Newsweek: Chappelle couldn't handle success. The magazine's sources say the ''Chappelle's Show'' star cracked under the pressures of fame and trying to top himself

By Gary Susman
Updated May 07, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

Speculation continues over last Wednesday’s abrupt halt of production on Chappelle’s Show and Comedy Central’s indefinite postponement of the Season 3 premiere, which had already been postponed once, from February to May 31. On Friday, Matt Labov, Dave Chappelle’s publicist, denied that his client was in rehab or addicted to cocaine, though he suggested that the workload pressure of writing and starring in every sketch of the much anticipated third season was taking its toll. That assessment was echoed in a Newsweek report published Monday, which cited friends of the comic as saying that he’d been worn down by the pressures of meeting the expectations raised by the success of the first two seasons, whose ratings and DVD sales led to a $50 million contract renewal for Chappelle last summer. He’d also, however, been worn down by his own partying.

”I saw him start trippin’ when the buzz started to get real loud,” said one celebrity friend to Newsweek. ”I think he was in shock after the first season, and then [during] the second, it hit him that he was the man. That freaked him. And then came the pressure of living up to expectations for the third season. He’s never been there — where something’s so good and you got to come even stronger the next time. It was too much.” As for the partying Newsweek cites a music industry friend as saying, ”Everyone knows Dave likes to have fun. I wouldn’t say it’s out of control … but at some point that has to affect you if you’ve got a regular gig.”

One source echoed a report in last week’s New York Post that one cause of the delay was creative friction between Chappelle and Comedy Central over his envelope-pushing material. According to Newsweek, a Chappelle associate says, ”Dave is not compromising what he wants to do. He’s waited a long time for this chance, and he’s not trying to do anything that isn’t 100 percent his vision.” Comedy Central, however, has denied reports of conflict over content, and a Chappelle employee told Newsweek that the postponement ”is not a network issue.” Whatever the reason for the delay, Comedy Central said in its statement last Wednesday, ”All parties are optimistic that production will resume in the near future.”