15 Fun Facts About Chappelle's Show

Comedy Central
Comedy Central

Considered by many to be one of the greatest sketch comedy shows of all time, Chappelle’s Show tackled race, contemporary issues, and the misadventures of Eddie Murphy’s older brother in an unflinching—and hilarious—way. The show’s meteoric rise in popularity during its second season led to its star, Dave Chappelle, signing a massive contract, only to then retreat from the spotlight, resulting in the show’s cancellation, which permanently cemented its place on the list of beloved television shows that ended too soon. Here are some facts about the series, which premiered 15 years ago today.

1. HUGH HEFNER INSPIRED DAVE CHAPPELLE TO CREATE THE SHOW.

One night, Dave Chappelle watched a special on Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner that was designed to resemble one of Hefner's Playboy parties. The host of the party interviewed musicians and comedians, who would then perform for Hef, some Playboy Bunnies, and other guests. On Inside the Actors Studio, Chappelle told James Lipton that he was weirdly inspired by it and called his Half Baked (1998) co-writer Neal Brennan to talk about it. “We started talking about variety shows, we wanted to do something that was real personal,” Chappelle recalled of their conversation, which led to the creation of Chappelle's Show.

2. HBO PASSED ON THE SHOW.

Not everyone was immediately sold on the concept. “We pitched to HBO and they looked at us like we were lepers,” Brennan told Free Press Houston.

3. CHAPPELLE AND BRENNAN LEARNED HOW TO WRITE THE SHOW BY READING A BOOK ABOUT SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.

The two read Live From New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told by Its Stars, Writers, and Guests, the oral history of the iconic sketch show compiled by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales, before shooting the pilot and writing sketches for the first season. Brennan said the book was “really informative and really helpful” to them.

4. DONNELL RAWLINGS CAME UP WITH HIS PLAYER HATER'S BALL CHARACTER ON THE FLY.

In an interview with King magazine, writer/actor/comedian Donnell Rawlings shared that his Player Hater's Ball character didn't come together until the very last minute. “Ten minutes before we go shoot ‘Player Haters’ Ball, my character didn’t have a name or anything,” Rawlings said. “I went to hair and makeup, told them to give me a Jheri-curl wig. Then I went to props, and I asked for a Moét bottle with an activator on it so I can just squirt my hair down. They didn’t have that, so they gave me the aerosol can … I didn’t have a name, dialogue or anything. Neal told me to make my name up. I walked past the mirror like twice, looked in it, and said, ‘Man, I feel beautiful!’ That’s when ‘Beautiful’ was born.”

5. WAYNE BRADY DIDN’T LIKE WHAT NEGRODAMUS SAID ABOUT HIM.

Wayne Brady was a fan of Chappelle’s Show and never missed an episode. But when he watched Paul Mooney, as Negrodamus, say “White people love Wayne Brady, because Wayne Brady makes Bryant Gumbel look like Malcolm X" in a sketch, he got upset. After buying drinks for some of the crew of the show at the NAACP Image Awards, Brady brought up his feelings about the sketch. Chappelle called him the next day, which led to a famous sketch in which Brady shows off his dark side.

6. CHAPPELLE WASN’T PLANNING ON PLAYING SAMUEL L. JACKSON IN THE SAMUEL JACKSON BEER COMMERCIAL.

Dave Chappelle and Bill Burr in 'Chappelle's Show'
Comedy Central

"We cast people, they'd do it, and we knew that wasn't how it needed to be done," Brennan said. "Dave knew how he wanted it so he just would do it. Instead of counting on someone else to capture our imagination, we just did it ourselves."

7. THE GUY DOING THE ROBOT WAS THE SHOW’S SET DESIGNER.

Karl Lake first found his way in front of the camera during an And-1 sketch. "We thought it would be funny if people were just bugging out," Brennan told The Root. "To heighten the bug out, [set designer] Karl Lake just started doing the robot. It's so dumb that we kept doing it, and it just became a thing."

8. THEY FILMED THE RACIAL DRAFT SKETCH ACROSS THE STREET FROM JAY Z’S (THEN) FINAL CONCERT.

RZA disappeared for one hour during the shoot, delaying the production. He came back and explained he went over to Madison Square Garden to watch some of the concert.

9. BOBBY BROWN WAS GOING TO DO THE STD PUPPET SCENE, BUT HE GOT ARRESTED.

To replace Brown for the Kneehigh Park sketch, they called Andre 3000 and Pharrell, with no luck. Q-Tip said yes, and Snoop Dogg went from being cast in a “Weed Olympics” sketch that got cut to get involved, too.

