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Donnell Rawlings is officially a Yellow Springs resident. The stand-up comedian and actor known for his regular appearances on “The Chappelle Show” among other television, film and live performance work officially became a townie after purchasing a home this past summer.
Rawlings said in a recent interview with the News that he’d been coming to Yellow Springs for years to visit his friend and fellow comedian Dave Chappelle.
“When I came, it was usually like one or two days and it was always just connected to the community I knew from Dave Chappelle,” he said.
Rawlings said that he didn’t always appreciate the appeal of living in a small town like Yellow Springs, or why Chappelle chose to live here with his own family.
“It just wasn’t the cool thing to do. Like man, you could be in Beverly Hills, you could be anywhere. Why Ohio? Why Yellow Springs? And then after being here for a while, I got it,” he said.
Rawlings said the COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst for shifting his thinking about living in the village after he spent the summer of 2020 living here as the pandemic ramped up, doing stand-up as part of Chappelle’s “Summer Camp” comedy line-up of over 50 shows performed outdoors at the Wirrig Pavilion. During that time, Rawlings, a Washington, D.C., native, also became known as the “River Ninja,” coining the phrase, “from the streets to the creeks” after falling in love with kayaking and going on water expeditions down the Little Miami River with production crew from the Summer Camp shows and comedians including Chris Rock and Michael Che.
“I think the pandemic kind of forced us to have different ways of thinking, but I got how simple life could be,” he said.
Rawlings said he’s able to live in Yellow Springs, in part, because of social media.
“It’s such a different scene from when I started 30 years ago. Now with social media, you are able to create your own shows pulling a camera out of your pocket. You don’t have to subscribe to the old school situation of being in New York, LA — where the cost of living is crazy, the quality of life is not as good as this,” he said.
Rawlings also decided to move to Yellow Springs, in part, because his young son, whom he co-parents with actress Stephanie George, lives primarily in large cities — and also loves the town.
Rawlings said he wants his son to grow up with great childhood memories of being with his dad — something Rawlings was unable to experience with his own father.