Dave Chappelle Makes Surprise Appearance at 2014 ESSENCE Festival
Michael Rowe

The crowd at the ESSENCE Festival got a huge surprise on Sunday when Dave Chappelle took the main stage to introduce Erykah Badu’s performance at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on the last night of the festival’s 20th year.

Fresh off a week of sold-out comeback shows at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, Chappelle came out to raucaus applause from the 45,000-plus audience.

“Like this city, I will rise from the ashes,” joked the comedian, clad in a grey muscle shirt and slacks.

“Last week, I did what they called my big comeback show. Sixty-thousand tickets in New York City. It was a remarkable achievement, but it was achieved with the help of my friends. So tonight I’m here to honor one of my dearest friends in all of show business.”

After posing for photographers in the pit, the comedian praised Badu’s work ethic and talent as he recalled going on tour with her for two weeks. “Every night was exceptional,” he said.

“I don’t use the word love loosely, but I truly do love this woman. I love her work. I love her spirit, and I’m here tonight just to share that love with you.”