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. Jared, Seattle, WA

    Brilliant reportage! As witty as it is uniteresting. I'm sure Dave appreciated your company though. Fascinating!

    July 20, 2007 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  2. Ariel, Newburgh NY

    "Hey, baby! Go home, baby!"
    "BEEP! I got kids to feed!"

    July 20, 2007 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  3. Cat, Waldorf, MD

    Thanks for the light hearted post..just what I needed

    July 20, 2007 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  4. Ryan, Orlando, Fl

    Sorry Ed, but how is this a story? Shouldn't this be an entry in your diary instead?

    July 20, 2007 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  5. Ryan, Boston, Ma

    get over yourselves. it's ok to smile once in a while, it's free and burns calories. if it was such a waste of 'digital ink' or your time, why bother sending a comment. how 'bout just clicking another article. boo-hoo, it wasn't a political article, cnn is not supposed to be E!. deal with it... and maybe the crybabies of the world will start to disappear.

    July 20, 2007 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  6. Brad Dunning, Dothan AL

    I've now wasted 3 minutes of my life reading this uninformative garbage that I can never get back. Thanks.

    July 20, 2007 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  7. al gore, atlanta, georgia

    you should be fired, this is lame

    July 20, 2007 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  8. Jeff English

    Dave would make a pretty good President in comparison to what we have..... It is a shame that instead of Dave... Bush didn't disappear under strange circumstances about the time that he and his VP forced Colin Powell to lie at the UN Security Council meeting about WMD's in Iraq. One thing I will say about Bush...he is loyal... to those who put him in office....the ones who make planes, guns, tanks, humvees, ammo, uniforms, flags to drape coffins and, of course, coffins. Those are the only ones left who want to continue the war and...the only ones who benefit from doing so.

    July 20, 2007 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  9. LL Cool J

    I love Dave.

    July 20, 2007 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  10. Jonny S. Culver City

    BORing

    July 20, 2007 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  11. Ben, Winchester, TN

    God bless Dave Chappelle!!! As for the Mike Vick dog fighting stuff, it is a terrible thing to abuse animals, but it amazes me that people in this country would get so mad about some dogs being hurt or killed and not give a crap about all the thousands of people in Africa that are being killed each week.

    July 20, 2007 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  12. Terrell - Dover, DE

    "...If you knew anything about Chappelle you would now that he typically refrains from bashing politicians openly...."

    Watch Dave Chappelle's standup special "For What Its Worth" to find out why he doesn't bash politicians.

    July 20, 2007 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  13. Hater of useless entertainment news, Seattle, WA.

    With everything going on in the world...and this gets printed. What a waste of time. Can I please have my two minutes back?

    July 20, 2007 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  14. Nick Borelli

    Love to see Chappelle, in Tony Snow's shoes, go one on one with Gregory of NBC. No contest.

    July 20, 2007 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  15. T-Bone

    Dear BEN - NICE LEAP. Is it possible to care about these dogs AND what happens to people in Africa??? Quit the non-sequitor bit.

    July 20, 2007 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  16. keith, hollywood ca

    i scrolled through the story, as i do with most, and noticed the word "black" used unnecessarily throughout this piece. Black gates, black backpack, black athletic pants. i really think there is something to notice there. no???? when have you ever heard someone reference the "black gates" of the white house?....and the color of the clothes people were wearing behind these black gates? and what color their bags were. its not LA fashion week....its Washington! EVERYONE WEARS BLACK! so why is it described for chappelle? and im white by the way.

    July 20, 2007 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  17. Bob Chicago, IL

    How is this news? This is worthless Tabloid-like oogling.

    July 20, 2007 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  18. Robert, Edwards AFB, CA

    Kudos to J.Barnes from Houston for outlying why people should be upset that this was posted on CNN's mainpage.

    July 20, 2007 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  19. mike los angeles ca.

    President Bush, “[o]ur planet’s most prolific killer”? How about AIDs, Hunger, Terrorism, Natural Catastrophy Fallout, Mutating Killer Viruses and Germs, Kim Jong il… Cheer up! There’s a whole world of killers out for you!

    Posted By Daniel J. Philbin, Cathedral City, California : July 20, 2007 10:02 am

    Lots of killers however you only named one other human being of a killer to rival bush team. Still, team bush has killed more folks than Kim Jong by this time. Didn't take too long to pass him up either. What else have you got? Until then, Bush carries the torch of holocaust. That torch has been in some god awful hands, too.

