Dave Chappelle is one of America’s funniest people, so naturally, he made his television debut on America’s Funniest People.
The comedy series, which was basically America’s Funniest Home Videos but with more joke telling and less people falling off lawnmowers into pools, was hosted by a different member of the Full House cast, Dave Coulier, as well as Arleen Sorkin, the voice of Harley Quinn from Batman: The Animated Series. There’s conflicting information online about when the first episode aired, but it was definitely in September 1990, making this month the 30th anniversary of Dave Chappelle telling his first joke on television.
Chappelle appears 19 minutes into the pilot episode. Standing in front of a brick wall and dumpster, the Chappelle’s Show creator cracks, “This is my impression of Batman fighting crime in my neighborhood. ‘Robin.’ ‘Yes, Batman.’ ‘Didn’t we park the car right here? I swear it was here a minute ago.'” He then slaps his legs like a sting. Even in the early days, he was telling race-based jokes. Dave Coulier-approved race-based jokes.
I’m certain America’s Funniest People was canceled after four seasons, compared to 30 seasons (!) of America’s Funniest Home Videos, because the set caused permanent eye damage to anyone who tuned in. Anyway, that Batman joke was Chappelle’s creative peak. Not Chappelle’s Show, not the standup specials, not Half Baked, not winning a Mark Twain Prize, but the Batman joke. Go to 19:10 in the video below to see Chappelle.