Dave Chappelle has never been shy when it comes to race. But the comedian says it’s just a coincidence he’s staging a comeback as the country deals with a series of racial issues including the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, and the deaths of Eric Garner and Freddie Gray in police custody.
“I think it is important to be out now, but what’s going on in the world isn’t why I initially came back out,” Chappelle told the Associated Press Saturday.
He went on to say, “This is a very surprisingly emotionally charged time, so people like me, I think, are very relevant and necessary in sorting through all this information and emotional content.”
The former “Chappelle’s Show” star made his comments at a gathering in Bridgehampton, New York, where he received an award from Russell Simmons’ Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation.
During his acceptance speech, Chappelle said the arts education he received in high school in Washington, D.C., helped keep him out of trouble. He went on to tell the audience that artists have a responsibility to be activists.
“The biggest enemy of an artist is apathy,” he said. “A kid gets killed by the police and I buy a T-shirt and before I can wear that one, there’s another kid [killed] and I’m running out of closet space.”
Chappelle famously walk away from his Comedy Central show in 2005, just months after signing a $50 million deal with for a third and fourth season.
At the time, his sketch series was a juggernaut hit with many of its comedy sketches, particularly the ones about race, becoming viral sensations.
But on Saturday, Chappelle told the crowd he has no regrets about walking away.
“I can say honestly that I’m happy, that I can sit at home on a Tuesday night and watch Key and Peele do my show and it doesn’t hurt me.”
“Selma” director Ava DuVernay and artist Wangechi Mutu were also honored at the event, which raised money for arts in schools.