Posted by: Ted D. Davis
Comedian D.L .Hughley returns to Birmingham July 1-3 with shows at Hoover’s Stardome Comedy Club that will give our citizens a slice of the particularly raw, honest, and electric ethos that is DL’s.
Hughley got his first break in 1992 as the first ever host of the groundbreaking BET (Black Entertainment Television) channel comedy hour Comic View, which spurred his career and those of household names such Ricky Smiley, Cedric the Entertainer, and J.B. Smoove. That opportunity led to his stint as writer, producer, and star of the sitcom The Hughley’s from 1998 to 2002, but it was during this run that he became a star with his participation in The Original Kings of Comedy in the year 2000. The stand-up comedy film, directed by Spike Lee and co-starring the late, great Bernie Mack, Cedric the Entertainer, and Steve Harvey, which was filmed in front of a live audience in Charlotte Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina skyrocketed all the performers to the fame that we associate them with today.
In addition, in October 2008 DL began writing and hosting D.L. Hughley Breaks the News on CNN (Cable News Network, owned by Time Warner). He stopped filming the show in 2009 to work in Los Angeles so that he could be closer to his family, but since 2013 he has hosted the nationally syndicated afternoon drive show, The D.L. Hughley Show, in collaboration with REACH Media. And he recently released his comical biopic of President Barack Obamas tenure as president, Black Man, White House: An Oral History of the Obama Years (HarperCollins Publishers).
MCR was granted the privilege of speaking with the comedian before his performances about his love for comedy, how he’s evolved since his infancy in the game, and is affection for performing in the American south.
MCR: Good morning! How are you?
D.L.: “I’m great, man! How are you”?
MCR: Hot! It’s an oven in the south (laughing).
D.L.: “Well, it’s hot everywhere, bro”.
MCR: Bruce Ayers (founder of the Stardome) tells the story of your stint on Studio 60 (the now defunct 2006-20076 NBC spoof of a dysfunctional Saturday Night Live “kind” of show), and how you had a great character but was dissatisfied with the experience. He says that when asked what you instead aspired to you told him that you wanted to be the greatest stand-up comic in history.
How satisfied are you with your stand-up legacy and was there ever a time when you said to yourself, “I want go back to Studio 60”?
D.L.: “There was never a time when I wanted to go back to Studio 60 (laughing). But, it was a job. You know how that is.
I’m very happy with my stand-up career. It’s who I am and who I was born to be. I’m very grateful to have the privilege to do what I love”.
MCR: How has stand-up improved as an industry since you started in it?
D.L.: “I don’t know that stand-up has improved, but it’s evolved. The industry is what it is but it’s evolved some”.
MCR: How has it evolved?
D.L.: “Today comedy is a lot more social media connected. You can log on all these sites and see it today. When I started there were no television specials, internet, podcasts and the like that make it readily available to everyone. I don’t know that these alternatives have produced funnier material, but it’s made comedy more readily available. The quality is up to the consumer to judge.
When I started you had to work the clubs, do the circuits, learn your craft and then become a star. Today, you can post a five minute clip of yourself on YouTube and end up with a show. What’s that done for the quality of the craft? But, like professional basketball and so many other industries, today you can bypass the tests and get right to it.
So, it’s evolved”.
MCR: How have you improved since you started? What makes you better today?
D.L.: “I’m a better person today than when I started. I’m more experienced, better educated, and wiser both as a man and a craftsman, which makes me a better performer today than when I started”.
MCR: If you had to pick one job to do the rest of your life from all the ones you do, stand-up, global commentary, author, and radio personality, which would you choose and why?
D.L.: (laughing) Oh, stand-up hands down, man! That’s what I am. It’s what I was born to do. It’s the root of everything that I am, like water is the root of life in a home. You cook with water, clean with it, perform personal hygiene with it, and drink it. It’s the root of all life in a home, and like it, stand-up is the root of who I am from the time I wake up until I say good night”.
MCR: Speaking of commentary, I have tell you that I never thought I’d see D.L. Hughley as a lightning rod journalist, though your stand-up style always reminded of that angry uncle who goes on and on about everything from prostitutes to oil prices at family functions (laughing)!
D.L.: “And that’s still my style (cracking up)”!
MCR: How did you parlay that into a gig as host of a news show on CNN?
D.L.: “My point of view is what I use for delivering the news. The industry is never surprised at what I say or how I say it. I’ve been in the public for many years and my perspective is my mainstay. That’s how I do the news. It’s a natural extension of my stand-up”.
MCR: Did Michelle Obama really tell Barack to “hook you up” on the biography deal (laughing)?
D.L.: “(laughing) No! I wish she would have, but no. After the president was elected, both times, you could go on social media sites like Facebook and see a landslide of negative commentary about his tenure, and I wanted to provide a comic foil to that. I believe I did, but’s up to the consumer”.
MCR: I think the current trend toward using non-traditional ploys to market and sell goods and services, such as using rappers to sell cell phones (Lil Wayne), comedians to sell sneakers (Kevin Hart has a deal with Nike), and senior citizens to sell luxury clothing brands (see any fashion magazine) is refreshing.
Having said that, what makes the book, a political biography of Obama written by a comedian, great? Why should we read it?
D.L.: “It’s funny! I certainly think it’s funny. Consumers have to read and decide whether they think it’s worth the purchase price, but I put the time and thought into in necessary to make it a great, funny, and informative read”.
MCR: The “Comedy Get Down Tour” that you’re working on is a docu-reality series starring you, George Lopez, Cedric the Entertainer, Eddie Griffin, and Charlie Murphy. What can we look forward to seeing?
D.L.: “It’s the most fun I’ve ever had doing stand-up, man. It’s laughs galore. We’ve all known each other for years, worked with and around each other, and we wanted to do a project together. All five of us started in comedy about the same time, and this is a celebration of our success as much as a show”.
MCR: Finally, apart from performances, what do you like most about visits to Birmingham?
D.L.: “Man, the women (laughing with me)! Birmingham has some of the most beautiful women I’ve seen, and one of my all-time favorite bars, Collins (2125 2nd Avenue North Birmingham. See thecollinsbar.com for details. #thecollinsbar). And you KNOW I know something about drinking!
Birmingham is one of my favorite southern cities. It and Charlotte are my two favorite southern cities”.
MCR: Really? Birmingham?
D.L.: “I like it better than Atlanta and other southern cities. I don’t know why Birmingham isn’t Atlanta”.
MCR: Because the lawmakers like it like this (laughing)! We had a chance to have Atlanta’s airport in the 60’s and they shot it down. We could have had the Minnesota Vikings and they shot it down. They voted a lottery away. There’s enough old money here that they don’t want new money.
D.L.: “Well, that’s too bad because it’s a good town and it could be great”!
MCR: Amen. Thank you for your time, man.
D.L.: “Thank you, bro”.
Hughley will perform all three days, with two shows on Friday July 1 and Saturday July 2. See www.stardome.com for details. Fans can also see him at a book signing at the Patton Creek Barnes N’ Noble location at noon on Saturday, July 2.