Host-comedian D.L. Hughley

The popular actor, political commentator and stand-up comedian gives an update on his new television and radio projects.

D.L. Hughley has an innate ability to make people laugh. He began his comedy career in small clubs, which led to bookings on the "Chitlin Circuit." Since getting his break with an appearance on HBO's Def Comedy Jam, he's starred in the hit docu-film, The Original Kings of Comedy, co-created and starred in a successful sitcom, helmed his own late night talk show and headlined several comedy specials. Hughley, who grew up in South Central L.A., remains a huge draw on tour nationally and internationally and, in addition to co-hosting the new TBS show, Trust Me, I'm a Game Show Host, hosts a recently launched syndicated weekday radio program.

TRANSCRIPT

Tavis: D.L. Hughley refuses to be pigeonholed. His resume includes being a stand-up comedian, and of course one of the founding members of “The Original Kings of Comedy” as well as political commentary for CNN.

He now has his own syndicated radio show with – and, I should say, with Michael Ian Black co-hosts a very irreverent game show on TBS called “Trust Me, I’m a Game Show Host,” where uncovering lies is the key to winning money. A clip now from the show.

[Clip]

Tavis: (Laughter) You got – this is my dream job, man. That’s my dream job. You a Black man that gets to go on television and lie for no reason, not get in trouble for it, and then get a paycheck.

D.L. Hughley: Yeah, I could be a mayor of a Midwestern city. (Laughter) Or a Canadian city, one of them. I can do it.

Tavis: This is – it looks like fun.

Hughley: It is a lot of fun. It’s just kind of irreverent. It was the only, it’s the only show of its kind, and Mark Burnett, he is the reality show impresario, did all these. He did “Survivor,” he did “The Voice,” he’s doing this. He did “The Bible.”

So this is one of the things that had always been his passion, and it finally – took him 10 years, but he finally got it on, and we’re having a blast doing it.

Tavis: The joy for you, the fun for you in being a game show host is what, specifically?

Hughley: I think it’s just – to me, it’s just disseminating information. I think it all is kind of in my zeitgeist, it’s all kind of what I do, and so disseminating the information and fooling people is a lot of fun. I’ve been fooling people didn’t think I could read for years. (Laughter) It’s nothing there but net.

Tavis: How do you see this – because of all the – I just listed some of the things. You’ve done so much more than that. But you are, like, you’ve tried like a little bit of everything now.

Hughley: Right.

Tavis: How do you see this fitting into – speaking of your zeitgeist, how do you see this fitting into the D.L. Hughley story?

Hughley: Well, I think it’s, I’m just interested in the, I know a very little about a lot, and I think that it’s just interesting. I like, I think to be interesting, that people got to be interested, and there are so many things that are happening.

I think that there are very few times in history that are so like this, that are so fluid, and things are changing so fast that you need comics and authors and people like yourself who are kind of really documenting what is happening.

I just, this much information with such easy access is just, it’s just so much fun for me.

Tavis: To your point about the times that we live, and I’m always anxious to see you and I wish I saw you more often, but you’re working -

Hughley: No, yeah, well, you just got back from – you’re doing a lot too, Tavis.

Tavis: You’re working like a Jamaican, so I – (laughter) you ain’t got time to hang out with me.

Hughley: Right.

Tavis: When we do talk, when I do see you, I’m anxious to get to you as quickly as I can to pick your brain about everything, because you do have such wonderful insights about the world that we live.

But since you talked about these times, do you find these times, honestly, more interesting, to use your word, or more exasperating.

Hughley: I think that it’s a combination of both. I think we’ve never been in a time where we’re so aware of how fallible we are.

Tavis: Right.

Hughley: Like you have a situation literally where a 6’5″, 350-pound man got bullied by an answering machine – like, literally. I think that kind of encapsulates where we are.

We’re a strong society that is so easily – we’re teetering on the brink of really just collapse for just the most minute of reasons. I don’t understand, like, why – like I read an article and it was talking about how the Obamacare debacle, which by all estimates it is a debacle, no one can deny that – is much like the Katrina situation for Bush.

I think that’s true if logging on to a website is as bad as being stuck in the Superdome for five days. (Laughter) I would rather log off than not be able to eat, but that’s -

Tavis: Yeah, yeah.

Hughley: But I think that people, there is so much information and so many people are trying to shape the kind of way that we access it and the way that we see it that it’s just really cluttered.

Tavis: Speaking of shaping how we see things, is it just me, or do you concur that the re-writing of the Obama narrative is happening in front of our very eyes.

Hughley: Sure.

Tavis: I said to an audience the other day, people always say the media builds you up and then they tear you down. I said to this audience that you got your conjunction wrong.

The media doesn’t build you up and tear you down; they build you up to tear you down. Obama, the rub against the media in 2008 was that he had the media in his pocket.

Hughley: Right.

Tavis: But that narrative is being rewritten right in front of our eyes, and it seems to me, and certainly I’ve had my critique of this administration, but it seems to me, to your point about how they want to get us to think and see things, that now they want to write a narrative that he is going to end up being like a two-term, Black version of Jimmy Carter – a failed president.

Hughley: Right. Well, I think you can’t put “two-term” and “Jimmy Carter” in the same sentence, but I also think, to your point, that you’re absolutely right. But I think that the media is much like society, where we get tired of things very quickly.

