“The worst thing to call somebody is ‘crazy’. It’s dismissive. ‘I don’t understand this person, so they’re crazy.’ That’s bullshit. ‘Cuz people are not crazy. They’re strong people. Maybe the environment is a little sick.”
–Dave Chappelle, “Inside The Actor’s Studio”
In 2006, comedian Dave Chappelle appeared on Bravo’s Inside The Actor’s Studio. One year earlier, he essentially “walked away” from his highly popular Comedy Central program Chappelle’s Show and left for an impromptu trip to South Africa; at the time, the media speculated that he had drug and/or mental issues.
When Chappelle was asked on Inside The Actor’s Studio about (at the the time) troubled fellow comedian Martin Lawrence—whom he considered to be somewhat of a mentor—he insinuated that Hollywood & the Media were purposely targeting Black celebrities and trying to either paint them as “crazy” or make them crazy:
“Let me ask you this: what is happening in Hollywood that a man that strong will be on the street waving a gun, screaming “they are trying to kill me”…what’s going on? Why is Dave Chappelle going to Africa? Why is Mariah Carey making a $100,000 deal, and then taking her clothes off on TRL? A weak person cannot get to sit down and talk to you. Ain’t no weak people talking to you. So what is happening in Hollywood? Nobody knows!”
For Chappelle to say these things—on top of walking out on a hit show—was a BIG deal. And these quotes would live on for years later on YouTube as “proof” of a supposed Hollywood conspiracy that would mutate from the entertainment/media complex simply “targeting” these Black celebrities…to actually replacing them with more “well-behaved” doubles.
All this would double-back to Chappelle about ten years later…
I. THE “SECOND” DAVE CHAPPELLE
The following concerns a rather bizarre interview/monologue recored on a YouTube channel by a person with an altered voice claiming to be Chappelle’s cousin. It starts off sounding pretty normal (outside the deep altered voice of course)—but about a third in it takes a REALLY crazy turn, and then by the end it pretty much turns into a Creepypasta.
There are a variety of YouTube channels that carry this audio, but they keep getting taken down because…well…keep reading and it will probably make sense.
The alleged cousin starts her story with the claim that her and Dave were tight since they were kids, and that he always confided in her; even after he became famous. One day, he told her a very concerning story about how he was called into the executive offices of Comedy Central (or Viacom?) and confronted by a whole boardroom full of people. He was told that they liked what he had been doing with Chappelle’s Show, but that he would have to make some changes.
What sort of changes? The “cousin” claims that the execs wanted him to make the Black characters in the skits more “intelligent” and to not make fun of them as much…because word down the pike was that Barack Obama was going to run for president. Chappelle allegedly said that he was not going to compromise his artistic integrity, and that he treated all the characters on the show, Black and White, the same.
Concerned about how ominous and creepy these dudes in the boardroom were, Chappelle—according to this story—suddenly departed for his famous trip to Africa. He later came back to the States and made the aforementioned appearance on Inside The Actors Studio.
He then made an appearance on the Oprah Show, which this alleged cousin describes as Oprah (on behalf of TPTB) basically browbreating Chappelle to submit to the TPTB. Trying to get him to admit that he was troubled/crazy, etc.
Now, according to our narrator, Chappelle is really spooked.
We get then get some sudden asides to the “fact” that Martin Lawrence is really dead.
And we also get the one about how Bernie Mac found the “cloning labs” (this is a central theme, so pay attention), and was killed because of it.
And so you are sort of left kind of…in shock at where this story has traveled to. I mean, Chappelle’s Show ended in 2006…it was phenomenally popular (many sketches instant classics and memed up the wazoo)…would some executives really tell Chappelle to tone down the bawdy humor featuring characters of color (such as the crack addict) because of some complaints, maybe mixed with the idea of Obama running for president?
You know…that part doesn’t sound so crazy to me. Chappelle did get taken to task in the media occasionally for these characters—that they were too broad and possibly “offensive.” So…that part of the “cousin’s” story didn’t really raise too many red flags to me.
But dead Martin Lawrence, and Bernie Mac finding the Cloning Labs???
