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Comedy Central to Chappelle: ‘Phone home’

Comedian reportedly told network that he needs more time
/ Source: Hollywood Reporter

There’s still no word from Comedy Central on when “Chappelle’s Show” will return to the network, more than two months after Dave Chappelle abruptly stopped work on the series and essentially disappeared.

The third season of the top-rated sketch show had been scheduled to begin May 31 under a $50 million deal that also covered a fourth season. But that didn’t happen. Instead, Chappelle flew to South Africa, saying he needed a break.

“The ball’s in Dave’s court,” Doug Herzog, president of Comedy Central, told The Hollywood Reporter after the channel’s presentation in Beverly Hills as part of the Television Critics Assn. July press tour.

Herzog said that he had spoken to Chappelle a few weeks ago in a hotel lobby. According to Herzog, Chappelle said he needed a bit more time; Herzog said he told him they looked forward to working with him again.

“If you see him, tell him to phone home,” Herzog joked.

Despite the blow that was losing the channel’s top-rated show, Herzog said Comedy Central is holding its own in the ratings and is actually up a bit.

“We didn’t go backward without him, which was a great fear,” Herzog said. “It’s no question that it (the ratings) would be much better with Dave Chappelle.”

At the same time, Comedy Central brought out celebrities from three shows — two for late-night and one in primetime — to increase ratings, Chappelle or not. D.L. Hughley addressed questions about “Weekends at the D.L.,” his weekend late-night talk show premiering July 29; outspoken “Loveline” co-host Adam Carolla discussed “Too Late With Adam Carolla,” another talk show debuting Aug. 8 after “The Daily Show”; and “The Showbiz Show With David Spade,” a weekly comedy series about Hollywood and celebrities that will bow sometime in September.

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Spade, the former “Saturday Night Live” co-star whose “Hollywood Minute” skewered celebrities back in the mid-1990s, had signed on as executive producer of “The Showbiz Show” but recently agreed to host the show, too. It’s being produced with his longtime colleague, former SNL writer Hugh Fink.

It’s still too early in the process for Spade and Fink to have a fully designed show to bring to the critics; they offered some ideas for where they’re going and what the show will be. Spade said it wouldn’t be as mean-spirited as the perceptions of “Hollywood Minute,” at least not on purpose.

“Some people probably weren’t too crazy about it,” Spade said of the “SNL” segment. “It’s not my intent.”

And the half-hour show won’t look like “Access Hollywood” or “Entertainment Tonight.”

“There won’t be any direct parodies” of those types of shows, Spade said.