He wasn't crazy. He wasn't on drugs. He presented no threat to Oprah Winfrey's onset furniture.
In his first televised interview since fleeing the set of his hit Comedy Central show last spring, Dave Chappelle sat down with the Queen of Daytime Friday in an attempt to explain the reasons behind his abrupt departure.
With the premiere of the third season of Chappelle's Show only weeks away, the comedian suddenly vanished without explanation, forcing Comedy Central to shut down production on the series and igniting speculations that his hard-partying lifestyle had resulted in a total meltdown.
Chappelle eventually surfaced in South Africa, where he was rumored to have checked himself into a psychiatric hospital for treatment, a report he has denied.
According to the comedian, neither drugs nor insanity were behind his decision to cut and run from Chappelle's Show. Stress, on the other hand, was a major factor.
"I wasn't crazy but it is incredibly stressful," Chappelle said.
After Chappelle signed an unprecedented $50 million contract in August 2004, carrying him through the third and fourth seasons of Chappelle's Show, he said he began to feel like too many people were trying to control him and the direction of his show.
"I felt in a lot of instances I was deliberately being put through stress because when you're a guy who generates money, people have a vested interested in controlling you," Chappelle said.
The comedian said he finally decided a spiritual retreat was in order, though he neglected to tell anyone but his brother of his plans.
"I would go to work on the show and I felt awful every day, thatÂ?s not the way it was," he said. "I felt like some kind of prostitute or something. If I feel so bad, why keep on showing up to this place? I'm going to Africa. The hardest thing to do is to be true to yourself, especially when everybody is watching."
After he returned from Africa, Chappelle continued to avoid the spotlight, retreating to his farm in Yellow Springs, Ohio. In June, he resumed making sporadic standup appearances around Los Angeles.
The comedian told Winfrey that he had not ruled out returning to Comedy Central to complete the third and fourth seasons of Chappelle's Show--provided that some changes were made.
"I do want to do my show again provided, one, I can make the proper work environment," Chappelle said.
In the interest of being "socially responsible," he said he wanted to begin donating a portion of the proceeds from his DVD sales to charity.
"I want to give," Chappelle said. "I don't want the money. I don't want the drama. I just want to do my show. I want to have fun again."
Comedy Central made it clear Friday that the network will welcome the return of its wayward star. "Dave is a comedic genius whose work we truly value, and the door is always open to him," the network said in a statement.
In December, the network said the four episodes of Chappelle's Show completed by the comedian before his departure would hit the air this spring.