The comedian was awarded with comedy's most prestigious award on October 27 and accepted it the only way he knows how!
With controversy! We wouldn't know and love Dave Chappelle as the raucous comedian he is if he wasn't always pushing the limits on, well, everything.
When Chappelle came onto the stage on Sunday, October 27 (after numerous speeches from his peers and friends), he had a lit cigarette in tow. In the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, no less!
"What are they going to do?" he asked. "Kick me out? This is called leverage!"
This would refer to the Mark Twain Prize given in honor of a lifetime achievement in comedy. Julia Louis-Dreyfus received the award back in 2018 and with a nearly record-breaking number of Emmy wins, she leaves Chappelle with no doubt formidable shoes to fill.
But, let's be honest: Chappelle has tons of what he calls "leverage." Never been one to falter in self-confidence, Chappelle's comedic career really started to fly with his Chappelle's Show. Throughout those 33 episodes, you can hear Chappelle wondering to himself if his show is going to eventually get canceled—because he was always testing the waters, whether with outrageous characters (a certain blind racist comes to mind) or his expletives. But that's also why his audiences love him. That kind of confidence demands attention and respect. And then for someone with that kind of attention and respect to just disappear from the face of fame (Chappelle left for Africa in 2006) only to explode back into the limelight a decade later is another kind of confidence that deserves another kind of respect.
Chappelle knows himself and knows comedy so well that he at times can seem untouchable. Even after backlash to one of his comeback Netflix specials was quick and severe, Chappelle was ready with an explanation, a defense, and then to go back in and double down. And there he was on Sunday, October 27, getting awarded for it.
Born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, Chappelle attended D.C.'s Duke Ellington High School for the performing arts. He considers his attendance to be "one of the great privileges of [his] life." Returning to D.C., Chappelle accepted the Mark Twain Prize with the level of flagrance (i.e., the cigarette) and gratitude his audience would expect from him.
Addressing the comedians in the audience, he said, "I want you to know it [the award] belongs to all of us."
You can watch the award ceremony on PBS on January 7.