A lawsuit contends that the comic didn't pay for personal-manager services

By Stephen M. Silverman
December 15, 2005 08:00 AM

A former employee of Dave Chappelle’s is suing the comic, claiming he served as Chappelle’s personal manager for nine months but was never paid, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

The lawsuit seeks nearly $1 million in damages and an unspecified sum for a percentage of royalties. Chappelle’s lawyer, David Smith, had no comment.

Mustafa Abuelhija said Chappelle made the job offer in September 2004 and alerted his financial aides about the hire but never put the deal in writing, the Associated Press reports.

The deal, allegedly detailed in Chappelle’s business and financial records, called for Abuelhija to receive 5 percent of Chappelle’s revenue from personal appearances and 10 percent of entertainment deals, according to the suit, which states that Abuelhija was owed his cut of an initial payment of $4.5 million from Comedy Central for the third and fourth seasons of Chappelle’s Show.

The Comedy Central deal was reportedly worth $50 million, but the comic walked out after working on half of the third-season episodes. The lawsuit says that Abuelhija was fired by Chappelle at a San Francisco hotel in June 2005 and had received only $40,000 as an advance against the sum Chappelle owed him in commissions as a personal manager.

Since slipping out of sight in May, Chappelle, 32, has resumed performing live standup. Comedy Central recently announced that next spring it will broadcast the four episodes’ worth of sketches he filmed before his exit.

Meanwhile, the lawsuit contends, Chappelle had earned $2.2 million from personal appearances and about $6 million in entertainment deals, including the contract for his show.