'Lost Chappelle' a worthy find?

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 08, 2006 2:03 pm    Post subject: 'Lost Chappelle' a worthy find? Reply with quote

Somebody had to do this," Charlie Murphy says, stating the obvious, as he and sketchmate Donnell Rawlings take the stage to introduce the puzzle pieces Dave Chappelle abandoned when he bolted "Chappelle's Show" a year ago April. Finally premiering on Comedy Central this weekend as "Chappelle's Show: The Lost Episodes" - without Chappelle's input - the slated-for-third-season sketches Dave has since disowned are as outrageously pointed, loaded with potential and fitfully funny as the man who left $55 million behind.

That much-reported contract clearly was weighing heavy on Chappelle's mind as he went to work earning its big bucks by lampooning them. In Sunday's first sketch, car washes suddenly cost Dave $873, and haircuts go for $11K after the locals get wind of their homeboy's hefty payday. There's also a mournful warning voiced, right after nefarious IRS agents pull pieces to collect their silver: "You didn't have to do two more seasons," Dave is told by a dying comrade. "No matter how good the show is, they're only gonna say 'It's not as good as last year was.'" "I know," comes the somber reply from a hardly jesting Chappelle. "I already know that."

Keen as this is, it's not all that funny, which is probably why Chappelle belatedly decided to leave well enough alone. Not that he couldn't have delivered more kick-butt material. Chappelle's a sharp enough guy to ultimately produce. But the pop culture timing and comedy atmosphere might not have been favorable for the kind of out-of-left-field flair that made "Chappelle's Show" such a sensation originally, from its Rick James swagger to its blind racist unaware he's black.

Sunday's first half-hour contains essentially four skits that barely fill half that length (Murphy and Rawlings do the padding), and two of those are "Dave's rich"-related. The others are hip-hop swipes that feel a little too easy to resonate with the slap "Chappelle's" should have. Most of the bits have their clever moments, even some of the signature bite, but it seems Dave knew what was coming, so he got gone.

Comedy Central's main stage now seems left to Carlos Mencia, whose "Mind of Mencia" has shown plenty of spark, too, when it comes to American cultural absurdities. The second season kicks off Sunday with Carlos in blackface helping ensure "freedom of speech" gets amended into the Constitution. It's delivered with a surplus of screech, though, a tactic to which the livewire Mencia too often resorts as a laugh accelerator. Rappers, rednecks, Middle East sheiks and an "office pimp" provide this week's racial red meat, while Mencia manages celebrity name checks from Rosie O'Donnell to Star Jones Reynolds' husband's, uh, body parts.

And he reaches, too, for a "Chappelle's Show" shout-out. Mencia may air on the same network but hasn't reached the same stratosphere.
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