different people ask me to write two different Wu-Tang movies. I thought if I took the Key and Peele job I'd never be able to direct a white sketch show. They'd go, "The only sketches you've done are black. Do you even know how to communicate with white people?"
Is there a difference between those two audiences?
NB: In my estimation black humor is more visceral. I have a theory, and it's been borne out of a bunch of times, that the average black guy on the street is funnier than the average white comedian. Black dudes are fucking funny. A lot of black people don't really love sarcasm, in my experience. They like wetter comedy, physical bits, bits that are embodied, energy. As a comedian in a white club, you can just stand there and people will be fine with it. At a black club, you just stand there and they're like, "All right…" At a black club, you're on the clock — you can't just stand there.
Let's talk about your podcast, The Champs, for a minute. You and your co-host Moshe Kasher only invite black guests.
NB: People almost never hear white people and black people talking for more than like two minutes. And white people are still sort of baffled by the fact that I have a lot of black friends. Look, I get a lot of access; I hear things that most people don't get, from hanging out with black guys.
Ahmir [Questlove] probably gave me the best compliment I've gotten about the show. I saved it in my phone: "Y'all ask questions about the science of comedy which leads to psychological angles. I'm just not used to hearing black people talk about human shit."
Can you give an example of something you learned from your guests?
NB: Actually, when Ahmir came on the show he said something that blew my mind. He said black dudes are never allowed to be a 3 — they're either a 1 or a 5. They're either an extraordinary artist or politician, or they're a piece of shit. That's something I think about all the time.
Chris Rock has actually said something similar — about how we'll know we've finally achieved racial equality when black people are allowed to be mediocre.
Though you know, come to think of it, Obama's pretty mediocre.
Ha! Obama's one of the most successful people of all time.
NB: Of course. He's an extraordinary person. He's an amazingly smart dude — an amazingly impressive dude — but he's a mediocre president. No, you know what, he's a mediocre Democrat.
Back to the podcast.
NB: There's been a thousand things that I wish white people understood. White people couldn't believe, they couldn't fathom, the fact that there were people in New Orleans, during Katrina, who didn't have cars. You know what I mean? They were like "just drive out." They don't have a car! People have a hard time believing — politicians especially and people on the right — that you can work 60 hours a week and still not afford health insurance. You can! It's like the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps," which Chappelle used to constantly scream is physically impossible to do. It can't be done. Although I think that's how Floyd Mayweather does sit-ups. He looks like he's pulling himself up by his bootstraps. If nothing else I want white people to know what an ongoing pain in the ass being black is.
One of the most racially insightful things that I've ever seen in my entire life wasn't on the podcast. This is name-droppy as shit, but… It was at Eddie Murphy's house. It was me, Dave, [Paul] Mooney, Charlie [Murphy] hanging out watching TV in Eddie's 50,000-square-foot mansion. He happens to flip to Turner Classic Movies and The Al Jolson Story is on. Jolson is on TV, singing in blackface. And Eddie says, "You know, I understand that every race of people has gone through a bunch of shit in this country, but this being black shit… It's like the twilight zone. Because why the fuck is this on my TV still?"
I don't think he would have said that in a room full of white people. I was probably the only white person there. And that's kind of like, most black people I know, that's their experience — the twilight zone. It's, like, not exotic to be black — it's inconvenient and odd. It's not artistic — like, "Now the blues are gonna well up in me" — it just stinks. Most of the time, as a black guy, it just stinks. It's like, "I'm not gonna write a rap about it, I'm not gonna make a joke about it, there's nothing to do about it other than to say that it's weird and it hurts my feelings. And it's relentless." It's constant alienation, for no reason. And that's the thing I really hope to get across to white people.
What — this is a deliberately stupid question — what advice would you give to a white person about how to act around a black person?
NB: It's an odd thing. You treat them like human beings. I learned a long time ago, don't bring up race in an unsolicited way. If you're friends with somebody, it'll come up. And then just talk to 'em like people. It's really obvious. Just treat them like human beings.
