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
Brennan is the youngest of 10 siblings. Neal Brennan
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
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,
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
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.
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
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 Brotha Mans 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 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 fair, it’s
But generally, I’m interested in the idea of disabusing people of the
idea that life is fair — because it’s so obviously unfair.
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, “ 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 sh*t 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 sh*t?
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
sh*t.” 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
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 . I’m not doing bullsh*t.”
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 bullsh*t. 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 sh*t
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 behavior. It’s not necessarily like, “That’s some
black sh*t 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 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.
Brennan has directed episodes of sitcoms including New Girl and The Mindy Project. Neal Brennan
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 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 sh*t.”
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 sh*t. 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
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 sh*t, 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
sh*t in this country, but this being black sh*t… It’s like the twilight
zone. Because why the 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
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 flash
points, like Paula Deen saying “Brotha Man.” It’s like, who cares?
Who gives a ? So great, she lost her job. So what does that mean? So
white people are going to be less apt to say Brotha Man in public now?
First of all, white people who wanna say Brotha Man 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
No one’s talking about infant mortality, incarceration, school
outcomes, how black people can’t get loans. Because that sh*t is hard
and requires work. The whole thing has to be readdressed. It’s largely
about class more than anything and that sh*t 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 sh*t 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
NB: The gotcha culture has never been worse. People have
watched the media do it for so long, they’re now doing their own
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… Mother, if you were in charge, sh*t 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 sh*t is not a
In the context of a joke about getting habituated to hearing the
word until you’re accidentally using it yourself, you say “Brotha” 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 *&%^$#@Eed-up
and personal to say.
George Saunders wrote an essay about Huck Finn. He
addresses Twain’s use of the n-word and he wonders, if, at times, Twain
was using the word in a “swaggering” way. Saying it to get a rise. To
some degree, I feel like when Louie did his “n-word” bit, he was swaggering a little. Do you ever worry you’re using it that way?
NB: I’ve done the n-word joke a lot — half of the joke is
about me being called it by my black friends and the other half is about
whether I can use it in certain circumstances because I get called it.
One black girl yelled at me in the middle of the joke. She was drinking
an O’Douls, so: instant loss of credibility. But I’ve done it in
all-black rooms — I did in front of Dr. Dre — and it’s gotten a lot of
laughs. The way I do the joke is — and I’ve never thought of it this way
before — I’m basically defusing this bomb. I go up to the wires and
figure out a way to cut them so the bomb doesn’t blow up in my face.
I get called “Brotha” constantly. I’ve been around rappers who know
that when they say “You’re my Brotha” to a white person, white people get
off on it. They use it as a manipulative tactic. I’ve seen Ice-T say
“You’re my Brotha” to white people and it makes them swell with pride.
There are certain lines that I’ll cross in my stand-up and I’ll get a
laugh that’s kind of an “eh, that’s *&%^$#@Eed 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 Brotha Mans, 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
*&%^$#@Eed-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 sh*t 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
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 sh*t.
And there are some people who act like you can’t disagree with a black person. It’s like, “No, I do 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, 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, “ 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
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 everybody up. It will. Everybody gets *&%^$#@Eed
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
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, “ you, Eddie Murphy’s brother.” And for
me it’s like, “ 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 sh*t 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 brilliant. And having the smartest guy in the world be the same skin color as you has got to be empowering.
I didn't read all of it. It's barely mid morning and between this and the damn British giving all the credit of 12 Years a Slave to a damn white woman that read the book then asking her how she identifies with Solomon Northrup i'm done with white people for today.
y 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 Brotha Mans, 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 *&%^$#@Eed-up if there’s only two or three black people. It puts them in a really awkward spot.
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