10. IT’S CREDITED WITH MAKING LIL JON POPULAR.

Chappelle's “A Moment in the Life of Lil Jon” sketch launched the hip-hop artist into super-stardom. “This Dave Chappelle sh** just really put me on a different level," Lil Jon told MTV. "He basically has thrusted me into pop culture, and not just urban but white society as well. I was in the airport like three weeks ago, this 60-year-old white lady came up to me and was like, 'Aren’t you Lil Jon? … Don’t you do that 'Whuuuut? Yeeeaaah! Okaaayyy!' That’s you, right?’” After Chappelle witnessed fans shouting lines from the show at Lil Jon at the MTV Video Music Awards, Chappelle apologized to him.

11. CHARLIE MURPHY GAVE CHAPPELLE THE IDEA FOR THE RICK JAMES SKETCH OVER LUNCH.

Charlie Murphy and Chappelle were at the lunch table during a break from shooting the “Calvin’s Got a Job” sketch. Murphy, who passed away in 2017, regaled the table with his stories about hanging out with Rick James when Chappelle said it should be reenacted for the show.

12. EDDIE MURPHY THOUGHT THE RICK JAMES SKIT WAS GENIUS.

Charlie showed his brother the sketch. Eddie Murphy watched the whole thing in silence. Once it ended though, he said it was “genius” before laughing and insisting Charlie play it again.

13. CHAPPELLE AND RICK JAMES HAD MET YEARS EARLIER.

A then-19-year-old Dave Chappelle was in Los Angeles filming Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993). Young Dave and James hung out at the hotel bar together a few times. The sketch ultimately led to some problems for a politician named Rick James; when he ran for city council in Hattiesburg, Mississippi in 2005, many of his campaign signs were stolen or defaced by people who added the word “b*tch!” James claimed he saw signs of his as far as 100 miles away.

14. PRINCE GOT HIS REVENGE.

The singer/songwriter confirmed the story about beating Charlie Murphy at basketball, which was ultimately turned into a sketch. But Prince claimed that it wasn’t because he was particularly good at the sport; it was because Charlie Murphy was bad.

In 2013, Prince released his single “Breakfast Can Wait” with a picture of Dave Chappelle dressed as Prince from the show on the cover. “What am I going to do—sue him for using a picture of me dressed up like him?” Chappelle asked rhetorically at the time.

15. CHAPPELLE GREW FRUSTRATED AT STAND-UP AUDIENCES SHOUTING LINES FROM THE SHOW.

Dave Chappelle
Christopher Polk, Getty Images

Chappelle infamously told a 2004 stand-up crowd that they were “stupid” for shouting “I’m Rick James, b*tch” when he was trying to perform, and told them that the show was ruining his life. Chappelle later walked away from a reported $50 million contract before recharging his batteries in Africa.

Chappelle appeared on Oprah in 2006 and said he felt manipulated by those around him. "I felt in a lot of instances I was deliberately being put through stress because when you’re a guy who generates money, people have a vested interest in controlling you,” he said. He told Comedy Central he wanted to restructure the deal and to give his money away to help people. Instead, the network aired an abbreviated “lost episodes” third season using the footage that had been shot, hosted by Rawlings and Charlie Murphy.

Rewind Time With This Blockbuster-Themed Party Game

Amazon/Big Potato Games
Amazon/Big Potato Games

With only one Blockbuster location left in the world, the good old days of wandering video rental store aisles and getting chewed out for late fees are definitely a thing of the past—but like so many relics from the '90s, the pull of nostalgia has ensured that Blockbuster (or at least the brand) won't disappear for good. Now the video store is back in the form of a party game from Big Potato Games that is designed to test the movie knowledge of you and up to 11 friends.

Marketing itself as “a movie game for anyone who has ever seen a movie,” the Blockbuster party game consists of two parts. In part one, players from each team compete head-to-head to name as many movies as they can that fit under specific categories (e.g., movies with Tom Cruise, famous trilogies, movies with planes). In the second half, two teams face off against each other to test their skills at a game of movie-related charades. The catch? Players can only describe movies in one of three randomly chosen ways: acting out scenes, rattling off a famous quote, or describing the films with one word.

The real selling point of the whole package is that Big Potato fit all the game cards and buzzer into a box that is virtually identical to the old-school Blockbuster VHS rental cases, right down to its distinct color scheme and shape. All it's missing is the membership card. 

The Blockbuster board game costs $26 on Amazon and $20 at Target. That’s a fair price for getting the chance to rewind time.

