Dave Chappelle is about to be back. The renowned comedian, who burst onto the scene with The Chapelle Show in the early 2000s, walked away from certain fortune and fame – and a massive contract extension back in 2005. Chappelle promptly fell off the face of the earth.
The comedian disappeared from public life, and rumors swirled. For some time, there was nothing. Not so much as a sighting. Then Chapelle started popping up in various comedy venues, a show here and a show there. That just added to his mystique.
A few years into his self-appointed exile, Chappelle started doing more regular standup appearances. Then, in the past few years, Chappelle returned to a grueling standup schedule, doing hundreds of shows in three years. Now, it appears, Chappelle is ready to be back in the spotlight. Maybe not for a weekly program, but his promoters are advertising a new comedy special, expecting to debut sometime in 2017.
Chappelle announced the upcoming special in conjunction with a much-lauded monolog appearance on Saturday Night Live.
The announcement of the special, one of three that will release on Netflix simultaneously is an indication of a new direction for Netflix. The company has been flirting with regular original comedy content for some time now, but Chappelle is just one of two huge names in comedy that will debut specials not on HBO or another pay cable venue, but on Netflix. The other, Chris Rock, telegraphs the level at which Netflix wishes to enter the game.
Competition for top tier comedy acts for specials is heating up, as consumer tastes change and more people are turning toward streaming media as opposed to traditional cable or pay TV for premium entertainment. While the days of Showtime and HBO dominating the pay comedy industry on TV are far from over, streaming content providers like Netflix and Amazon Prime are making a strong push for a place at the table.
Netflix, in particular, has managed to land a strong lineup of top shelf comedy for subscribers. Acts such as Eddie Murphy, Jen Kirkman, John Mulaney, Craig Ferguson, Ali Wong, Hannibal Buress, Mike Birbiglia, Aziz Ansari, Jim Jeffries, and Patton Oswalt are among those available to stream on Netflix. Few of these have been developed specifically for the network, though.
The Chappelle and Rock specials present a new opportunity for top comics to reach an audience and yet another vehicle for streaming services to use to steal more customers from the cable guys.