July 20th, 2007
11:20 AM ET
9 years ago

Dave Chappelle: Next White House press secretary?

Chappelle told CNN’s Ed Henry his favorite part of the Bush presidency is “the nicknames.”

From CNN White House Correspondent Ed Henry

WASHINGTON (CNN) - One of the best parts of the White House beat is that you just never know who's going to show up at those black iron gates at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

There was the time I bumped into St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa wearing a business suit in the West Wing - he looked so odd without a ballcap and uniform but was a really nice guy. Or that night a couple of weeks back when I was heading to a live shot on the North Lawn and ran into Bo Derek arriving for a tour. (Let's just say she's still a "10," ok?)

And then there was this morning: Who knew I'd run into the comedian Dave Chappelle, just a couple days after he was hospitalized for exhaustion?

As I arrived at the White House by foot, I noticed a small group of Secret Service officers gathered around a man with a black backpack but didn't think too much of it. People with backpacks somewhat routinely show up at the White House gates saying they have an appointment with the president, when they really do not. Thankfully, the backpacks are usually just full of harmless literature about the individual's pet cause. The Secret Service may take a brochure about Power Yoga or something, and the individual goes on his merry way without incident.

But as I headed through the screening machine in the Secret Service's security shack, I overheard someone say, "Hey, that's Dave Chappelle out there. That's Dave Chappelle, I'm telling you."

"No way," I said. "Isn't he in the hospital?"

But then I spun around and looked through the glass of the security shack to find a guy who indeed looked exactly like Chappelle. I couldn't resist chasing a story - even a non-political one - so I grabbed my backpack and headed back to the street.

A man was standing at the gate asking Chappelle, "Are you who I think you are?"

Chappelle scrunched his face into that familiar pose and declared: "And who do you think I am?"

Confirmed - it was him. So I introduced myself and started walking with Chappelle toward the Treasury Department.

Chappelle looked healthy in a pair of black athletic pants and matching polo shirt. But there was a solitary cigarette with a lighter cupped delicately in his left hand as he walked casually, politely stopping at one point so that he did not step in the way of a tourist snapping a photo of her family in front of the North Portico of the White House.

I asked what he was doing in Washington. "I'm just taking a stroll from Georgetown to the Hill," he said, reminding me that he hails from Washington, his time in the city being one of the funnier riffs on his show.

Chappelle said he was feeling good and then asked me a question about covering the White House. "Has the president given you a nickname?" he asked.

Believe it or not, this is a frequent query because the president used to hand out nicknames to reporters like "Stretch" to a tall guy and "Super Stretch" to an even taller correspondent. But that's sooooo 2001 - I started covering Mr. Bush in the second term so I never got one.

"Oh," Chappelle cracked. "That's my favorite part of the Bush presidency - the nicknames."

Since Chappelle made international headlines in 2005 by essentially disappearing for awhile under strange circumstances - and walking away from a $50 million deal to continue his show on Comedy Central - I asked what he's doing next.

"I want your job,” he said, explaining that it’s fun to watch reporters go back-and-forth with White House Press Secretary Tony Snow.

"Or maybe I'll take Tony Snow's job," Chappelle smiled. "I think that's a cool job."

Neither Tony nor I get $50 million. But we both have great jobs - plus you never know who you'll run into next around here.


Filed under: President Bush
soundoff (203 Responses)
  1. Carter. Las Vegas NV

    Great Story Ed!! I think DC would make an excellent press secretary!

    July 19, 2007 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  2. JMG, Portland, OR

    Get this garbage off of CNN.com. This is supposed to be a reputable news agency, not Entertainment Tonight. While you're at it, burn all the Britney "news" too.

    July 19, 2007 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  3. Kathryn

    Very funny story, great story particularly for those of us who live in the area, and if some of you are angry about the article, LIGHTEN UP. It's an amusing story and written in a very fun way. So, get over yourselves and if you don't care to hear anything about celebrities, don't click on a link that contains their names.

    July 19, 2007 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  4. Andrew, Lubbock Texas

    GOOD ARTICLE: I think Dave Chappelle is a visionary comedian, and so many "collar-up" folks hate him because he speaks the truth about black & white. I'd like to see how many derogatory comments so far were made by white folks. If you'd overlook your own ignorance and self-serving existence, you'd see that there are people out there like Chappelle who are just trying to invite a little humor into the places we need to laugh the most, i.e. politics. I'm white, and I love his work! Give the guy a break and get over yourselves.

    July 19, 2007 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  5. Paul Phx Az

    wow what a thrilling article.
    man you really know how to root out a story.

    July 19, 2007 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  6. coco

    imagine Obama& Dave

    July 19, 2007 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  7. Lynne, Catonsville, MD

    Lighten up, people!
    Mr. Henry is recounting something interesting that happened to him. It's kind of like a snapshot, a day in the life.
    I liked it.

    July 19, 2007 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  8. animal-hugger, D.C. Metro area

    Hey T-Bone thanx for the link! I am definitely signing the Petition to get that dog-torturing sociopath Vicks suspended from the NFL. BTW I love Dave Chappelle!

