What Did Dave Chappelle Do in Africa? Behind the Comedian's Disappearance in 2005

Remember when comedian Dave Chappelle went MIA in 2005? He visited South Africa at that time, but what did he do there? Details ahead.

Melissa Willets - Author

Oct. 23 2023, Published 10:12 a.m. ET

Dave Chappelle during Hurricane Katrina Hip Hop Benefit Concert at B.B. Kings on Sept. 19, 2005
Source: Getty Images

The Gist:

  • In 2005, mega-star Dave Chappelle walked away from his wildly popular, self-named show.
  • The comedian took off for Africa, for previously unknown reasons.
  • Dave has since talked about what he did during that time.
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In 2004, the Chappelle Show was considered to be the most successful program on Comedy Central.

But by 2005, the joke was on viewers, with Dave Chappelle just walking away from his show, for reasons that weren't clear. So what happened? And what did a trip to Africa have to do with the sudden end of the comedian's late-night reign? Read on to find out.

Dave Chappelle headed to Africa. What did he do there?

Dave Chappelle performs during a pop-up show at Radio City Music Hall on Oct. 16, 2022 in New York City
Source: Getty Images
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Sure, Dave is performing again (not without controversy), but there was a time when he was completely out of the spotlight. Fans didn't know it, but the former Comedy Central staple purposely stepped away from the public eye by traveling under the radar to South Africa.

As reports, Dave talked about his decision during a 2014 appearance on David Letterman's show. Not only did he admit to wanting to dodge the media, but he also opened up about his semi-regret losing out on making the huge amount of money he could have earned during his self-imposed work hiatus.

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Dave Chapelle attends the U.K. premiere of "Dave Chappelle: Untitled" at Cineworld Leicester Square on Oct. 17, 2021
Source: Getty Images

Although Dave notes he got to spend time with his family during his time away from Hollywood, he added, "It makes no sense at all. There’s nothing anyone can say. It’s just you do what you feel like you need to do. It’s a very complicated answer, because I felt a variety of ways over the last years."

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Addressing his financial loses, Dave said, "Whenever there’s something I’d like to have that I could have afforded but I can’t now afford, then I’m upset about it. But then when I see a guy who goes to a job that’s time consuming and he doesn’t have free time to do things I get to do, then I feel good about it."

But Dave confessed that there's a currency other than cash that makes him tick, and it seems that is what he was exploring in Africa.

Meanwhile, there's even more to the story!

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Dave Chappelle talked to Oprah about why going to South Africa was what he needed.

Oprah Winfrey during 60th Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York City in 2006
Source: Getty Images

In addition to opening up to David, Oprah was another host who managed to get Dave to chat about his sabbatical to Africa. As speculation mounted that the comedian was mentally ill or addicted to drugs, he told the real story to the famous talk show star.

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"One, I needed a break," Dave explained to Oprah, although he also shared that even his wife didn't know he was going to Africa, a decision he later called a "crazy mistake."

He then detailed, "Two, we have family and friends down there. I felt like it was a place where I could really reflect... And here's the other thing: I was only gone for two weeks! They made it sound like it was so mysterious."

Dave also stated that he didn't feel as in control over the increasingly "socially irresponsible" content as Chappelle Show went into subsequent seasons. "I knew I was going to leave. The only reason I didn't leave sooner was because I knew they were going to say, 'He couldn't finish his show.' So I got ahead of schedule, and I bounced," he said.

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