December 27, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

He was just another comedian earning a living in mostly mediocre flicks, a survivor of failed TV pilots, a dude who’d been branded ”the next Chris Rock” but hadn’t blown up big yet. Now he’s Dave Chappelle, bitch. In season 2 of Chappelle’s Show — his Comedy Central sketch series that crosses the line, spits on it, and then smudges it until you can’t see it anymore — he broke out with ballsy bits like the Rosa Parks spoof about the first black man to soil a whites-only toilet and his reenactment of the encounters that guest star Charlie Murphy (Eddie’s older brother) had with a cocaine-fueled Rick James in the ’80s. (As the unhinged, cocksure funkster, Chappelle made ”I’m Rick James, bitch!” the coolest catchphrase of the year.) So what’s the man whose top-selling season 1 DVD helped him score a new Comedy Central deal, potentially worth $50 million, out to prove? ”It’s not like, ‘We’re going to be so provocative and controversial that they can’t turn away,”’ says Chappelle, 31. ”But sometimes convention and what’s funny butt heads, and when it [does], we just err on the side of what’s funny.” Keep making those kinds of errors, Dave — we don’t mind.

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