Everything We Learned From Dave Chappelle's Interview With Joe Rogan

The award-winning comedian discussed everything from the global pandemic to his decision to leave 'Chappelle's Show' to buying weed from Idris Elba.

Dave Chappelle

Image via Getty/by Lester Cohen/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Dave Chappelle

As expected, Dave Chappelle’s recent interview with Joe Rogan offered plenty of gems.

The once-reclusive comedian appeared on Friday’s episode of The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, where he chopped it up with the titular host for nearly three-and-a-half hours. Chappelle and Rogan—who are both known for their frank and often controversial takes—touched on a wide range of topics, including everything from the global pandemic and the fight for gay rights to America’s post-Trump era and buying weed from a Golden Globe-winning actor.

If you’ve yet to hear the full interview, you can do so now exclusively on Spotify. For those who would like a teaser or a recap, we’ve also listed some of the biggest highlights of the extensive sit-down below.

The 47-year-old comedian shocked fans in the mid-aughts when he abruptly walked away from Chappelle’s Show—the wildly popular sketch series that premiered on Comedy Central in 2003. It was reported that the network offered Chappelle $50 million to continue the show during its third season; however, he ultimately chose to walk away from the deal and set off to South Africa.

“What was so remarkable when I walked away from the show is that it was against incentive, so people couldn’t understand it at the time,” he told Rogan. “‘It was so much money. How could you do that?’ Blah, blah, blah. But you know, if I had taken that money and finished the show, I would’ve gotten the money, but might’ve never been the same.”

Chappelle said the decision felt “freeing,” but some part of him was convinced that his career was over.

“I never seen these things before; I didn’t see anyone else do this and get back up … it was a wild experience,” he continued. “The way people close to you react to it, like I… failed or ruined my life. And, you know, when you’re cold, that phone don’t ring that often, and I had over a decade of sitting in that choice but I didn’t languish in that experience. I started doing stand-up for much better reasons than making it.”

Although he currently hosts his own podcast show, Chappelle was once considered one of the most reclusive figures in entertainment. He touched on this while speaking about cancel culture and how one opens themselves up to criticism—warranted or unwarranted—the more they put themselves in the public eye. 

“Thats why I usually don’t do interviews,” he said. “I feel like this about fame, in general. And I see you go through similar shit. They blow you up like a balloon and twist you into these wild shapes like a balloon animal. And once you’re in that thing, they can control the perception of it. So why fuck with it?”

At one point during the interview, Rogan praised Chappelle for his treatment of everyday people, and never adopting a superior attitude due to his money and fame. Chappelle then reminded listeners to be kind to service workers, like doormen and barbacks, because you never know what the future has in store for them. He then used Idris Elba as an example, reiterating that the award-winning actor used to be his weed man before he achieved mainstream success.

“Idris Elba, the famous actor, used to be a security guard at [comedy club] Caroline’s ...” Chappelle said. “I used to buy weed from him.”

Chappelle and Rogan acknowledged there are many issues currently plaguing society, but are generally optimistic about the future. The host cited famed psychologist Steven Pinker, whose work explains how each generation lives in a much safer world than the one before it. Chappelle suggested he agreed, but pointed out that this type of progress isn’t organic, and that people had to fight to see real change.

“It’s not like these things (violence and injustices) happen less often because—people had to do things to make these things happen less often [change],” Chappelle said. “It didn’t happen organically just like, ‘OK, man, that’s enough murder for us.’ People had to do some shit. Gay marriage—people had to be made aware of how people were struggling. One of the great things of that movement is when everybody started coming out of the closet and everyone realized, ‘Oh, like, five of my best friends are gay’ … and you realize you like this person more than you like whatever prejudice you carry around.”

The conversation eventually turned toward the habit of flossing and how some celebrities are so unaware that their “Insta-bragging” can often come off as tone-deaf. Rogan and Chappelle agreed that there were some stars whose image was heavily based on selling a high-end lifestyle, but questioned whether comedians could get away with this. After a few moments of thinking, Rogan pointed to Kevin Hart as a comic who flosses. Chappelle co-signed the comment, but said he wasn’t bothered by Hart’s affinity for flexing.

“First of all, who the fuck works harder than that guy?” Rogan said.

“Nobody. Not me. Fuck that ...” Chappelle said, before Rogan highlighted Hart’s ever-growing list of projects. “And he’s relentlessly kind, and everyone that works with him looks elated and happy. He’s not a tyrant. He’s like hanging out with a self-help book or some shit. He just makes you feel good … It’s impossible not to like him. And, in fact, in my mind, he’s a great case scenario that a good person can do well in life, because there are some cynics who believe they can’t.”

About half-way through the interview, Chappelle asked Rogan to share his thoughts on the controversy surrounding Elon Musk’s Saturday Night Live hosting gig. The host described the issue as “ridiculous,” while Chappelle admitted he was puzzled by all the fuss.

“No one is woke enough,” Rogan said. “They can’t appreciate the fact that you’re dealing with one of the most brilliant men that’s ever lived.”

