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. Leigh Ann, Pittsford, NY

    Who can't love Chappelle?

    July 19, 2007 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  2. Mary

    I'm hoping for the Stewart/Colbert ticket. Maybe they'd give the press secretary job to Chappelle.

    July 19, 2007 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  3. Eisenberger, Israel

    hamburgers and hotdogs

    July 19, 2007 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  4. Atlanta, GA

    I certainly feel better knowing that name dropping celebrities is what makes political reporting important. The Fourth Estate will always be strong with such important work like your's being done, Ed. If you can get Cheney and Brittney Spears into a story you might have something worthy of a Pulitzer.

    July 19, 2007 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  5. Steve

    Chappelle was probably getting material for his next show...that will pay him $80 million.

    Did you see the "Black Bush" skit? Hilarious!

    July 19, 2007 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  6. Jerry, Allentown PA

    Dave's one of the funniest people alive. And his life story has taken such peculiar twists. Any news you get on him is much appreciated. Pay no attention to these self-righteous fools.

    July 19, 2007 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  7. Dan, Buffalo, NY

    You guys want some pancakes??

    July 19, 2007 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  8. Gwen, Washington, Dc

    You should have suggested that Chappelle get some rest and stop walking around D.C. aimlessly. Really, what was he doing at the White House?

    July 19, 2007 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  9. dan barnes

    What a silly non story...

    July 19, 2007 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  10. Greg, Fayetteville, AR

    Lots of people didn't like it.. "There’s literally nothing newsworthy in it.", yet they read it, and posted a comment. Once in a while it's nice to read something unique, and not war/famine/death. If you don't like it, STOP READING. Nice Article.

    July 19, 2007 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  11. Dave, Lexington KY

    Finally, a story lacking murder, death, kill. A nice break from the usual headlines.

    I managed to see Chappy live on the taping of two shows. You might see me -I was the only white guy in the front row! 🙂

    July 19, 2007 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  12. Jake, San Francisco, CA

    I saw Daves stand up act here in SF about a month back. He did a full week of shows starting at 1am and ending in the 4am to 5am range. I don't blame him for being exhausted, especially if he was keeping that pace in other cities. It was a great show. Daves a champ. Hector Gonzalez is the king of the price is right.

    July 19, 2007 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  13. ed

    to those who said this was a stupid waste of time artical. why read it then? you should have realized in the first few lines that it wasnt anything serious. more of a fun light hearted artical. something we need more of. all this death, proverty, ect is getting old.

    July 19, 2007 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  14. Aileen, Manhattan, NY

    For those who criticized the article: Get a life and a sense of humor. Better yet, don't procreate.

    July 19, 2007 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  15. Alex, NY, NY

    WHY was this posted? WHY is this of interest to anyone? It literally says NOTHING of interest, not even gossip.

    July 19, 2007 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  16. T. Smith, Silver Spring, MD

    Since you want to bring up topics not pertaining to this one, Michael Vick has not been convicted of any crimes.
    How about we wait until hes proven guilty before we take his job. Id think youd expect the same courtesy.

    July 19, 2007 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  17. Aaron, Dover New Hampshire

    This story was great (waste of digital ink, huh? you just wasted yours telling us how useless this story was, thanks for wasting MY time). And why is this story great...first of all, Dave Chapelle is a respectable, intelligent human being whose sense of humor is both edgy but thought provoking, I loved the show but can understand his reasons for walking away...but this piece was also not about war, crime, drugs or any of the other desensitizing drudgery that frequents our daily news. It was a break in the thick fog of politics...thanks.

    July 19, 2007 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  18. Crystal Taylor, Bowie, MD

    Great story! Chappelle and other comedians are often way more insightful into American politics than are the actual American politicians.

    July 19, 2007 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  19. Dave, Augusta Maine

    "Why don’t you print the other opinions mr. chapelle has to say about our planets most prolific killer"

    ...You mean mosquitos? I'm pretty sure you can find plenty of other platforms to spew anti-Bush rhetoric than in an amusing ariticle about Dave Chapelle. I don't care for the president either, but dang.

    July 19, 2007 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  20. Steve

    This is one of the worst articles I have ever read. Ed Henry, you are not a reporter. CNN is a joke on television and the web. There's so much in this short little article that is embarrassing to journalism and the state of the nation it's amazing. My god, Henry, you and CNN are ridiculous.

    July 19, 2007 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  21. Carol Nashville, TN

    I agree that this article was not newsworthy and certainly not interesting.

    July 19, 2007 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  22. Jdub, Chicago

    Ed – I think it's always great to have an anecdotal incident and a brush with somebody you never expect to see. Please disregard all the negative comments people are making. I think you painted an excellent "slice of life" picture of what actually can happen at the White House when you least expect it.

    July 19, 2007 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  23. Arachnae, Sterling VA

    To all the comment-whiners: it's a BLOG, people. There's no limit on air-minutes or resources – the internet is infinite in all directions. If Ed wants to blog about Dave Chapelle, why the heck not?

    I would personally hope that Dave would prefer to be press secretary to a President Obama or Clinton, however.

    July 19, 2007 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  24. Jillian, Washington DC

    I too saw Dave Chappelle, this afternoon on the Hill. He simply asked my coworker and I, "Excuse me, do you know where I can get a phone card?" We briefly chatted with him. I asked him about his health, and he stated "Oh you heard?" He is an extremely intelligent man and though some may call him crazy, he's eccentric and feels the pressure of his celebrity and the perceived responsibility that comes with it.

    My colleague and I walked him to CVS, on Penn Ave, by Eastern Market, I shook his hand and went on my way.

    July 19, 2007 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  25. Jacqueline, Rio Rancho NM

    You negative Americans should chill. I was interesting enough to take you mind off of what's going on in Iraq just for a short moment. Something pleasant and uplifting for a change. Lighten up people. Can you stand to heard someelse for a change besides who got killed today.

    July 19, 2007 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
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