You know what's funny? I think white people are really afraid of offending them and they also are really afraid of, of seeming dorky. I also think that they're trying to be empathetic but the way that they do it comes out — it sounds crazy. It's like, "Oh, because you're black? You were caught in traffic? Why? Did the cops pull you over for no reason? On account of your being black? You were having problems with your girlfriend, or your baby mama or whatever you guys call it?" It's like, a good portion of their lives has nothing to do with being black. Sometimes traffic's bad. And there's a perfectly good chance they don't have a child with their girlfriend. Try not to project stereotypes onto their lives. I say this because I've been guilty of it.
It's kind of a catch-22, right? Because the only way to get over that stuff is to spend more time hanging out with black people but in order to do that in the first place you have to stop being awkward and act natural and normal and that's a big hurdle for a lot of people.
NB: It takes 10,000 hours.
What drives you craziest about the way this country talks about race?
NB: It's too focused on symptoms and not diseases. But it's not even focused on symptoms. It's focused on these stupid fucking flash points, like Paula Deen saying "nigger." It's like, who fucking cares? Who gives a fuck? So great, she lost her job. So what does that mean? So white people are going to be less apt to say nigger in public now? First of all, white people who wanna say nigger in conversation don't need permission from Paula Deen and they're not gonna stop because Paula Deen got fired. Generally they're not in great positions of power to begin with.
No one's talking about infant mortality, incarceration, school outcomes, how black people can't get loans. Because that shit is hard and requires work. The whole thing has to be readdressed. It's largely about class more than anything and that shit never gets addressed the way it's approached now. I think the movement that could have done the most to address race in this country was Occupy Wall Street. And that's because it was addressing class more than any movement in my lifetime.
But, instead, it's like, "Paula Deen's racist!" And it's like if you say someone's racist, it means you couldn't possibly be racist yourself. It absolves you from any sort of racism you may harbor. My experience with racism is that every single human being on earth is racist. Every single human being on earth is sexist. Any sort of discrimination you can possibly have? A human being has it. Everyone's racist, white people just make laws about it — that's the big difference.
It does seem like whenever these racial flashpoint events occur, instead of taking the moment to examine their beliefs, people on both sides use them to confirm these beliefs.
NB: I'm as guilty of that as anybody.
Me too. Even before many of the details of the Trayvon Martin case came out, for example, I decided I already knew what happened.
NB: Yeah, like, the fact that Zimmerman wasn't white. It was almost like, "What? Argh! Wait — so this isn't gonna be simple?" It's vague, and that shit drives people crazy.
You've been called out on Twitter for some of your comments on race. How have you dealt with critics who charge you with being offensive?
NB: The gotcha culture has never been worse. People have watched the media do it for so long, they're now doing their own citizen's arrests.
I had an argument with a girl on Twitter about Girls not having a black character. Her criticism was very pointed, but I felt like I could have a conversation with her. So I ended up DM'ing with her. I was basically saying that I don't think they should be forced to have a black character. It's Lena's show, she should be able to express whatever she wants. And I'm gonna bet Lena doesn't have that many black girlfriends. Or maybe she does and didn't think there was a place for one in a show.
Was Sex and the City better because they had Blair Underwood on once? Who cares? And also, it's like, hey, white people — can you relate to a black character? How about black people, can you relate to a white character? An Asian character? Are their problems so different from yours that you can't watch Sex and the City?
What about the controversy over the lack of black performers and writers on Saturday Night Live?
NB: Saturday Night Live belongs to one person: Lorne Michaels. The idea that you have to fill some kind of quota for an artistic endeavor is insane. There's an old Mort Sahl joke from literally 50 years ago and the minute I heard it, it blew my mind. He said, "The NAACP was picketing me last night, because I don't have enough negroes in my act."
Lorne's just doing a sketch show. No one was routinely writing black female sketches on that staff. Will that change now that there's a black female on the staff? Yeah, but I don't think the show will necessarily be better. And I don't think black people are gonna watch it more. Black people don't routinely watch Saturday Night Live.
Don't you think they would though, if there were more black people on it?
NB: If there were five black people on there, and it was an overall black voice, they absolutely would. But it's not overall a black voice. Chappelle's Show was a black voice. In Living Color was a black voice. But overall, that's not what that show is.
