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Throughout the only two (three-ish, if you count Lost Episodes) seasons of Chappelle's Show, the series consistently maligned complex racial issues that are still facing the country to this day. With equal parts multi-layered subversion and pure gut laughs, Dave Chappelle and Neal Brennan's iconic series pushed previously ignored topics to the forefront of the national conversation by absolutely eviscerating them.
Clayton Bigsby, the infamous black white supremacist who appeared in the show's very first episode, introduced the planet to the absurdly funny Chappelle's Show universe (way) back in 2003. In a new interview with Vulture, co-creator Neal Brennan reveals how the legendary skit came together and how Comedy Central constantly supported their attempts at pushing any and all TV boundaries.
"It was based on Dave's grandfather, who was mixed-race and blind," Brennan tells Vulture. "The day Martin Luther King got shot, apparently he was on a bus and a bunch of black dudes came up to him and were like, 'What you doing on this bus, cracker?' and Dave's grandfather apparently thought 'Man, this cracker is in a lot of trouble' before he realized, 'Oh, I'm the cracker.'" After what Brennan calls the "natural progression" of sketch comedy kicked in, Chappelle and Brennan had placed their blossoming character into the throes of the Ku Klux Klan.
"It's obviously the most extreme way to go," Brennan recalls. "Then ultimately you want to just do every different kind of joke you can do in terms of variations on it. Him explaining himself to the reporter at his house is one thing, and from there it's like, 'Well, he should yell at some white kids.'" Though an art director at Def Jam briefly had the duo convinced they were "in trouble" for crafting such a skit, Chappelle debuted the Frontline parody in front of a stand-up audience and (predictably enough) it absolutely slayed.
Brennan, who insists that Comedy Central was always encouraging about their so-called "inflammatory" content, also notes that Chappelle's Show's pre-Twitter existence was very much a blessing in disguise. "I'm glad that didn't exist," Brennan says of social media at large. "I don't think it would've helped. If everyone's looking over their shoulders, it's not going to make the stuff better."
Peep the full (and fascinating) interview right here.