When Dave Chappelle decided to walk away from basketball to become a stand up comedian, he didn’t know he will do what he ended doing just over ten years later.
At the age of 14, he made up his mind to become a comedian.
He decided that he wasn’t as good at basketball, what he was doing at the time, as there were stronger guys than him.
He was slim, and he knew that wasn’t the best figure for that demanding sport.
So he took the plunge into comedy.
But comedy, like most well paying professions, is crowded.
To do well, you have to have some kind of niche.
To stand out, you have to get your ground and stand right in it.
So Dave picked his: American black and white issues – of all sorts, economic, social, political and judicial as well.
In short, as a black man, it was all about racism.
The very sensitive subject that only a few wanted to ever make jokes about.
So Dave did well.
Now the trouble was, the big guys saw an opportunity in him.
So they wanted to package him well and sell him on big TV channels.
But the more they did it, it somehow couldn’t work.
So he ended up in comedy central with Chappelle’s Show.
In two seasons, he became a big name.
They had the audience that was all time high.
When they sold the DVDs for the shows, they sold way more than they could have hoped for.
Dave was on top of the world.
So for Dave, to prove that he was the real thing, he had to get a better deal.
And so comedy central they had that deal.
The deal for season three.
A massive $50m deal.
Well, Dave had to make people laugh for $50m…
Then something happened.
While the big guys knew nothing, one morning, Dave decided to take the next flight to South Africa.
He didn’t even tell his wife.
And no one knew where he went except for one person.
While in South Africa, all sorts of stories were written by the tabloids.
Maybe he is kidnapped.
Maybe he is on drugs.
Maybe he has some mental health issues.
But the truth of the matter was, one morning, he decided not to turn to work… he decided to run away from a $50m deal.
Because he didn’t want to sell himself.
He felt as if the telly people didn’t listen to him.
That the writers wrote not what Dave believed in, but what they thought will attract more audience.
Wikipedia writes that once, he told his audience that:
“You know why my show is good? Because the network officials say you’re not smart enough to get what I’m doing, and every day I fight for you. I tell them how smart you are. Turns out, I was wrong. You people are stupid.“
Of course, he was the man for the show…
But somehow, he felt as a normal employee.
A guy who get told what to do, and when to do it.
A guy who had to work for 20 hours a day.
But as an artist, a genius, that isn’t what he wanted best.
And besides, to be controlled isn’t an option.
So instead of talking the matter over to the big guys, he decided to simply walk away.
And as you’d expect, when he returned to the US, after two weeks, friends, family and the media had enough wisdom to rap to him.
Some said he was a bit crazy.
And some said that he had lost his integrity.
Of which he asked,
‘What’s integrity?’ It’s not that I will go home and make my kids an integrity sandwich…’
Well, that made me smile, and think.
And I think, I’ll think about it for longer about Dave Chappelle – a man who walked away from a $50m contract.
For me, that’s integrity.
For me, that confirms him one of the greatest.
He didn’t want to sell a different belief than the one he had in his mind.
If we can stand for that which is within us, that which make us who we are, then in my view, we are living a true life.
A life full of integrity sandwich.