But you've said you think black people, on average, are funnier than white people. If black people are funnier, why are there so few on SNL? Is it just because SNL has a culturally different style of humor?
NB: Yeah. Yeah. That's something people don't want to acknowledge. There are cultural differences in humor. Like I said, there are jokes you could do in a black club that destroy, and if you did them in a white club they would literally not know what the hell you're talking about. The same way there's a British sense of humor, there's a black [American] sense of humor and a white [American] sense of humor. And there are people who can do all of them well.
SNL is not the NYPD. Our tax dollars are not paying for SNL. It's not a government program. SNL owes exactly nothing to people. SNL is an artistic endeavor that's been successful for 40 years — one of the longest-running shows in TV history — because of who runs it and how he runs it. So the fact that bloggers are now saying he's not doing it correctly… Motherfucker, if you were in charge, shit would have gotten canceled in 1978! I'm not saying Lorne's infallible. But he has a good system in place that's given us star after star — that shit is not a coincidence.
In the context of a joke about getting habituated to hearing the word until you're accidentally using it yourself, you say "nigga" eight times in your special.
NB: It's something I've thought about a lot and I wouldn't say it in a public forum if I didn't have something funny and not fucked-up and personal to say.
George Saunders wrote an essay about Huck Finn. He addresses Twain's use of the n-word and he wonders, if, at times, Twain was using the word in a "swaggering" way. Saying it to get a rise. To some degree, I feel like when Louie did his "n-word" bit, he was swaggering a little. Do you ever worry you're using it that way?
NB: I've done the n-word joke a lot — half of the joke is about me being called it by my black friends and the other half is about whether I can use it in certain circumstances because I get called it. One black girl yelled at me in the middle of the joke. She was drinking an O'Douls, so: instant loss of credibility. But I've done it in all-black rooms — I did in front of Dr. Dre — and it's gotten a lot of laughs. The way I do the joke is — and I've never thought of it this way before — I'm basically defusing this bomb. I go up to the wires and figure out a way to cut them so the bomb doesn't blow up in my face.
I get called "nigga" constantly. I've been around rappers who know that when they say "You're my nigga" to a white person, white people get off on it. They use it as a manipulative tactic. I've seen Ice-T say "You're my nigga" to white people and it makes them swell with pride.
There are certain lines that I'll cross in my stand-up and I'll get a laugh that's kind of an "eh, that's fucked up" laugh. And then I just stop saying it. I think when I do these kinds of jokes, though, it's about pedigree and proximity. I'm squarely with black people. I'm not making fun of their plight. I'm kinda in it with them.
Are you comfortable using the n-word in casual conversation with black friends?
NB: Yeah. But if there's someone in the room who doesn't know both me and my friend, I'm not gonna say it. And I would never use it outside of the context we use it in — like I would never say, "So there were a bunch of niggers, and…" I've never used it in a negative way.
Also, I definitely don't do the bit when there's not a large amount of black people in the crowd. I did an hour in D.C. recently and there weren't enough black people in the crowd for me to do it. It feels fucked-up if there's only two or three black people. It puts them in a really awkward spot.
One of my favorite writers is Philip Roth. I don't know if you've ever heard of —
NB: Philip Roth's the best.
NB: Yeah it's the best.
When it came out, he got shit on by the Jewish community. Rabbis were holding it up and being like, "We need to ban this book. This is going to give all the anti-Semites all the ammo they need."
NB: Racist people, anti-Semites — they already have so much ammunition in their minds!
One of the reasons Chappelle quit the show, he says, is because he worried that sketches like the "Pixie" sketch were giving ammo to racists. And while he wasn't referring to you, he went on Oprah and talked about a white staffer laughing too hard at that sketch. Did it take you a while after that to feel comfortable enough to return to racial comedy?
NB: Yeah, but eventually, it's like, it's so in me.
