Although Dave Chappelle’s wits were apparently very much about him when he walked away from his phenomenally successful Comedy Central program last year, the broadcast of sketches from the abortive third season of Chappelle’s Show nonetheless invokes Brian Wilson’s notorious 1967 meltdown while making the legendarily unfinished Beach Boys album, Smile. Chappelle and Wilson both faced massive expectations from patrons, fans and critics, and now both have had unfinished work released without their involvement, offering a tantalizing glimpse of what could have been.
Wilson remade Smile on his own terms decades later, and Chappelle may eventually offer an official version of the material that Comedy Central is airing in three installments, the first of which offers much insight into his discomfort with superstardom. One segment depicts the world turning against the comedian when news breaks of his $50 million contract (he’s asked to pay $11,000 for an $8 haircut), while in another, Chappelle uses his millions to exact brutal revenge on everyone who screwed him when he was an unknown. Most relevant of all, given his lack of control over the broadcast (feebly strung together with intros by Charlie Murphy and Donnell Rawlings), is a very funny (if overlong) spoof of Tupac Shakur’s endless stream of postmortem albums. The Lost Episodes isn’t a similar exercise in barrel scraping, fortunately, but it would be a lot easier to enjoy this raw, personal material without twinges of guilt if this were a lovingly assembled bootleg rather than a corporate bid to recoup an investment. — Andrew Johnston