The rest of this tale ends up sounding like a Creepypasta. At some vague later time (maybe within the last few years, when he made his “comeback?”), Chappelle was supposedly once again summoned to the Boardroom—this time with an offer that included doing things Dave’s way. 50 or 60 million bucks, full creative freedom, etc. All he has to do is sign some sinister contract and…
…AND DAVE IS TAKEN TO THE UNDERGROUND CLONING LABS, AND HE’S KILLED AND REPLACED WITH A DUPLICATE; AND THEN HIS MOM IS KILLED AND HIS FAMILY IS KILLED AND ALL REPLACED WITH “SYNTHETIC ROBOTOIDS” SO NO ONE WOULD EVER KNOW THE DIFFERENCE!!!!!! AND CHARLIE MURPHY WAS A BLOOD SACRIFICE!!!!
Around the time Chappelle was supposedly replaced by a more buff synthetic robotoid version of himself, he stopped speaking to his cousin. And to me…this is a really key point.
He doesn’t answer his cousin’s phone calls, and never sees her again. Because he’s a synthetic robotoid created by the Illuminati…and also “evil”…and etc.
So here is what I think.
I do not exclude the possibility that this could have possibly been an actual cousin of Chappelle’s, and that aspects of the first part of that story are true. But I think it is also possible that they had a falling out which explains why he stopped speaking to her…perhaps he did change, but not because he is a dead-eyed clone.
And/or maybe…this is all a metaphor for how Chappelle was beaten down by the System (which he pretty much alluded to in past interviews), but then got reabsorbed into the System and radically changed because of it. He became more “conformist,” leaving his old self behind or even “killing” that old self (which his Walking Dead parody on SNL sort of acts out, “Negan” bashing in the brains of all his old characters).
This all brings us to…
II. THE FOLKLORE OF THE “GET OUT” CONSPIRACY THEORY
The interview with Chappelle’s alleged cousin dovetailed perfectly with a new conspiracy theory that was making its way throughout YouTube: based on the then-recent horror movie Get Out, it alleged that Black celebrities were being “replaced” with “well behaved” versions by TPTB (Hollywood, the Media, the Bavarian Illuminati, etc.)
And how was this done? The more extreme & literal proponents of the theory believed pretty much what the “Chappelle Cousin” had said: there were actual “cloning centers” doing the dirty deed, and then killing the celebrity when they were done with making the double.
The “less extreme” version of the theory, however, eschewed the sci-fi elements and went back to that old standard, MK-Ultra; seeing Get Out as a “blueprint” for the brainwashing elements necessary for such a metamorphosis. (As far as I know, no mention of actually switching brains was made.)
Performer Kanye West was the focal point of the “Get Out” theory, with plenty of memes depicting him as the hapless protagonist from the movie. But Chappelle was also listed as a possible victim of the Conspiracy—with his very words on Inside The Actor’s Studio used as “proof.” And so we have come Full Circle (but by the end of this post we will come even more full circle).
It is at this point, after hearing talk of “cloning centers” and MK-Ultra and using popular horror movies as “blueprints” that you might be like:
How, you may be wondering, can people believe in such nonsense???
This Guardian piece, “Trapped in the Sunken Place: How Get Out’s Purgatory Engulfed Pop Culture,” is a very insightful study of how the symbolism in Jordan Peele’s horror movie mirrors the experience of being a person of color surrounded by white culture:
…the Sunken Place has taken on surprisingly real cultural resonance. It has come to express a widely felt political and social mood of liberal inertia and unspoken white supremacist hegemony, just as Peele’s acknowledged influences, Night of the Living Dead (1968) and The Stepford Wives (1975), captured, respectively, cold war group-think and a Nixon-era backlash against second-wave feminism. Ben Carson’s political career in the Trump White House, and OJ Simpson’s life have all be said to indicate that these three prominent African Americans have entered the Sunken Place. Kim Kardashian recently spoke out against the number of Get Out memes about husband Kanye West, telling “people are so fucking dumb and stupid.”
Which is to say: no matter how batshit crazy some of these theories are, they have grown out of very real sociological “demons.”