Chappelle then questioned the root of all the backlash, asking if it had anything to do with Musk’s wealth or because people didn’t believe he had the comedic chops.

“No, he’s not funny,” Rogan said. “He’s a brilliant guy.”

The host went on to say that some of the controversy stems from Musk’s previous comments on COVID-19, which many considered dismissive and insensitive. Chappelle then recalled his interactions with the Tesla CEO, describing him as “incredibly kind.”

“I teased him about being the richest man on earth, and he took it with good humor,” Chappelle said. “What’s funny, I had hung out with him years ago, after I quit Chappelle’s Show. … We hung out on a tour bus, and he says to me that night … ‘I met you before.’ I’m like, ‘Well, I have no recollection.’ He looked kinda hurt.”

The two went on to acknowledge Musk’s philanthropic work, and how it was often overlooked by the public. Chappelle then suggested he understood why some people were put off by Musk’s behavior, but argued there was a right and wrong way to dole out criticism.

“Like you said, no one can be woke enough,” the comedian explained. “I’m torn, because I like a warrior for a good cause, but I’m really into tactics. You’re not gonna nag people into behaving ... In fact, if you continue with this tone, even if you’re right, you’ll be very hard to hear.”

Rogan then mentioned Chappelle’s newly launched podcast The Midnight Miracle, which he hosts alongside Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey. Rogan described the series as “very good … very interested,” particularly because of its high production value. Chappelle explained that the podcast was formatted that way because it’s intended be released on vinyl.

“It’s dope … That’s why the shows are the duration that they are, so they can fit on sides of vinyl,” Chappelle said. “It’s so wild. I’m curious to see how people will react to it, but I love doing it. The people that I’m working with, Yasiin Bey—formerly known as Mos Def—and Talib Kewli, these guys are like, great, great friends of mine … It’s a joyful experience … The whole concept, the genesis of the show is literally just us finding an excuse for us to be together … We never catch up as much as we should.”

Chappelle caught heat several years ago, following the release of his stand-up specials on Netflix. Many viewers described some of the jokes as “dated” and transphobic; however, the comedian insists that wasn’t the case.

“There was a thing going on in the press where everyone was saying that the specials were dated, because there were jokes in there that they considered transphobic,” Chappelle said. “I still don’t think those jokes are transphobic, I’m not gonna have that discussion but if I ever have to, boy I’m ready.”

The topic was brought up after Rogan claimed Eddie Murphy was embarrassed by some of the material in his stand-up comedy film Raw (1987). Chappelle defended Murphy by stating he was simply responding to the times; and although the jokes don’t work now, they worked in the 1980s.

“I don’t get mad at a photograph because it wasn’t taken today,” Chappelle said. “In other words, whatever was going on in ’87, when he laid that set down, it was working … That’s where people were at, and a good comedian is an indicator of the time … I wouldn’t look any of [Eddie’s] old material as embarrassing. Sometimes I’m startled: ‘You could never do that now’ … I’m a comedian. I don’t smell any malice, I don’t think he was trying to hurt anybody.”

In summer 2020, Chappelle made headlines for a series of socially distanced block parties he hosted in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Rogan applauded Chappelle for pulling it off, as many venues were shut down due to lockdown restrictions. Chappelle briefly explained how he and his team made sure every safety measure was taken—including getting the entertainers and audience members tested for COVID-19. He then turned the conversation to former President Trump and his flawed response to the pandemic.

“Remember when Trump said something like, ‘Just stop testing everybody?’ I’m telling you from experience, that’s a terrible, terrible idea,” Chappelle said. “I can’t believe that motherfucker was in charge at a time like that, because that was a wild thing to say. Yo, my man, let’s think this through.”

Chappelle then touched on the deadly Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol, which occurred not too far from where he was born and raised.

“It felt like they were fuckin’ my city up ... they were trashing my town ...” he said. “The president (Trump) was the catalyst for it, whether you wanna say he was legally responsible for it or not … He said, ‘You gotta take our country back.’”

Rogan then recalled Chappelle’s comments following Trump’s presidential win, when the comedian urged the public to give Trump a chance.

“You know why I said that? Because he was duly elected,” Chappelle explained. “I didn’t storm the Capitol and rub my shit on the walls the next day. Fucking stupid.”

Chappelle and Rogan then spoke about their relationships with other comedians, describing their social circle as a “tribe.” Chappelle then mentioned Marlon Wayans, whom he described as “one of my favorite people.” 

“He’s a wildly consistent dude in my life,” he said. “I used to hangout in Hollywood and sometimes I drink too much, but I knew where he lived … and I’d just knock on his door, and he’d open it. He got some room in his basmement and would just throw some blankets in it, and then I’d sleep, ’cause I trusted him. He’s just a fucking cool dude. … I brought him up because he came to my Shack, that’s where I do my shows … we all just hangout there. … But Marlon was so incensed that I didn’t have ice that he bought me an ice machine. It was the weirdest gift … He just sent it in the mail. Who does that?”

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