I’ve taken great joy in lambasting this show. James Lipton is an almost living example of stuffy, pretentious, high brow nonsense. It’s like he daily tears down the notion of the intellectual through bad example ten times harder than Johnny Rotten ever did by vocally railing in its opposition. Thats enough on its own, but its always driven me to the point of utter contempt that this guy is on television acting like a college professor, as he kisses the ass of anyone who has ever made more than three hundred dollars by selling their soul to Hollywood. Financial success = art, great lesson for the kids Lipton.
Imagine a show where they interview the greatest basketball players of all time and do so many shows that they wind up doing a two-hour special episode on Jerry Sichting. Jerry in 1984 with the Indiana Pacers, you established career highs with 11.5 points and 2.1 rebounds per game. Tell us about that very magical season.
He’s been mocked much better than me by David Cross, Will Farrell and probably a half dozen other comics, but despite myself I have to admit that it never fails to be a pretty entertaining television show. Sometimes Liptons lucked into a guest worthy of his sycophancy, sometimes you just have to laugh out loud as he marvels at Tom Cruise’s improvisational ability in Mission Impossible, rather than pointing out that the movie never had anything remotely approaching a coherent script, and face it even Alan Thicke probably has some pretty amazing stories about the insanity that is Hollywood.
Dave Chappelle’s appearance on the show though was pretty amazing for any number of reasons.
1. Chappelle had recently blown off his widely publicized 50 million dollar television contract and fled to Africa to wash the stench of Hollywood off of his soul.
2. Chappelle finds it absurd that he’s there since he considers, perhaps too modestly, that his acting resume is pretty lame. On a show where even the worst movies are fawned over as if Weekend at Bernies 2 was Citizen Kane, he recoils in horror at the fact that his decent script for Half Baked turned into a pot movie for kids. Chappelle can barely keep his composure as he sees Lipton seriously discussing a movie he made because he really enjoyed smoking pot and wanted to tell the world about it. His brain is practically spinning when Lipton asks him about the writing process and he looks at him like he’s out of his mind as he again says I was smoking a lot of pot.
3. Chappelle joins Sean Penn as the only guy brave enough to smoke a cigarette or ten during a televised interview (remember back when Johnny Carson had a lighter on his desk?)
But most importantly what he does is destroy the very fabric of the show and bring it to what it always should have been. He talks about the desire to make art and how fame, shoddy journalism, and greed brings about its destruction. He never really says what it was that made him bolt Hollywood, but it had to be pretty horrorific just from what Chappelle does relate. He’s never forgiven himself for leaving his fathers deathbed to go to a pitch meeting when they wouldnt let him do it over the phone. He talks aghast about how Martin Lawrence lived through a stroke as he wonders what the business could do to him to make him run through the streets waving a gun convinced someone was trying to kill him. He recoils in anger at how Newsweek, less than what he’d consider to be a tabloid, felt perfectly comfortable floating out the idea that he had a crack problem with nary a shard of evidence. If I had heard Britney Spears say, “You can become famous, but you can’t become un-famous,” I’d laugh and wait for her next promotional blitz, but from him its a credible warning.
Chappelle shows what you never see in a celebrity interview real anger when he remembers people calling him crazy without trying to find out what happened to him or better yet listening to his point of view. “What is happening in Hollywood? Nobody knows. The worst thing to call somebody is crazy. It’s dismissive. ‘I don’t understand this person, so they’re crazy.’ They’re not crazy. These people are strong people. Maybe the environment is a little sick.” Here’s a guy that walked away from a mountain of money so he could salvage his soul, a hero of those dismissed as low brow, single-handedly setting fire to every single inane moment this disaster of a show has been and returning it to what it should have been in the first place, an examination of a person, who was attracted to the arts and had something to say. All that and he’s funny too. Carrot Top will eventually be on this show, but this one is a keeper.