The road to the top is a standard topic in any comedian's repertoire. For D.L. Hughley, that narrative is also a reminder how far he's come, when he worked as a telemarketer in the '80s for $4 an hour – after a cousin's murder convinced him to leave Los Angeles's gang culture behind.
Joining the standup comedy world seemed like a marriage made in Heaven – one that he definitely didn't plan, as Hughley said recently, in an interview for Positive Black magazine.
“I always felt like I was on the outside looking in,” recalled Hughley. “So comedy seemed like a natural kind of endeavor, because it was a solitary endeavor and you didn’t need anybody to help make it happen. Plus you could be a self-starter.”
With that thinking in mind, Hughley began honing his material in local barbershops – where everyone he knew “used to have more than one hustle,” he recalled. “They used to cut hair, sell weed, do taxes.. so I started off in the barber shop.”
Once he'd figured out a style, Hughley began doing what every aspiring comic does – getting up at open mikes here, finding his own gig there – as he worked on turning his passion into a career.
He lists Robin Harris and the late Richard Pryor – plus the late R&B singer, Marvin Gaye – as his biggest comic inspirations. As for why he cites Gaye, Hughly suggests: “Because I think he painted a picture with his music that was so vivid it was almost like you were there. And it was timely.”
Hughley has found plenty of ways to stay busy since his first sitcom, “The Hughleys,” which ran from 1998 to 2002– and his appearance in Spike Lee's movie, The Original Kings Of Comedy (2000) – broke his career wide open.
The resulting exposure helped Hughley land an HBO comedy special, “D.L. Hughley: Unapologetic” (2007), and the chance to his own CNN cable show, “D.L. Hughley Breaks the News,” which ended when he choose to stay closer to his family.
However, he's kept working on CNN as a contributor, and also began hosting a morning radio show on the New York station KISS-FM, where he's maintained his reputation for not shying away from hot button issues of race, sex, and money.
It's the reason he has no qualms about suggesting that transgendered star Caitlyn Jennfer “looks like Mrs. Doubtfire,” or “every P.E. teacher I ever had.”
Those kinds of comments ignited a furious public media debate, but one that Hughley shows no signs of regretting, as he stated on “The View.”
“The average American male lives to be 72. Caitlyn made that change at 65. Some people think that’s brave. I think doing something with seven years of life left is a bucket list,” he said.
At the same time, Hughley doesn't leave himself out of the discussion – such as when he admitted to cheating on his longtime wife, LaDonna. Doing anything less, as he told Positive Black, would feel hypocritical.
“Ultimately you have a responsibility to your artistic view and vantage point that no one can encroach on. Obviously, if you feel like it’s important you’ll say something about it and if you don’t, you won’t,” he said.
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