NEW YORK – Dave Chappelle is back on Comedy Central — well, kind of. The wildly popular comedian, who last spring walked off his show just weeks before its season premiere, will be on view in four episodes' worth of sketches he filmed before his startling exit, the cable channel announced Monday.
The four half-hours of "Chappelle's Show" will premiere in weekly showings next April, May or June, the network said.
A 2 1/2-minute preview of this never-before-seen footage will be included in "Comedy Central's Last Laugh '05" special, which premieres Sunday, 9 p.m. EST.
Still to be determined is how the sketches will be packaged, since Chappelle's on-stage introductions were never produced. A full season would have been between 10 and 13 episodes.
"It's great material, and we think our audience is hungry for it," said Comedy Central President Doug Herzog, noting that the last original episode of "Chappelle's Show" aired in May 2004. "Chappelle's Show," a raw, satirical comedy show that was both a critical and popular hit, was one of the network's most valuable properties.
The announcement resolves — well, kind of — Chappelle's dangling status at Comedy Central, with whom he signed a deal in August 2004 reportedly worth $50 million for a third and fourth season. But last May, with the premiere date looming for that third season, Chappelle stunned his fans by ditching the show in mid-production.
His disappearance — announced by Comedy Central on May 4 — spurred reports that he had mental or drug problems, but Chappelle later said he was unhappy with the show's creative direction.
"I'm definitely stressed out," he told Time magazine a few days after Comedy Central announced the show was indefinitely postponed. "I'm not crazy, I'm not smoking crack."
He spent two weeks in South Africa before returning home to his farm near Yellow Springs, about 75 miles northeast of Cincinnati. Chappelle, now 32, has since resumed performing live standup.
In the meantime, "Chappelle's Show" has hung in limbo.
"We had reached out several times to Dave's camp and asked, `What would you like to do?'" Herzog said. "But we never received a definitive response. ... We thought it was time to start unearthing the material we had." He laughed. "It's kind of like Bob Dylan's 'Basement Tapes.'"