|photography by Sean McCormick|
How’d you end up in the New York comedy scene? For four and a half years, my 9-to-5 job was doing ad work and my 5-to-9 job was doing stand-up comedy whenever I could. I do well as a comedian in New York, but doing well as a comedian in New York means staying just a couple of steps ahead of your landlord.
Did Stephen Colbert see you perform? No. I have a friend who is a producer for the show who called me one day and asked me to come down to take a picture with Stephen for a gag. On the show, Stephen holds up my picture and says this is my “great black friend.” It was a riot. They invited me back for four other bits. It was fun, and I was having a good time.
Was? Have you been demoted to “black acquaintance”? [Laughs hysterically.] The Washington Post got in touch with me and asked me to write an article about being black and doing entertainment. I didn’t really know what to write about. And then the hammer came down—I had applied to be a writer for The Colbert Report, and the producers gave me a very slow “no.” One producer didn’t even know who I was; I felt like I was playing a part I couldn’t get. I started to look around, and I realized that all of late-night TV’s writing staffs are white. So I wrote about that.
And Colbert ditched you because of what you wrote? He called and asked, “Why did you write that?” My mention of him is maybe a paragraph in this huge story, and I’m like, “Wow, this guy didn’t read the whole thing.” Then he tried to explain the premise of his show. And I was like, “I guess you don’t have any respect for me. I understand the premise of your show, sir. I understand that.” What I didn’t like was being a trained monkey. I knew at the end of the conversation I was never going to work with him again. But I knew also that he’d never forget me, so I was pretty happy about it.
Did you think that would wreck your whole comedy career? Sure. And no. It’s fine. I got a nice job after that. I’ve got one now. Entertainment is a funny thing. People forget about things.