    Thanks for the response. Glad that we can discuss this. It needs to be discussed.

    With respect,
    Mike

    July 20, 2007 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  20. mike los angeles ca.

    Mike you are a sick sick ignorant man to think that Bush is the most prolific killer of all time!!

    Posted By Gabriel, Los Angeles CA : July 20, 2007 10:35 am

    I never said of all time. I said he currently holds the torch.

    The sick sick ignorant people are the ones who voted for bush in '04. in '00 nobody knew yet. That is excusable. but '04 was a stunner. Even still, we all have our own time line and most people in the states are getting it now. This is what the polls tell us anyway.

    With respect,
    Mike

    July 20, 2007 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  21. DJ, Cleveland, OH

    Wow – it's so entertaining to read all the comments from people who are commenting on blogs yet seem to have no idea how the media works. I write a weekly column for a newspaper column and get occasional criticisms for the "fluff" it contains. It's a COLUMN based on personal experience. It's LIGHT. It's NOT NEWS. I would submit that it's not the media's lack of substance but the audience's utter failure to be critical consumers of media and information that has led our country to the place it's in. What a frickin' riot! To think that someone would criticize a blog about Dave Chappelle as not being "hard news" enough. Did anyone see that headline, click on it, and think "Oh, boy. Am I in for some hard-hitting journalism." Of course not. We have access to almost infinite information, reporting, commentary, etc. Pick and choose, people – and do a little bit of critical thinking to the point that you understand the difference between a blog, a news story, a column, an editorial, a letter to the editor, and a paid advertisement. Think harder. Be smarter.

    July 20, 2007 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  22. nunya

    this story must have grabbed some attention....you all left a comment....that means you spent some time reading the article....sped a little less time worrying about others and a little mor worrying about youself and we will all be better off...

    July 20, 2007 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  23. mike los angeles ca.

    Wow – it’s so entertaining to read all the comments from people who are commenting on blogs yet seem to have no idea how the media works. I write a weekly column for a newspaper column and get occasional criticisms for the “fluff” it contains. It’s a COLUMN based on personal experience. It’s LIGHT. It’s NOT NEWS. I would submit that it’s not the media’s lack of substance but the audience’s utter failure to be critical consumers of media and information that has led our country to the place it’s in. What a frickin’ riot! To think that someone would criticize a blog about Dave Chappelle as not being “hard news” enough. Did anyone see that headline, click on it, and think “Oh, boy. Am I in for some hard-hitting journalism.” Of course not. We have access to almost infinite information, reporting, commentary, etc. Pick and choose, people – and do a little bit of critical thinking to the point that you understand the difference between a blog, a news story, a column, an editorial, a letter to the editor, and a paid advertisement. Think harder. Be smarter.

    Posted By DJ, Cleveland, OH : July 20, 2007 12:31 pm

    DJ, I agree with what you say completely. Anything to make people smarter readers and media consumers is good.

    However, perhaps you are overlooking something here. We are in a unique situation with this criminal administration. So it is important to have these discussions here in this light piece because of the writer of the article. The press who is close to bush and his goons benefits. Maybe when this writer does another piece that is not so light, he will have internalized some of these comments. Maybe if he has the opportunity to ask questions or choose topics, this will have made a difference. Maybe not. Who knows. Plus when so many people are going broke and being slaughtered, it is important to have these discussions wherever and whenever possible until this fire is put out.

    Thanks again for your inciteful bit of reading tips.

    With respect,
    Mike

    July 20, 2007 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  24. Kris, Minneapolis, MN

    I spent more time reading the comments then I did reading the BLOG. Who ever wrote
    (Calling CNN journalism is like calling a crack dealer a “pharmaceutical rep.”) LOL! That was the best comment of all 199! A certain Rupert changed journalism into entertainment it's not the fault of the journalist out there.
    I liked the blog. I can't believe people opened it thinking Dave was really going to be press secretary!! again LOL

    July 20, 2007 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  25. Linda, Albany, NY

    Given the options and record of our politicians thus far, I'd vote for Chappelle! However, if he's serious, I suggest he starts building on his stamina now.

    July 20, 2007 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9