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. Richard, DuPont, Washington

    Excellent story as usual Ed. Imagine him as the press secretary! I think suddenly Areicans would start paying a WHOLE lot more attention the the briefings, no?

    July 19, 2007 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  2. mike los angeles ca.

    What candy coated treatment you are giving to criminal bush. You pick the one good thing chapelle has to say. Why don't you print the other opinions mr. chapelle has to say about our planets most prolific killer. Er I mean Team Bush.

    With respect,

    July 19, 2007 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    Hey, baby! Go home, baby!

    July 19, 2007 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  4. c.p middleton ma

    Chappelle for president in 2008!

    July 19, 2007 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    dave for president!

    July 19, 2007 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  6. wayne patterson normal, Illinois

    Dave is a free sprit. It must be nice not to need 50 million dollars just so you can be free and do things like showing up at the White House.

    July 19, 2007 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  7. T-Bone

    PLEASE PEOPLE — go this website and sign the petition for Michael Vick’s suspension! He abused and slaughtered dogs and if we don’t stop him he’s going to get away with it! Let the NFL and other sport’s organizations know that this abuse will not be tolerated! Go here to sign with The Animal Humane Society https://community.hsus.org/campaign/US_2007_dogfighting_nfl2?qp_source=gaba6w

    July 19, 2007 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  8. Chantelle, MN

    Cover something that actually matters!

    July 19, 2007 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  9. Mark, Cincinnati OH

    Who do I need to contact about sharing my interaction with celebrities? Here's a teaser: Four years ago I saw Tony Hawk at a casino in Vegas. Someone was yelling "Hey! That's Tony Hawk" and I was going to walk over and introduce myself but my girlfriend wanted to play that alien video poker game so I just watched him walk away. I was thinking "Tony Hawk Battles Gambling Addiction?" would be a good attention grabbing headline for that article. Will 200 words work? I'm kinda pressed for time and it seems like quantity is at a premium. Anyhow, get back at me and we'll work something out, I've got at least a dozen more.

    July 19, 2007 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  10. Rupa, Boston ,MA

    This is a cool picture of Mr. Chappellle . He is a smart guy and gutsy at the same time , remarkable at this moment of history .

    July 19, 2007 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  11. Brooke, Huntington, WV

    thats just cool that Dave was outside the White House

    July 19, 2007 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  12. Cahona, texas

    This is probably one of the most useless articles ever....

    July 19, 2007 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  13. BruntLIVE

    Dave Chappelle can you please pull Carlos Mencia (Mind of Mencia on Comedy Central) off to the side and tell him he's not funny and trying to be you is making him look silly. He's not a replacement he's a....I don't know what he is. Perhaps a desperate wanna-be.

    July 19, 2007 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  14. Ryan, Washington, DC

    It's not just that this isn't news, it's that it's not even interesting. There's literally nothing newsworthy in it.

    July 19, 2007 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    terrible story

    July 19, 2007 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  16. Sam, Berkeley California

    This was a totally pointless article. What a waste of digital ink.

    July 19, 2007 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  17. Dave Chappelle, Washington, District of Columbia

    I think I may just run for president. I'm just what this country needs. Loosies for everyone!

    July 19, 2007 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  18. DPW, Minnepolis, MN

    Not Yet!

    July 19, 2007 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  19. baba, dallas Texas

    Dave Dave Dave. Good ol Dave Chappelle,
    BTW. Could you tell carlos Mencia that he's not really funny and that i go deaf everytime i hear his voice.
    Dave for President 2008 or maybe 2012 after Obama!!

    July 19, 2007 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  20. Rafael, Miami, FL

    Ed, don't listen to what those people wrote... they don't know how to appreciate DC political life.

    I miss working on Capitol Hill dearly, and reading your adventure with Dave Chappelle has brought back some great memories.

    Thanks, and keep up the good work.

    July 19, 2007 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  21. John -- Toledo, Ohio

    a brochure on "power yoga," someone's "pet cause?" power yoga is a sport. that would be like leaving a brochure on aerobics or kayaking. silly.

    though i guess that's a trivial thing to pick on in this bloated nonsense piece. so what was chappelle really doing there? is there any story at all here? this is a few screens of crap about a crappy celebrity citing. it belongs on your myspace page, not cnn. and please don't send me that link, btw.

    you're a white house reporter. for pete's sake, do something!

    July 19, 2007 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  22. Thomas Phoenix AZ

    Good Article! Some people on the blog are so boring and waste precious oxygen. A good laugh is needed from time to time.

    July 19, 2007 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  23. Lynn, Oroville, CA

    Big frikkin' deal.

    July 19, 2007 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  24. Karl Rove

    this article has nothing to do with him being a secretary. he just happened to be at the white house for a tour

    July 19, 2007 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    Slow News Day Eh guys? Last time I checked, this was the political ticker, not E! Network..

    July 19, 2007 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
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