One of the funniest things to come out of Comedy Central - bar none. Also, some quote from that show became popular.
Let's start off by saying that there are two things about this show that anyone will remember. The first is that catchphrase which shall not be repeated here (ask anyone who was a college student in the 2003-2004 time period, and they can probably recite the entire skit for you). The second is how when the show was enjoying its utmost popularity, Dave Chappelle walked away from the show and disappeared for a few months, resurfacing in South Africa.
That said, Chappelle's Show was a damn, damn funny show that ran for about two-and-a-quarter seasons on Comedy Central. Let's put it this way: have you ever watched Mind of Mencia? Don't worry, you don't have to answer - the shame may be too great.
Oh God, I'm so unclean...why did I watch it?
While watching that show, you were probably thinking that "if this guy was actually funny, this might have been the best show ever." Let me stop and tell you that Chappelle's Show is what Mind of Mencia would have been had Carlos Mencia actually been funny.
There were many, many classic skits. The "Blind White Supremacist", featuring a blind black guy who thought he was white. "When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong", a short series on the issues that occur when people who decide to keep it real find it out of their league. "The Mad Real World", a "Real World" parody featuring one white person in an all-black cast. "Making the Band", where Diddy makes ridiculous demands of his potential bandmates. And many, many more. Seriously, if you wanted me list off every great skit from Chappelle's Show, we'd be here for far longer than either of us want to be.
With that said, there's one skit that stands out in the minds of even the most casual fan of Dave Chappelle.
The skit was a parody of the "True Hollywood Stories" that E! so often ran. The subject was Rick James, played by Dave Chappelle. The outcome was tons of popularity, a bunch of new fans, and a catchphrase that wouldn't go away. If you were around or paying attention, you have heard a drunken fratboy say this at some point in an attempt to sound cool. A couple of years later, you probably heard a hipster quote it at some point in an attempt to sound ironic. For those of you truly not in the know, the catchphrase, for the sake of a complete article, is as follows:
"I'm Rick James, bitch!"
Pictured: the only man who can say that and be technically correct.
Yes, there are plenty of other lines in that skit that are far funnier than that one. Yes, there are plenty of other skits Chappelle did that were far funnier than the Rick James parody. Yes, there were plenty of lines from those sketches that are funnier than anything in the Rick James parody. But for whatever reason, this is what the Internet latched on to. And if there's one thing the Internet can do, it's to latch on to something that is only subjectively funny and kill it immediately.
So for two seasons it ran, and all was well. Well, OK, as far as the viewers watching knew, all was well. However, as trouble was wont to do, it began brewing.
There comes a time in every visionary's career when they start to hate their own creation or work. Led Zeppelin's potential reunion was held back for years because of the inevitable fact that they'd have to play "Stairway to Heaven" at it - a song that they hated. When Bobby McFerrin signed a new record contract, he made expressly sure that he'd never have to sing "Don't Worry, Be Happy" again. Sir Alec Guinness notably hated his work as Obi-Wan Kenobi. So did it go like that for Chappelle. He was so tired of requests to give that famous line that he walked away from a $50 million dollar contract.
That vault is full of one million dollars. He walked away from fifty of those.
There are more reasons than that, of course, but that's cited as one of the predominant ones. Sure, he hasn't ruled out a return, but the show would need to be retooled massively for him to be satisfied. Somewhere, there's a drunken fratboy waiting for him to return to give a new line to quote massively.