June 03, 2005 03:00 PM

For the first time since fleeing his hit Comedy Central show and disappearing to a South African retreat in April, Dave Chappelle made a surprise public appearance Wednesday at two L.A. comedy clubs.

The comedian, 31, first took to the stage at one of his longtime haunts, the Hollywood Improv, for its collegehumor.com night. According to an account on the collegehumor.com Web site, during Chappelle’s 25-minute routine he took aim at his own disappearing act, saying: “When I see people, they pretend that they haven’t heard anything about this whole thing. Then I’ll say something like, ‘I’m not crazy,’ and then they’ll say, ‘Oh yeah, that’s right. I read something about that.'”

Last month, the comedian’s Chappelle’s Show was suspended just weeks before the scheduled third season debut when he disappeared. A couple of weeks later, Chappelle surfaced in Durban, South Africa, and told Time magazine: “I’m not crazy, I’m not smoking crack. … I’m definitely stressed out.” The reason for his escape, he said, was to have a “spiritual retreat.”

Chappelle did a second show Wednesday night at L.A.’s Comedy Store in front of an audience of about 20 people, according to Variety. The trade paper reports that Chappelle showed up unannounced and told the crowd he’d just arrived from the airport.

Chappelle’s rep refused to offer any comment on his appearances or on his show. However, a Comedy Central rep told Variety that executives would be sitting down with the comedian “really, really soon,” and reps for both clubs confirmed Chappelle’s appearance.

Meanwhile, things for the comic have been on the upswing all week. His Chappelle’s Show: Season 2 Uncensored chalked up first-day sales of nearly 500,000 copies, setting a new DVD sales record for a television show, according to Paramount Home Entertainment. Within the week, about 1.2 million units were sold.

Chappelle even made reference to the record sales on the Improv stage. He quipped: “Of course, if I want to see any of that money I better get my ass back to work.”

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