January 22, 2003
"The idea was to do a variety show that was personal," Chappelle tells Howard Stern about Chappelle's Show, which premieres on January 22, 2003. "It was like taking somebody on a tour through a young black man's subconscious, and I don't think America has been there," he would later tell Esquire. "So in a way it was kind of like reality TV, right?" In one of the show's first break-out hits, Chappelle plays Clayton Bigsby, a blind racist Klan leader who doesn't know he's black. The comedy masterstroke is so powerful it knocks Charlie Sheen off TV. "I laughed myself into a hernia," Sheen would later say, claiming that the real reason he missed tapings of Two and a Half Men and got fired was not drugs or prostitutes or ego but Chappelle's Bigsby sketch. "That is 100 percent true. It's his fault. There you go. Dave Chappelle cost me my job."