(CN) – Comedian Dave Chappelle does not owe his former manager a cut of the profits from his work in order to satisfy a settlement from a previous court battle, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled. Mustafa Abuelhija accused the funnyman of wrongful termination in 2005.
Chappelle agreed to settle the dispute by giving Abuelhija 10 percent of the profits from his 2005 documentary “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party,” 10 percent from seasons two, three and four of “Chappelle’s Show,” and another 10 percent from the comedy special “For What It’s Worth.”
But Abuelhija filed another suit in April 2008, claiming Chappelle failed to pay him any of the money owed, partly because Chappelle either didn’t get paid or was waiting to get paid by producers.
The $50 million contract Chappelle signed with Comedy Central for the aborted third and fourth season of the hit show was among the deals allegedly brokered by Abuelhija.
But the comic stunned fans and the entertainment industry when he abruptly left the show during production of the third season. Shortly after his return from South Africa, Chappelle allegedly fired his manager and dismissed him with a “paltry $40,000 as an advance,” according to Abuelhija’s complaint.
Abuelhija concedes that Chappelle still has not received payments relating to “Block Party” and lobbied the judge to order the comedian to “take steps” toward collecting the money. Chappelle testified in a deposition that he is still owed a “substantial sum” from one of the movie’s producers, but is “comfortable” with the verbal assurances from the producer that payment will be made.
U.S. District Judge Harold Baer Jr. said Chappelle complied with his obligation under the settlement agreement by instructing the producer to notify Abuelhija’s counsel when he relays the funds.
Judge Baer Jr. said the settlement agreement makes clear that Abuelhija is only entitled to a percentage of “future compensation, if any, for Seasons Two, Three and Four of Chappelle’s Show.”
However, the judge wrote that it was contingent on “Chappelle’s full performance under that agreement, and both parties acknowledge that he left the set of the show midway through production of the first of two seasons that were to be produced pursuant to the agreement.”
The former manager claimed the deal had been “restructured,” but could offer no proof that the alleged new deal superseded the old one. He said in his suit that it “was never reduced to writing.”
“A party opposing summary judgment does not show the existence of a genuine issue of fact to be tried merely by making assertions that are conclusory or based on speculation,” Judge Baer Jr. wrote.
“Chappelle’s Show” debuted in 2003 and drew critical acclaim for its parody on many issues of American culture, including racism, pop culture and politics.
In 2005, “Chappelle’s Show Season One Uncensored” became the best-selling DVD of a television show of all time, overtaking the first season of “The Simpsons.” Chappelle has reportedly given several surprise performances at small comedy clubs in Ohio since the show’s demise. He says his now infamous trip to South Africa was a “spiritual retreat” to escape the pressure of success and keep his humor fresh. He reportedly explained his decision to Comedy Central president Doug Herzog, saying that success and celebrity was getting to his head and that “he wanted to be wrong again, sometimes, instead of always being right.”