    July 19, 2007 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  9. John S. Chicago, Illinois

    T-Bone, Ever hear of DUE PROCESS? Dont be a jerkoff like our "president" and attempt to trample on everyone's rights just cause you think your opinion matters.

    Secondly, You think the NFL really doesnt know that animal abuse is intolerable? You think the NFL ISNT sick over this? Your petition is a waste of your, and everyone else's time. The NFL does not convict based on public opinion. If you want to talk vick or sports, I would be more than happy to chat at a blog. Withleather? Thebiglead? Fanhouse?

    Why dont you get people to sign a petition to stop watching reality TV? or get a sign up sheet to assasinate our current president. both noble causes im sure you could get behind.

    July 19, 2007 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  10. Mike, Orlando, FL

    Dave Chappelle would be the Half Baked Press Secretary, but prolly whole baked

    July 19, 2007 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  11. Stephen

    At least it wasn't about Paris Hilton. Good job CNN.

    July 19, 2007 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  12. Brian, Glendora, CA

    All you people need to get a life. Yes, this was a non-news story, but it is refreshing to read a political story not about death, war, or the election in 2008. I would listen to Dave Chapelle in a news briefing.

    July 19, 2007 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  13. Stacy, St. Louis, MO

    Wow, tough crowd in the comments. Thanks for sharing your experience, Ed. No Bush nickname? You must be devastated. Since Bush seems to like to stick with a few nicknames and just give out variations on them, be happy he hasn't deemed you "Super Turd Blossum."

    I've watched you at some of the briefings. Good job. Keep it up and you'll get some truth yet.

    July 19, 2007 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  14. Anon

    Completely useless article. I'm not sure I can get those 3 minutes in my life back.

    July 19, 2007 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  15. NY, NY

    Great story – you saw Dave Chappelle! Next time how about I just ate a sandwich?

    July 19, 2007 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  16. 5000, ATX

    Why are there so many haters? I thought the story was interesting.

    July 19, 2007 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  17. Arash Davis, CA

    Wow, the number of people who think that this story is rubbish. Well, no one forced you to read. Instead of wasting your time complaining about news stories such as this, go on and read the other stories that CNN posts. CNN reports on both the significant and insignificance. It's based on your own personal opinions whether something is newsworthy or not.

    BTW, Dave is the most influential and successful comedian presently, and that occurred during his stand-up routines, not just because of the Chappelle show. Keep it real Dave (if you happen to be reading this forum) don't let anyone tell you how it is.

    July 19, 2007 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  18. A Nonymous

    I wonder if he'd maybe change the name of the White House–come up with something better

    July 19, 2007 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  19. libby, chicago, il

    next time you write a story: have a point. It makes it so much more interesting that way for the reader.

    Was there a story here? But that's just me, never mind. Oh wait, there are celebrities at the White House infrequently. Go figure. Ain't that a corker.

    July 19, 2007 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  20. Donna, Germantown, Maryland

    Excellent story. A nice summer diversion. I too would love to see Chappelle either as either a correspondent or spokesperson. I bet they would be as funny as the skits he does as President.

    Thanks,

    July 19, 2007 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  21. TJ Detroit,Michigan

    In regard to Micheal Vick, what he is ACCUSED of doing is wrong and is without defense but for people to say he should be suspended know is crazy. Do we have due process or not? If a girl says Lebron James raped her they should just suspend him right? Oh, just like Kobe Bryant the "rapist". It turned out the girl was carrying several different DNA in her underpants but some people where making him out to be the worst man on earth.

    July 19, 2007 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  22. Yeahoo, Seattle, Washington

    One day while taking stuff to the dump, I ran into Madonna who was wearing a backpack and taking a shortcut to the swap meet through the dump. She should be waste disposal emperor of the universe because she went through the dump. Let me guess, your interns are hot and want to be writers. Guess you're giving them a chancre ..er I mean chance?

    July 19, 2007 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  23. C., Yuma, AZ

    Such a whimsical article, very cute and of course done in a light hearted tone, which is obvious even in the title with the additon of the question mark...people seem to forget that celebrity news is of noteworthy value because of how integrated they are into american society. It speaks well of people who are not only aware of political and scientific aspects of life, but also social. This article could also catch the eye of the younger generation, spurring them to investigate the rest of cnn.com, which would be wonderful.

    July 19, 2007 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  24. Dave - Iowa

    I find, as an American, that it is almost embarrassing how worked up some of you get over what amounts to be an "interest" piece. Sure, the content of this is not "breaking news", but come on people. If you're looking to CNN to give to an objective view of national and world affairs, you're already at a loss. But, Chappelle's something of an anachronism. He tells it like he sees it, but doesn't spew party-line venom. Let him be. As far as I'm concerned, nice job, Ed. Too much doom and gloom as it is in this world. You gotta' laugh now and then.

    July 19, 2007 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  25. Anthony, Indianapolis, IN

    How unusual. Chappelle is all over the place! About a month ago, I ran into him and his kids on skateboards in downtown San Francisco. I said "Are you Dave Chappelle?" Such an unassuming guy. Funny...

    July 19, 2007 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
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