If we move backward from Get Out, the MK-Ultra stuff, the cloning centers, and so on, and go back to the original Chappelle quotes on Inside The Actor’s Studio: he’s touching on some real concerns. He is asking questions that need to be asked, that most people who were in his position wouldn’t dare ask. And the real social anxieties and realities referred to in the Guardian piece had been also “codified” and given narratives by these conspiracy theories on YouTube.
The immediate instinct might be to completely dismiss these theories—what might be termed “folklore”—straight away. But I think sometimes when you pick through them, you find out interesting things; they are often (though not always) these highly weird hybrids of fantasy and fact. The underground “clone factory” becomes a metaphor for the entertainment industry machine. And so on.
(Let us also remember that West himself on Twitter seemly referenced the conspiracy theory—in a somewhat absolutely serious way!—and that the director of Get Out then tweeted back that it inspired him to write the sequel. So we’ve got a LOT of “layers” here, a lot of metatextuality.)
At any rate, the “Chappelle Clone” theory died down, and the comedian went on with his career—penning a lucrative deal with Netflix. He had—in the view of the establishment media—”redeemed” his earlier “erratic” behavior.
And then came The Bird Revelation.
III. AN ICEBERG SLIM ZEN KOAN
What Dave Chappelle dropped in The Bird Revelation wasn’t anywhere near as explosive as his statements on Inside The Actor’s Studio…and yet, it was quite cryptic and interesting.
Basically, he recounts a story from the classic book Pimp, by Iceberg Slim—and then ends the special by saying that the deeper meaning behind that story was why he suddenly quit his show in the mid-2000’s and went to Africa.
And so the story features a pimp whose prostitute is about to leave him. He devises a scheme to fake the death of a john—to pretend that the prostitute had accidentally killed the john, and is in danger of going to jail for murder. Then the pimp steps in like a White Knight in shining armor and says, “I’ll clean up this murder for you, and get you off the hook.” And she is now extremely grateful & willing to stay with him and work 10x as hard—even though she was completely played by the pimp and this false situation he created.
Chappelle says 1) that this anecdote is a metaphor for modern capitalism at its most basic level, and 2) it has a deeper meaning which explains why he left Hollywood and the United States.
And it felt so cryptic at the end of that story & that show that it honestly took me several minutes of just like “silence” and thought to ponder what he was trying to say. It felt like the story Tommy Lee Jones told at the end of No Country For Old Men. You kinda feel like you’ve been hit in the face as the credits roll.
And wouldn’t you know it…that monologue only fed BACK into the conspiracy theories even MORE!
It’s a type of “meta” loop that doesn’t seem to end…from “real life” to conspiracy theory to extreme conspiracy theory and then back to “real life” and over and over again.
And some people feel the way to “deal” with these theories—especially the more fanciful among them—is to censor them off the Internet. That if people can’t find these theories on YouTube, or through a standard Google search…they will die out.
But this writer disagrees for the following reason: a lot of this is folklore. Folklore persists. If it’s not found in a handy YouTube video, it’s passed on from person-to-person in-person if need be. For example, I heard some of the early conspiracy theories (pre-Chappelle) on this post’s topic (such as the idea of “blood sacrifice”) from a local barber shop.
As for Chappelle…I would not be surprised at ALL if this wasn’t the last we heard from him on what he really thinks of the Hollywood system.
Disclaimer: I’m very well aware of the more problematic aspects of Chappelle’s past performances and commentary, and I’m not trying to hold him up as a saint or saying that I agree with everything he believes. I do think his opinions on these issues are evolving, and he’s acknowledged where he’s stumbled; and, further, that he probably has a way left to go.
The main issue, to me, is that as we point out that the System is oppressive…we have to be able to see how its basic structure oppresses many different groups of people. That the mechanism that oppresses one group can be used to oppress another group. And I think that is a concept that a number of people within the “conspiracy community” really struggle with.
That said, I don’t see comics like Ricky Gervais (a fellow Netflix comic) get publicly called out anywhere NEAR the way Chappelle has been for similar material.