Dave Chappelle : Sara De Boer/Retna
May 06, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

We still don’t know the reason behind Wednesday’s last-minute announcement by Comedy Central that the long-awaited third season of Chappelle’s Show was shutting down production and would not debut on May 31 as scheduled, but it’s not drugs. So said Dave Chappelle publicist Matt Labov, countering a report in Variety that attributed the production halt to the comic’s ”unspecified personal issues.” ”He’s not in rehab. He does not have a cocaine addiction,” Labov told the New York Times. But Labov did hint that Chappelle may not have been up to the pressure — of meeting fans’ high expectations after the first two seasons, of delivering sketches that will drive the kind of ratings and DVD sales that prompted Comedy Central to sign him to a $50 million contract extension after Season 2, and of the demands of a punishing work schedule that had him writing, producing, and starring in every sketch.

Comedy Central had already delayed the Season 3 premiere twice, with various reports blaming the delay on Chappelle’s affliction with either writer’s block or a wintertime ailment (said to be flu or pneumonia). Labov said Chappelle and writing partner Neal Brennan had written virtually every line of 10 episodes’ worth of sketches. ”Dave and Neal are essentially the whole writing staff,” Labov said. ”They’d shoot for a week and then Dave and Neal would take a week off to write.” Adding to that workload, Chappelle accepted several stand-up bookings this winter at Northeastern casinos.

On Thursday, the Times report said that Comedy Central spokesman Tony Fox told the paper that 10 episodes were complete and ready for broadcast. (So, why the postponement, then?) On Friday, however, the paper reported that there are no complete episodes. Labov said that, as in seasons past, Chappelle’s team shot numerous sketches and musical performances in no particular order and would compile them into individual episodes in the editing room.

At least the quality of the Season 3 material isn’t the issue, said Chappelle’s Show regular Donnell Rollins. ”It was going to be funny,” he told the Times. ”It was going to be consistent with the first two seasons.”

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