Actor, Writer, Producer

By EW Staff
Updated October 15, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: Dave Chapelle Illustration by Christoph Niemann

How Dave Chappelle gained power in 2004

AGE 31

He’s played everything from a blind white-supremacist leader who doesn’t know he’s black to a crack addict who teaches grade-school kids about getting high. But his latest role may be the most outrageous of all: the 50 Million Dollar Man. Chappelle inked an industry-rattling deal this summer for two more seasons of his hit Comedy Central series, Chappelle’s Show, which will likely make him the richest man on basic cable. ”Right now, as we say in the Rick James sketch, it’s a celebration,” says Chappelle. ”You don’t get many moments like this.”

Last season, as more and more young men fled the tube, Show was the highest-rated series in its time slot among 18- to 34-year-old men. Which explains how Chappelle, who toiled for years shooting busted pilots and costarring in films like Half Baked, managed to negotiate such a sweet deal — tied, we should add, to his show’s phenomenal DVD sales. (Season One is this year’s No. 1 TV DVD: 1.7 million copies sold to date.)

Chappelle, who helped orchestrate a Fugees reunion for an upcoming music-and-comedy concert film, insists he’ll keep choosing projects based on ”what feels good.” But he’s still not sure exactly what to do with his newfound clout. ”Remember The Greatest American Hero, where the guy gets the supersuit but didn’t have the instruction book so he had to figure out all the powers? I’m still at that stage.”