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. Jeff, Stratford, CT

    Personally, selfishly, I guess, I'd rather have Dave Chappelle back on TV talking about the White House. But if he's happy doing what he's doing, good for him. I have a radio show on WPKN 89.5 FM (http://www.wpkn.org) in Bridgeport, CT and Dave is welcome on my 4-hour shift any time he wants to be there. By the way, despite some earlier comments, I thought this was a fun story.

    July 19, 2007 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  2. Buck, Wheat, Ill

    Sometimes, the cheese truly does stand alone. And at those times I realize that the color blue to me isn't necessarily the color blue to you.

    July 19, 2007 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  3. Anonymous


    "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."

    If you knew anything about Chappelle you would now that he typically refrains from bashing politicians openly. What makes you think he would do it to a CNN reporter, at the White House no less?

    While many of us don't think highly of this administration we don't feel the need to spout hatred at every opportunity.

    With respect,

    July 19, 2007 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  4. nita, ny ny

    Dave for president all the way! I'd rather him than the joke we have in office right now.

    July 19, 2007 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    Slow news day………..

    July 19, 2007 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  6. Kyle Duncan, Amarillo, TX

    I am glad to hear a story that does not bash our political body. I am tired of people crying about everything. This story was a welcome break from all of the normal name calling and political war waging. The people who whine about this story need to pay more attention to themselves rather than what you deem printable and a good story.

    July 19, 2007 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  7. Peter, Ann Arbor, MI

    All of you haters out there need to relax a little. This wasn't a 'useless article.' It was an interesting look at a person who was in the news just a couple of days ago, and who can at times be a bit enigmatic (it takes an enigmatic character to walk away from $50 million). Other than my hater-bashing (which makes me a hater-hater I suppose), I thought it was an interesting post.

    July 19, 2007 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  8. Alex

    So what was he doing there?

    July 19, 2007 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  9. Kasey, New Hampshire

    How is this considered part of the news? A comedian joking that he would like to be the Press Secretary should not qualify as part of the news. The article is under the section Political Ticker. I did not learn one thing by reading that article besides what type of pants Dave Chappelle was wearing as we walked by the White House

    July 19, 2007 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  10. Fred, New Orleans, LA

    I like Mike from Los Angeles' comment – he uses the words "prolific killer" – for emphasis – then ends with "with respect" – now that's funny!

    Chappelle belongs with his team on the Chappelle show – he's not that funny alone – his cast takes him to the next level.

    July 19, 2007 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  11. Derek Salem, MA

    You guys are trying really hard to fill up blank space with news. There are a lot of things worth writing about in the world, please go find them...

    July 19, 2007 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  12. Rob, Melrose, MA

    Chappelles skit "Black Bush", where Dave plays the POTUS, is still one of the funniest takes on this WH that I've ever seen. It's also dead on as brutal political satire.

    "Aluminum tubes? Do I have to tell you what those are for?"

    July 19, 2007 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  13. Barabas

    Meanwhile, there is some homeless guy laughing his a** off because some CNN reporter thought he was Dave Chapelle.

    July 19, 2007 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  14. cecilia, washington

    waist of time. useless article

    July 19, 2007 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  15. Joe, Oxnard, Ca.

    I figured it was a commentary on his 'Black Bush' sketch.

    When he gives the press conference and says 'It's not about that it's about the oi..(cough...cough...)

    Or maybe Jr. wanted Dave to use his Comedy Central connections to put a damper on 'Lil Bush'.

    July 19, 2007 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  16. Ginger Winchester, Stanton, California

    As if...

    I hope you guys know Chappelle is JOKING.

    The that bugs Chappelle the most (as stated in an interview about 2 years ago) is that many people (like the idiot who wrote the article) tend to lose the "gist" of his humor and take things a bit too literal.

    In other words, CNN is too "white" (just like the GOP).

    July 19, 2007 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  17. Lukas Bradley, Atlanta, GA

    Cute story. Don't worry about the bad comments here.

    July 19, 2007 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  18. brian omaha nebraska

    wow terrible story. the headline makes you believe that dave chappelle is indeed running or avidly seeking to be the white house press secretary, turns out hes not at all. lame reporting I suggest covering more worth while stories, nothing against dave chappelle, it just simply isnt true or interesting becuase its not reailstically going to happen. bad reporting.

    July 19, 2007 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  19. Boosha Germanville CT

    A better question is, what is digital ink?

    July 19, 2007 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  20. Evan, Brooklyn NY

    What an amazing piece of writing. Too many journalists are caught up covering issues and the candidates in this political season, but you had the insight to report on a celebrity who was hot a few years ago walking down the street and talking about things.

    I also like the part where you mentioned that Bo Drek was still a 10, because that's a reference to that movie "10", which makes it fun for the reader and lets in a little bit of levity in these dire times.

    On behalf of all Americans, if not the world: Thank you.

    July 19, 2007 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  21. Will - Miami, Fl

    They'll post this story but hardly a word about certain presidential candidates..

    Can someone plese tell me how this a credible news organization??

    Ron Paul is HONEST and good for America!

    July 19, 2007 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  22. Chris, Forest, Mississippi

    Good human interest story Ed. People tend to forget that reporters are people too and while most of our work includes telling other people's stories, we might have a few of our own. By the way, you're right. I have been to the White House gates and the variety of people who show up there is interesting. Most of the idiots who posted those comments before mine need to get a life. They obviously don't know a dam- thing about journalism and they should judge someone else for something they know nothing about themselves.

    July 19, 2007 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  23. Jospeph S. Chmoe

    you call that a story? I feel duped.

    Good "stretch".

    July 19, 2007 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  24. GWB, DC

    Michael Moore was right. CNN has gone to the dogs. Whats next, 'Paris Hilton takes DC' as her purse is searched at the airport? BARF

    July 19, 2007 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  25. Maher, Washington DC

    What's with all these comments disparaging this piece? The author prefaced it by saying that this was one of those spontaneous events that compelled a reporter to "chase a story". The fact that you actually read it strips you of any perceived journalistic ideal you're trying to uphold...go back to reading about Paris Hilton!
    At the very least, this is a piece that could raise some questions about this unlikely marriage of ideas between a president and a celebrity not perceived to be usually in sync...That could be newsworthy.
    May be there is more to it or it could be very well be that same guy I ran into on at a Jazz bar on U Street last summer and still can't figure out whether it was actually Dave Chappelle!

    July 19, 2007 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
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