|photography by Sean McCormick|
Jordan Carlos, 29, grabbed our attention when he played Alan, Stephen Colbert’s “black friend” and guest writer on The Colbert Report. Born in Dallas, Carlos credits his education (he has diplomas from Greenhill and Brown University) and growing up in an upper middle-class family (the son of a “big deal OB/GYN,” Dr. Joseph Carlos) for his “black preppy” onstage persona. “The roughest point of my childhood was when they ran out of sprinkles at the Marble Slab [on Belt Line in Addison],” he says. This month, Carlos begins filming Ghost Town, a DreamWorks movie starring Greg Kinnear. We caught up with him at his agent’s office in New York, where he lives with his wife, Alina.
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.