For a long time, when a lot of people heard the name ‘Prince’, they weren’t picturing the cover of ‘Purple Rain’ – and perhaps weren’t even picturing Prince himself. No, for many comedy fans a decade ago, his name conjured up images of Dave Chappelle.
The first Prince-themed episode of ‘Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories’ premiered on legendary comedy show Chappelle’s Show on February 18, 2004, and saw Dave dressed in full Prince regalia as comedian (and brother of Eddie Murphy) Charlie Murphy recounted the bizarre tale of partying and basketball that would soon become one of the most memorable comedy sketches of all time.
Now, having returned from his self-imposed comedy exile to sign a three-special, $60m deal with Netflix, Chappelle has given an interview with The New Yorker discussing, among other things, his feelings on the artist with which he is so inexorably linked.
“It’s a hard thing to talk about,” says Chappelle. “I looked up to him like everybody did. I didn’t know him that well, but the times that we hung out were fun and very memorable and often funny. He was very generous with his advice, and he was very generous with his access.”
“He fostered a community among artists,” he continues. “He used to have these parties where we would go over to his house, and there would be all these musicians that I admired, and they’d just do these jam sessions in the basement. Everybody at the party was playing something.
“I think when he died there was the icon dying, but then there was this pillar in the community of people dying.”
For his part, it seemed that The Purple One always took the sketch in good spirit and, despite seeming at times quite protective of his brand, respected Chappelle’s work.
“He thought it was hilarious,” former cast member and bit-player in the sketch Donnell Rawlings told The Hollywood reporter last year. “And I think [Chappelle and Prince] really built a friendship after that sketch.”
Apparently it could have been Prince himself in the sketch, but that was (perhaps thankfully) thwarted by his own reluctance.
“Dave wanted Prince to be in the sketch, and he asked him about it, and Prince told Dave, ‘Yeah, nah,'” Rawlings claims. “And that’s true to Prince’s fashion with dialogue. You’ll probably never hear of Prince talking more than three sentences.”
As Rawlings pointed out, the sketch introduced or returned a lot of fans to Prince’s music back then, and the pair will always be linked.
“The world we live in now, people come and go… And I think it’s awesome that the millennials and younger people may have gotten reintroduced to Prince through a comedy sketch.”
And, with Prince’s music now finally appearing on streaming platforms and a vault of unreleased material soon to follow, perhaps a few Prince fans will discover Dave Chappelle’s work in a similar way.
You can read the full interview, in which Chappelle discusses Trump, Bill Cosby, his contemporaries and more, right here.