Chappelle, who famously abandoned his acclaimed and lucrative Comedy Central show in 2005, has largely shunned the public eye since last year resuming his stand-up career. In his wide-ranging act Wednesday, Chappelle made up for lost time, catching up to a decade of racial and societal change, skipping from
"I'm just back out here earning enough money to disappear again," he said mid-set as the sold-out crowd howled, collectively hoping he was joking.
The show was the first of nine scheduled for Chappelle at Radio City, easily his biggest platform in years. Music acts like the Roots,
Lipton, who hosted Chappelle years ago on "Inside the
Chappelle immediately referenced that night during a tangent on
But such "spills along the way," as Chappelle said of his admittedly "ill-conceived" comeback, weren't a part of Wednesday's performance. A noticeably more buff Chappelle first appeared with his silhouette projected large on a screen. He looked increasingly comfortable as his set went on, chain-smoked cigarettes and bumming one from an audience member.
Chappelle frequently wove into his performance a self-awareness of his iconic stature as a kind of J.D. Salinger of comedy. He often sounded confined by the role: "I'm too famous to say everything I think or feel," Chappelle said.
Of his abrupt exit from "Chappelle's Show" he said: "I just didn't feel like doing it anymore. It was dramatic, but I feel better."
When someone shouted that he should bring back the show, Chappelle joked that he'll do it right after making "Half-Baked 2" — an even unlikelier return to his past (his 1998 stoner comedy "Half-Baked").
But Chappelle's vivid storytelling, laconic delivery and unparalleled commentary on race in America were just as sharp as they were nine years ago. Bits — "pieces" he wryly called them — included imagining
Family life — a relatively new subject for the 40-year-old comedian — has given Chappelle some of his best new material. He told a tale of his wife showing up at an impromptu set after a marital spat, receiving an anonymous sex tape of himself and a woman made before his marriage, and sneaking bites from his children's packed school lunches when stoned late at night.
In the end, Chappelle looked reluctant to leave.
"This has been swell," he said, before adding several more anecdotes.
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