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. Robert Dayton, Ohio

    Dave Chappell actually lives on a Farm a few miles away from where I am right now (Dayton Ohio). A place called Yellow Springs.

    I wonder what he was doing walking around DC ?? Probably gathering more material for his stand up shows!

    July 20, 2007 01:21 am at 1:21 am |
  2. Elvin, Winnipeg-MB

    Well, we turned an actor into a president, a terminator into a governor, why NOT a comedian into a press secretary?

    July 20, 2007 01:30 am at 1:30 am |
  3. Jim, San Diego, CA

    Next up- real news at 11. Oh wait a minute, CnN.com stopped reporting real news 10 years ago. And now, puppies! Or better yet, puppies on fire!!

    July 20, 2007 02:28 am at 2:28 am |
  4. Anonymous

    I can`t believe it....CNN actually put this story out??????? Talk about the dumbing down of America.Where the hell is the real news...Get a freakin` life!!!

    July 20, 2007 02:32 am at 2:32 am |
  5. Josh Norcross, GA

    I don't know if saying is a good or a bad thing, but I think Dave Chappelleuld actually do better then the current so-called candidates for president. Chappelle for President 2008!!!

    July 20, 2007 02:46 am at 2:46 am |
  6. Dexter Johnson

    Thanks Ed for sharing the story. In a time like this when washington is boring, the side blog on Chappelle made made some difference


    July 20, 2007 02:52 am at 2:52 am |
  7. Kev Summitt, Knoxville, TN

    Love it. Maybe a few weeks in the press tent would make him reconsider going back to Comedy Central. We should be so lucky!

    July 20, 2007 03:02 am at 3:02 am |
  8. J.Barnes, Houston, TX

    I like Dave Chappelle a lot, but one of the biggest problems w/this country is that WH correspondents would rather write an article about a celebrity than do their job asking tough questions of those who are ruining this country. They lied to get into war, they never got Bin Laden, they spied on their own citizens, squashed 7/10 of the Bill of Rights, allow the president to give himself dictatorial powers (in case of emergency), and spent this country into ruin... All for our "safety". And despite all this, somehow al queada has gotten stronger. Did I mention that he's left the borders wide-open for his entire time in office? Let's not even talk about the ignored warnings and negligence w/regards to 9/11. One may ask how did we find our country in such sad shape... One reason is us–the citizens of this country. But probably the biggest reason is that WH correspondents are like cavemen distracted by shiny objects. Ed Henry, I'm in favor of letting Dave do YOUR job.

    July 20, 2007 04:21 am at 4:21 am |
  9. Kyle, Miami USA

    what a waste of time reading this...how did you get into the WH to write such crap?...and I found this on the front page of CNN.com???? pathetic!

    July 20, 2007 04:24 am at 4:24 am |
  10. George SF, CA

    "Excellent article Ed"....what are you brain dead? what value is this article?....pleeeezze!

    July 20, 2007 04:26 am at 4:26 am |
  11. Michael McKenney

    Actually, I think Mr. Chappelle would make one heck of a dynamic press secretary, and I think the Bush administration should think seriously about giving him the job.

    No kidding.

    Dave Chappelle is a very smart guy, and not a guy to be understimated.

    He may be serious, and if he is, I can tell you he needs to be heard.

    July 20, 2007 04:38 am at 4:38 am |
  12. Connie, Rocky HIll, NJ

    I think a light hearted piece about who is exiting the back of the White House is worth the ten seconds it took me to read it. As as former DC resident and fed employee I found it amusing. It sure beats a CNN headline I saw in the last few years. Paris Hilton falls off her horse.

    July 20, 2007 05:27 am at 5:27 am |
  13. Matt, Boulder, CO

    Never really responded to an article on CNN.com before but this was actually very interesting/entertaining. It is important for a writer to be able to talk about something fun for them every once in awhile, as a journalism major at CU (Colorado University) I realize how much a moment/article can mean to that writer and this is one of those moments that you can talk about and think about for the rest of your life. I enjoyed reading it, however I am sure not as much as a day with Chappelle would be. Try and get that nickname!

    July 20, 2007 06:45 am at 6:45 am |
  14. Bobby

    Very uneventful story

    July 20, 2007 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  15. cris bethesda, md

    why is this article's title hinting that he is entertaining the idea of a WH job?? did i miss something or was chappelle just there visiting??

    July 20, 2007 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  16. Anonymous

    Mike in LA, The President is far from the planets most prolific killer, there is aids, malaria, china, hussein and a host of others, get it straight. Oops, sorry, you can mark one of those off the list.

    July 20, 2007 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  17. michelle

    It tickels my funny bone how people complain about how useless this article was. It took all of 30 seconds to skim, have a little chuckle and move on. If 30 seconds is so important to you, stop reading after the first 3 seconds and defintely don't waste your precious time writing a comment. I mean honestly, what did you expect from a brief piece of text with Chappelle's picture on it? Journalilsm Award material? Thanks for the brief snapshot Ed, and thanks to peanut gallery. I can now safely enter my workday with a smile...

    July 20, 2007 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  18. Ben, Rochester NY

    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

    ...he hasn't even been convicted yet you fool...

    July 20, 2007 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  19. Mike, Iowa

    Hey Ed... are you seriously telling me you have nothing better to report than the fact that Dave Chappelle showed up and smoked a cigarette? If you recall, troops are still in Iraq and there's a large debate between Reps and Dems on Capitol Hill. But wait, Eddie Murphy just popped a Tic Tac outside the gates... here comes another thrilling story! Thanks but no thanks.

    July 20, 2007 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  20. Gavin Samson, Sydney, Nova Scotia

    To all those people who say this is a useless article, or it's bad, I say settle down. It's really good to see that people actually live a life outside of the workplace. Dave just walking the streets of his hometown, admiring the sites, and Ed simply writing about a conversation he has with him. I think it's refreshing to see a news article that is not about how the Bush admin screws up, or what someone thinks of it, or trying to report on only the bad things that celebrities might have done. Good job Ed.

    July 20, 2007 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  21. ngriggs, Suffolk VA

    Keep in mind that individuals such as Dave Chappelle are able to walk away from 50 million dollar deals because of our brave military. Lets remember not to take these luxuries for granted.

    July 20, 2007 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  22. Jim

    What the hell was that crap?
    Can anyone suggest a website committed to thoughtful JOURNALISM? Hmm...maybe there's a thirty second video clip around here that can help me.

    July 20, 2007 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  23. Betty, Milford, NJ

    I would have loved to hear more about Dave's political views and what he thinks about the war. I think Dave would have some goods opinions on what and how to handle these situations!

    July 20, 2007 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  24. Jessica, Sayre,PA

    Personally I really don't care for Dave Chapelle but hey at least it was a break from death and distruction in the news. Sometimes you need that. If you really thought it was that bad of an article than don't read it. And for the guy that says that Ed Henry and CNN are ridiculous why were on the website reading the story.

    July 20, 2007 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  25. Lindenhurst NY

    What a cool combo! One clown reporting on another clown. This whole administration is one big joke. But I'm not laughing!

    July 20, 2007 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
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