The irony of what happened between us, though, is everyone saw it as this racial thing, but it wasn't. What happened was post-racial. I wasn't arguing with your black hero, I was arguing with my fucking friend of 15 years. We were arguing about racial comedy, but ultimately, I was arguing with my pain-in-the-ass friend. The way you have a television relationship with him, I have an actual relationship with him. Oprah and Dave made it into this racial thing, and I didn't see it that way. We were arguing about racial comedy, but we were arguing about a lot of shit.
And there are some people who act like you can't disagree with a black person. It's like, "No, I do fucking disagree with him." I was judging him for the content of his character! I was living Dr. King's dream!
You guys are still friends and I think that's surprising to people. Is it like a "water under the bridge" situation?
NB: There's a line from Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? that me and Dave used to say, because it's so evocative: "blood under the bridge." That stings and it's funny. [Between us] it's not quite blood. It's not quite water or blood. The thing is, we were friends for a reason. It's hard to — you know, I'll speak for me. I don't know why he's friends with me. First of all it's nice to talk to someone who's known you for a long time. I've known him for like 20 years. It's nice to know someone who shared an experience with you even though he had a wildly different interpretation of it. And also it's nice to talk to somebody who's as smart and funny as Dave Chappelle. There aren't a lot of them. I like talking to him. I would think that the first two are probably the same reason that he's friends with me. And also we had shared sensibility and a shared sense of humor and you know, that's why we're friends. And the rest of it, the stuff with the show? We just won't work together again. Doesn't mean we can't eat.
Was there a point at which one of you guys picked the phone and were like, fuck it, let's just go out and have a burger?
NB: Whatever day George Carlin died, whenever that was [June 22, 2008]. I went to the Comedy Store — it has a big window where you can see who's on stage. I parked and then went and saw that it was Dave and then got in my car and was like, "Fuck it," and drove away and then was like, you know, "Let me just say hi to him." We'd had one argument over the phone, after he did Oprah, and hadn't spoken since. So I watched him and he was really funny. He got offstage and I put my hand on him. He looked like he saw a ghost. We ended up talking on Sunset Boulevard for like three hours on a Sunday night into Monday morning — until probably 3:45. The funniest part was, all these comedians that knew we weren't talking — it was, like, relatively famous in the comedy community — and then they see these two guys, walking past, and they're probably thinking, are you going to fight? Even now when me and Dave are together, people are watching us to see if we're going to fight or maybe write a sketch.
Since then it's been like, you know, we eat. I know his wife. I know his kids. I know his brother and sister. I know a lot of his people so it's relatively easy. But it's not, like, you know. Someone was like, "You talk about Dave like he's your ex-wife." It is a thing. It's definitely, you know, I'm not at full strength talking about it. It definitely makes me upset or something. It's definitely like a charged relationship.
I think there's part of both us that hold each other very personally responsible for our part of it. But another part of us that sees the whole thing as very circumstantial. That what happened would have happened a lot of times out of 10 to any two people. You know what I mean? Charles Barkley says that "Father Time is undefeated." No one's ever defied age, you know. It's like, fame is the same way. Fame is undefeated. Fame will fuck everybody up. It will. Everybody gets fucked up. There's nobody who's fine. Everyone. Most famous people are coping in one way or another.
Now you're trying to make yourself a bigger name with your own stand-up career.
NB: I think that's what America's built on, is this stupid fucking carrot that they hold out, and there are a lot of times where I see it clearly as a mechanism for capitalism and then there are times where I see it as, "I need to get the carrot."
It's understandable not to want to be known as a suffix to someone else's career, though.
NB: Charlie Murphy has a joke where he's telling his son something and his son goes, "Fuck you, Eddie Murphy's brother." And for me it's like, "Fuck you, Dave Chappelle's partner."
When people say "When are you gonna do another Chappelle's Show?" I'm like "When are you gonna do one Chappelle's Show?"
Does looking back at the show make you feel like, I did some shit that made a difference?
NB: It's a weird thing but whenever I see Obama walk, suits hang on him the same way they hang on Dave. And I just think of that "Black Bush" sketch. And I don't think it had anything to do with… But much in the same way that Obama getting elected president is good for black people in a cellular, molecular way, having a guy like Dave on TV is empowering to black people because he's fucking brilliant. And having the smartest guy in the world be the same skin color as you has got to be empowering.