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8 Festive Facts About Hallmark Channel Christmas Movies

The holiday season means gifts, lavish meals, stocking stuffers, and what appear to be literally hundreds of holiday-themed movies running in perpetuity on the Hallmark Channel, which has come to replace footage of a crackling fireplace as the background noise of choice for cozy evenings indoors. Last year, roughly 70 million people watched Hallmark's holiday scheduling block. If you’re curious how the network manages to assemble films like Check Inn to Christmas, Christmas at Graceland: Home for the Holidays, and Sense, Sensibility & Snowmen with such efficiency—a total of 40 new films will debut this season on the Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, and Hallmark Movies Now—keep reading.

1. The Hallmark Channel Christmas movie tradition started with ABC.

The idea of unspooling a continuous run of holiday films started in the 1990s, when ABC offshoot network ABC Family started a "25 Days of Christmas" programming promotion that would go on to feature the likes of Joey Lawrence and Mario Lopez. The Hallmark Channel, which launched in 2001, didn’t fully embrace the concept until 2011, when ABC Family moved away from the concept in an effort to appeal to teen viewers.

2. Most Hallmark Channel Christmas movies are shot in Canada.

To maximize their $2 million budget, most Hallmark Channel holiday features are shot in Canada, where tax breaks can stretch the dollar. Wintry Vancouver is a popular destination, though films have also been shot in Montreal and Toronto. One film, 2018's Christmas at the Palace, was shot in Romania to take advantage of the country's castles.

3. Each Hallmark Channel Christmas movie only takes a couple of weeks to film.

If you’re wondering why a holiday movie on basic cable can regularly attract—and keep—a list of talent ranging from Candace Cameron Bure to Lacey Chabert, the answer is partly scheduling. Most Hallmark holiday movies take just two to three weeks to shoot, meaning actors don’t have to commit months out of the year to a project. Actors like Rachael Leigh Cook, who stars in this year's A Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas, have also complimented the channel on giving them opportunities to be with their families while on location: Cook said that the production schedule allowed her time to FaceTime with family back home.

4. Hallmark Channel Christmas movies use a variety of tricks to create snow.

Even more pervasive than Dean Cain in the Hallmark Channel Christmas line-up is snow. Because some of the films shoot in the summer, it’s not always possible to achieve that powder naturally. Producers use a variety of tricks to simulate snowfall, including snow blankets that mimic the real thing when laid out; foam; commercial replica snow; crushed limestone; and ice shavings. Actors might also get covered with soapy bubbles for close-ups. The typical budget for snow per movie is around $50,000.

5. There’s a psychological reason why Hallmark Channel Christmas movies are so addictive.

Like a drug, Hallmark Channel Christmas movies provide a neurological reward. Speaking with CNBC in 2019, Pamela Rutledge, behavioral scientist, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, and a faculty member in the Media Psychology department at Fielding Graduate University, explained that the formulaic plots and predictability of the films is rewarding, especially when viewers are trying to unwind from the stress of the holiday season. “The lack of reality at all levels, from plot to production, signals that the movies are meant to be escapism entertainment,” Rutledge said. “The genre is well-defined, and our expectations follow. This enables us to suspend disbelief.”

6. Hallmark Channel Christmas movie fans now have their own convention.

Call it the Comic-Con of holiday cheer. This year, fans of Hallmark Channel’s Christmas programming got to attend ChristmasCon, a celebration of all things Hallmark in Edison, New Jersey. Throngs of people gathered to attend panels with movie actors and writers, scoop up merchandise, and vie for prizes during an ugly sweater competition. The first wave of $50 admission tickets sold out instantly. Hallmark Channel USA was the official sponsor.

7. Hallmark Channel Christmas movies are helping keep cable afloat.

Actors Brooke D'Orsay and Marc Blucas are pictured in a publicity still from the 2017 Hallmark Channel original movie 'Miss Christmas'
Brooke D'Orsay and Marc Blucas in Miss Christmas (2017).
Hallmark Channel

In an era of cord-cutting and streaming apps, more and more people are turning away from cable television, preferring to queue up programming when they want it. But viewers of Hallmark Channel’s holiday offerings often tune in as the movie is airing. In 2016, 4 million viewers watched the line-up “live.” One reason might be the communal nature of the films. People tend to watch holiday-oriented programming in groups, tuning in as they air. The result? For the fourth quarter of 2018, the Hallmark Channel was the most-watched cable network among women 18 to 49 and 25 to 54, even outpacing broadcast network programming on Saturday nights.

8. You can get paid to watch Hallmark Channel Christmas movies.

If you think you have the constitution to make it through 24 Hallmark Channel holiday films in 12 days, you might want to consider applying for the Hallmark Movie Dream Job contest, which is sponsored by Internet Service Partners and will pay $1000 to the winning entrant who seems most capable of binging the two dozen films and making wry comments about them on social media. You can enter though December 6 here.

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