Dave Chappelle was honored in a ceremony that aired on Tuesday night, and his creative partner Neal Brennan brought down the house with a segment that explained how the pair made two of their most famous works.
Brennan, who co-wrote Half-Baked and co-created Chappelle’s Show, shared just how those things came to be in a hilarious segment that had Chappelle leaping out of his chair with laughter. The video started with jokes about just how hard it is to get Chappelle out to events where he is honored because he doesn’t like to dress up.
“Normally Dave dresses like a window washer,” Brennan said.
At the Mark Twain Prize ceremony, Brennan explained how important Chappelle was to his life. It was heartfelt and showcased how important Brennan feels their work has been to comedy and America in general, but the monologue also hilariously recounted how unprepared they were to write a movie.
“Dave gave me a career,” Brennan said. “We met in New York City at a comedy club in 1991, wrote a few jokes together but always hoped we could do something bigger. Then in 1997 Dave called me and said ‘Hey, if Universal reaches out to you, tell them we’re writing a weed movie together.’ And I was like ‘what weed movie?’ and Dave said ‘don’t worry about it.”
Sure enough, according to Brennan, the phone call came.
“Next thing I know, someone from Universal calls and asks ‘are you writing a weed movie with Dave Chappelle?’ and I was like ‘yes?’ and they were like ‘when can you pitch it to us’ and I was like ‘in 30 days’ time.'”
The movie Brennan is referencing became Half-Baked, which launched their careers in comedy in a big way. But as Brennan told it, both writers were about as focused on the project as the characters in the movie itself.
“So we had a month to figure the pitch out and finally on day 29 I called Dave and said ‘dude we gotta work this weed movie up,” Brennan said. “And he goes ‘what weed movie?'”
The line got a huge rise out of Chappelle, who the camera showed jumping out of his seat and laughing while others in the audience roared.
“Anyway, the day before the pitch we outlined Half-Baked, it took the full day, about 16 hours,” Brennan said. “And that attention to detail really showed up on screen.”
Brennan clearly wasn’t afraid to make fun of himself and Chappelle, noting that the stoner comedy opened against notable box office hits like Good Will Hunting, Wag The Dog, As Good As It Gets and Titanic.
“It was a critical and commercial flop and, quite frankly, wasn’t very good,” Brennan said, which made Chappelle slap the banister in front of him in laughter. He then went on to explain that “after the stink wore off” they spoke on the phone again and Chappelle had another idea, to do a show like Playboy After Dark.
“Now if you remember Playboy After Dark, get your affairs in order because you’re on death’s door,” Brennan said. “Anyway, Dave and I figured out a rough sketch for what would become Chappelle’s Show.”
Brennan explained that not many networks dug the idea, saying that someone from HBO asked Chappelle “why do we need you when we have Chris Rock?”
It was a great story for Brennan to tell and it illustrated Chappelle’s own career and his relationship with him, praising how easy it was for him to direct Dave and that the show allowed Chappelle to be his “entire” self.
“Chappelle’s Show was a rare thing,” Brennan said. “It was a fully-faceted document of a human being living in the United States of America while having the surreal experience of being born with black skin. So, you know, Playboy After Dark.
But it didn’t come without some great lines at Chappelle’s expense, too.
“The show went really well,” Brennan said about Chappelle’s Show. “Like, absurdly well. Like, so-well-you-gotta-go-to-Africa well.”
Brennan has spoken at length about his friendship with Chappelle before, including on UPROXX’s People’s Party with Talib Kweli where he explained their falling out after Chappelle’s Show ended.
You can also watch Chappelle’s acceptance speech below.