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Dave Chappelle was featured in a montage of random people telling a joke in the first episode of ABC's America's Funniest People, airing on September 13, 1990. Chappelle moved to New York City to pursue a career as a comedian. He performed at Harlem's famed Apollo Theater in front of the infamous "Amateur Night" audience, but he was booed off stage. Chappelle described the experience as the moment that gave him the courage to continue his show business aspirations. He quickly made a name for himself on the New York comedy circuit, even performing in the city's parks. In 1992, he won critical and popular acclaim for his television appearance in Russell Simmons' Def Comedy Jam on HBO. It was his appearance on this show that allowed his popularity to really begin rising, eventually allowing him to become a regular guest on late-night television shows such as Politically Incorrect, The Late Show With David Letterman, The Howard Stern Show, and Late Night With Conan O'Brien. Whoopi Goldberg even nicknamed him "The Kid". At 19, he made his film debut as "Ahchoo" in Mel Brooks' Robin Hood: Men in Tights. He also appeared on Star Search three times but lost over competing comedian Lester Barrie; Dave later joked about the irony of him ultimately becoming more successful than Barrie. The same year, Chappelle was offered the role of Benjamin Buford "Bubba" Blue in Forrest Gump. Concerned the character was demeaning and the movie would bomb, he turned down the part. He parodied the film in the 1997 short Bowl of Pork, where a dim-witted black man is responsible for the Rodney King beating, the LA riots and OJ Simpson being accused of murder. Chappelle played another supporting role in an early Doug Liman film, Getting In in 1994. At age 19, he was the opening act for R&B soul singer Aretha Franklin. Early in his career, Chappelle was called to perform after comedy vet Chris Thomas, who was so good that Dave, though he had been warned, totally bombed.



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