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Abbott Elementary's Janelle James Has Thoughts on 'Boring' Dave Chappelle

By Dustin Rowles | Celebrity | April 20, 2023 |

By Dustin Rowles | Celebrity | April 20, 2023 |


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Janelle James plays Ava, the scene-stealing breakout star of Abbott Elementary, who got her start in comedy after she raised two kids and her marriage fell apart (James refuses to disclose her age, but notes that she has a 20-year-old son). Open mics in the Midwest soon led to an opening spot on Chris Rock’s tour, although James — in a profile on Variety — doesn’t want to give Rock too much credit for her success.

“He’s done a lot,” she tells Variety. “He’s done enough for me. He didn’t make my career or anything. I was never close with Chris Rock. We went on tour together, and then I didn’t speak to him after that.”

That feels like a chilly acknowledgment of Rock’s role in her rise, although James — who was not an actor — landed the Abbott Elementary role herself, sending in a tape and following it up with a DM to Abbott creator Quinta Brunson, who was quick to cast her.

James also had a few words for Dave Chappelle, whom she admired growing up but has grown bored with in recent years, not necessarily because of his transphobia but because Chappelle has forgotten how to be a comedian.

“The last thing I watched of his was when he came out with all the specials at once. Regardless of what he said, I thought it was boring. I like silly Chappelle. He’s in his wisdom bag now. We’re clowns! Once we forget that we’re clowns, then it becomes bad. Your objective is to make people laugh and then sneak your thoughts in underneath the jokes. If your thoughts are on top, that’s not funny or entertaining to me.”

I’ve never heard anyone describe new Chappelle better. It’s perfect, but for the fact that there is very little wisdom left in that bag. It’s full of spite, pride, and hate now.

Read the entire profile of James over on Variety. It’s really good.