At a pizza shop 30 years ago,Dave Chappelle’s spiritual awakening began. The superstar American comic David Lettermansat down for a wide-ranging interview on the Netflix series , providing a rare insight into how his faith drove his successful career.
He said, “I wanted a meaningful existence, a spiritual life, not just what my hands could hold.” “It’s as if I’ve always believed that life should have meaning.”
Chappelle, 47, remembered how, as a 17-year-old in Washington, DC, his higher meaning was shaped by his trips to his neighbourhood pizza store. It was the Muslim staff’s upbeat demeanour that drew his attention.
“The pizza shop was across from my house and it was, like, all these Muslim dudes that worked in there,” he said.
“I used to go in there and crack jokes. And I am also a naturally curious guy and I would ask [the owner] questions about his religion and the guy was so passionate about it. It was very compelling. I liked the perspective of it.”
Chappelle spoke about how his faith allowed him to use humour for a greater good.
One example is his decision to put on a recent series of comedy shows in his hometown of Yellow Springs, Ohio, complete with social-distancing interventions, to help a city hit hard by the pandemic.
“For the last however many months, we’ve done like 26 shows here and it’s expensive and it’s hard,” he said. “Everyone who works on these shows is from Ohio or connected to our community. Many of them were furloughed. They weren’t able to work. Just me doing stand-up, we’re all able to get back up on our feet. To me, it’s very meaningful. I [have] done a million shows, but the last 26 meant so much to me because it’s like my community’s offering to the world.”
A belief shared by the world’s main religions.
Chappelle shared his dissatisfaction with the national debate on Islam.
“It’s been presented in the public space in such a narrow and dismissive view,” he said. “It’s a beautiful religion. The ideas in that religion are reflected in all the major Abrahamic faiths. You’ll see these ideas in both Christianity and Judaism, you know. It is the idea that this place does mean something, you know?”
When asked about some of the alleged anti-Muslim policies and rhetoric attributed to US President Donald Trump by David Letterman, Chappelle shrugs it off.
“You don’t expect necessarily that much empathy, compassion or cultural astuteness from a guy like that,” he said.
“What is sad about it is that the [presidential] chair doesn’t have more humanity. But has that chair ever been that humane?”
Chappelle ended the segment by reminiscing about one of his favourite stories from Islamic history, which revolved around the roots of Zamzam water.
The water is said to have miraculously appeared in front of Prophet Abraham’s wife Hajar when they were desperately searching for food in the desert, according to the Quran. Within the grounds of the Makkah Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia, Zamzam is still available to drink.
“The thing that comforts me about it is the idea that all of this is from a singular source and the source is ultimately kind. Even though we may not understand the intentions of this source, we’re all connected and bounded by it.” He added.
Letterman was so moved by the concept that he expressed an interest in travelling to Saudi Arabia with Chappelle to see the spot where Zamzam water was discovered.
The place, according to Chappelle, is only open to Muslim tourists.