Loni Love is best known for her quick wit on E!’s Chelsea Lately, but this comic diva started her journey from the projects in Detroit on the show Star Search. 303’s Ben Simkins sat down with Love to talk about TV, Barack Obama and Mel Gibson’s crazy new rant.
303: When was the last time you were in the Mile High City doing a gig?
Love: It was earlier this month, I did a school. I do a bunch of colleges and universities. Last year I did The Improv around November/December.
303: How are the crowds out here, seeing that we’re a mile high and the oxygen’s thinner? Do we laugh more?
Love: They’re great! They’re fun and they come to laugh and we have a good time. I love coming to Denver.
303: And what can people expect from you at The Improv this time around?
Love: I’ve got some new material. It’s been a year, so a lot has happened, from Mel Gibson’s new rant, to, I think, a change in our political process, and there are the same issues that we’re trying to fight. My comedy’s about different things and because I deal with a lot of pop culture and politics and relationships, it’s constantly changing and evolving, so it always makes it different than what you saw from me last year.
303: On the political side of things because, of course, Denver was the home of the ’08 Democratic Convention when Barack Obama won the democratic nomination. You covered the inauguration for CNN. Do you think we’ve forgotten that feeling two years into his presidency; has the honeymoon period ended?
Love: I talk about that in my stand-up so I don’t want to give too much away, but America’s America, and we need to calm down as a people, because I think we were all under an illusion and now we have to grow up, and that’s what we’re trying to do right now. Growing up means facing those problems and acting like adults. Not think that there’s going to be this magic wand to fix it. It’ll take time. That’s why people come out and want to laugh. There are some comics who don’t want to touch politics. I’m not afraid to talk about it, but I put a twist on it so that it’s funny. I think that’s what makes my show interesting. I don’t shy away from it, but it’s hard especially because he’s the first African American president; not black, he’s African American. I think people are trying to shy away from it, but you’ve got to grow up and you’ve got to face what’s really going on with our country.
303: Not to give anything away from your set, but do you tackle the tea party?
Love: You know, I like all types of teas so I’ll join the tea party any day.
303: You talked before about how you tackle pop culture in your set, but many people have come to know you from your frequent appearances on E!’s Chelsea Lately where you constantly have to deal with popular culture and what’s current. How do you keep up with all the celebrity gossip?
Love: First of all, I like celebrities and I like reading about them. I think they’re fascinating so it’s not hard for me to read up on them every day. I think it’s funny that we admire them so much, but when it comes down to it they’re just people and that’s why I love doing Chelsea Lately’s show because, when you think about it, the stuff we report on and make jokes about is comic stuff. Here’s Mel Gibson; what does he have to be mad at? What are you so upset about? You’re famous, you’re successful, you can have any woman you want and you have the most beautiful woman and you’re still mad. So if that doesn’t encourage a person who has a nine-to-five and is trying to do the best he can for his family, to be grateful for what they have, I don’t know what will.
303: Maybe he’s just mad he hasn’t made a good movie in awhile.
303: I think that would make anyone mad. Also, on Chelsea Lately you constantly give as good as you get, as it’s very quick and very satirical. Do you think growing up in the projects in Detroit helped build that tough skin and fast wit?
Love: It definitely gave the tough skin. Growing up that’s what we had. We called it playing the dozens where we talk about each other and you’ve got to find something. People sometimes don’t understand that when I’m talking about someone on the panel that I’m joking about them. People can confuse it and look at Chelsea and I’s relationship and not understand that we have a mutual respect, but we rib each other all the time. I don’t care what she calls me, or what she talks about because I can equally give it back to her. That’s why we like doing her show. At a lot of shows, the host just wants to be the person that’s doing all the ribbing and you just have to take it. Chelsea’s allows it to be a half hour daily roast every night.
303: From a viewer’s point of view it feels natural, like a friendship. Friends always rip on each other and it’s mutual. No one gets hurt feelings.
Love: It is; it is a natural friendship. You’ve got to have a thick skin to do our show because everybody’s going to get talked about. I have people that write me and say, this person said this about you. It’s a comedy show. We’re good friends and we have a good time doing it. If we didn’t, I wouldn’t want to do it. I wouldn’t do a show that I don’t like to do. But I love doing her show and I enjoy it. The thing about Chelsea Laterly is that she’s actually reviving comedy in one single show. There’s no place else on TV where you can see four stand-up comics every night. And it really shows, because now at my shows I’m selling out because people understand stand-up comedy. And it’s not just me, a lot of comedy clubs are selling out. People are coming back to stand-up and we have to kind of give that to her show. On other late night shows they may show comics once every two months. You’re not getting that interaction. It’s a two-fold benefit in doing her show and that’s why I do it.
303: On your own side of things you recently did a one-hour Comedy Central special called America’s Sister that is now out on DVD. Did you find it different doing a whole set knowing that it would be televised or did Star Search make that a smooth transition?
Love: When you do a forty minute set it’s different than a ten minute set, and a fifteen minute, and an hour. I was just very excited that Comedy Central gave me a whole hour because it allowed people to see me for who I really am. Whether they like me or not, when you see me on a show you see a quick little bite, but this allows you to understand and see who I am as a person. Sometimes I may say something that people don’t like. Sometimes I’ll say something that’s crazy. When you do a whole hour you have to give of yourself. It’s been a hit and I really want to thank Comedy Central because they don’t give many specials to females and they allowed me to and it’s been great and a really successful thing for me.
303: Do you prefer a small, intimate club or a big venue?
Love: When it comes to doing a number of shows, I prefer a bigger venue because you have the energy of the people. The more people, the more energy you have. A small club is good, but you have to do more shows and the road is tough enough. I’m a former engineer, so for me it’s a numbers game. You have six shows, which means you have six different audiences. Who really wants to put up with that unless you really love stand-up (laughs). At a certain point I get tired of talking to myself. I’d prefer to have the energy and the feeling you get from a larger crowd. But from a more intimate crowd you can do more things with the crowd, and you can be more intimate and make people feel a little more special. So there are benefits to both.
303: Lastly, what new things are you working on now that people can expect to see you in?
Love: I have a radio show called Café© Mocha that I co-host with the rapper MC Lyte. It’s a weekend syndicated radio show that we’ve been doing for about three months now and it’s a great show. It’s a great avenue for me to keep doing my comedy. I’m also working on a talk show that’s been picked up by LOGO and produced by Byron Allen, called Gossip Queen. It’s me and Alec Mapa and two other comics. I also just did a Disney pilot called Kickin’ It. I love doing the children’s shows because it’s a different type of audience and it shows people that I don’t have to use that kind of language all the time.
Catch Loni Love September 9-12 at The Improv.