You’ll notice that what’ll happen to people – like you’ll see great sports teams, and they’ll go, “I’m tired of them winning.”

Tavis: Like the Bulls (unintelligible).

Hughley: Yeah, right, like, “I’m tired of them being great.”

Tavis: Yeah, exactly. (Laughter)

Hughley: Or people will, “I’m tired of them making good albums.” So I think people just get exhausted with a level of success, and that can all of a sudden turn around and become your nemesis, where people have seen you as successful.

So I think that he obviously has done – and I say this all the time. Whether, I don’t know what’ll happen with Obamacare. I’m not clairvoyant. But I will say that it was one of the bravest pieces of governance I’d ever seen, where somebody risked so much for so little.

People didn’t want it, it had never happened before. So I don’t know what’ll be the outcome of it, but I think that it is an exercise in at least political bravery and how the narrative is going to be shaped, I won’t be able to say. I think that’ll shake out over years.

But I think that it was a brave thing to try to do, and it is just the idea that people are so opposed to it, and people are so accepting of the idea that it’s a bad thing. I don’t know – nowhere in the civilized world is people having access to healthcare akin to being called Hitler.

Like Hitler wanted to put people in concentration camps; Obama wanted to make sure people get pap smears. That’s almost the same thing for some. (Laughter) I don’t get it, but it really is.

Like we live in a – I just read a statistic that blew me away – that more Americans have died at the hands of other Americans than have ever died in all the wars we’ve ever fought.

So it’s literally more dangerous to live under our flag than to go fight for it, and that tells you exactly the kind of people we are. (Unintelligible) look at ourselves. So that would extend its way out to everything.

Tavis: See, I’d only push back on one thesis you put forward, and that is that while I take your point that people can get bored with the success of others, as we were joking about a moment ago, I think that with him, what I’m seeing is that even those who supported him are – you see again, this is part of the narrative rewriting. It’s not just the conservative right who’s rewriting this narrative.

Hughley: Right.

Tavis: It’s the folk on the left who supported him -

Hughley: I agree, I agree.

Tavis: – who are disappointed that this is not what they “expected.” They thought more was going to come. So when you say you’re not clairvoyant, neither am I, but I think you ain’t gotta be clairvoyant, pardon my English, to see the writing on the wall.

The writing on the wall that I see is they’re going to write a narrative that’s going to try to make him a failed president.

Hughley: I think that we’ll see how that works out, but I also – and I agree to some extent with what you’re saying. But I think that we in America have always looked for symbols of success.

Like he to America, to a large part of the world, was our emergence. He was our diploma. He was – everybody was saying look how far we’ve come, and look what it means.

He was as much a symbol to a lot of people as he was a president. You’ve never seen a man elected in America where the rest of the world thought it would mean something different.

They gave him a Nobel Peace Prize on the assumption. (Laughter) Obama done killed a few people.

Tavis: Yeah, that didn’t quite work out, yeah, yeah.

Hughley: They should call it the Nobel Rest in Peace Prize. (Laughter) But I think that there were all these ideas of what it would mean, and these symbols, and I think that somewhere between who he is and who he could actually be, and who the structure, the political structure would allow him to be, is kind of the truth, and that’s where we’re at.

I think yes, there have been expectations and yes, there have been disappointments, but there’s always been – there’s this solid wall of resistance that I don’t know if anybody (unintelligible).

Tavis: Got it. So what – and I totally – you’re right about that. There’s no doubt about the obstructionism, there’s no doubt he was against a headwind the entire time.

The question is where we are concerned, Black folk are concerned specifically, what happens when the narrative reads, and if something magical doesn’t happen, this will be the narrative; the data tells us this, that Black people fared worse in every economic category during his tenure. How’s that going to reflect?

Hughley: Well I also think that even that is – he inherited it at a time when it was declining. I don’t want to sound like an apologist, because the last thing the most powerful man in the world needs is for some dude don’t have a GED to tell him what all the problems are. (Laughter)

But the one thing that I’m reticent to say is how we can’t, at a snapshot, see exactly all the things that are in play. America was declining for a very long time. It’s like when they talk about the deficit. Well, he caught the deficit at a point where he was going to be obviously the guy in charge and going to be responsible for it.

But I do think things happened in terms of – even if nothing else happened in America, that people, the children who look like mine and who look like your relatives would all of a sudden see themselves different than they had been before.

So I think that even that has a value. How that plays out and what its place in history will look like is, like I said, is anybody’s guess. But I think the sad part about a two-term president is that the last part of the second term is all about where they put their library, and that’s very unfortunate.

Tavis: Yeah. In the midst of all this, you can still find humor for a TV show?

Hughley: Absolutely.

Tavis: You can still find humor for stand-up in the midst of all this?

Hughley: It’s all – how could it not be – look at literally, when I said that thing about – we live in a country right now, Tavis, where it’s harder to buy two packs of Sudafed than 10,000 rounds of ammunition – literally.

Like you could be in the line with somebody with a basket of bullets – “You with the bullets go on, but you with the Benadryl, let me see what you’re (laughter).” When I look at Aaron Alexis, the man who shot up the naval shipyard, he had a mental illness where he used guns.

His mental illness in America did not disqualify him from owning a gun, but didn’t qualify him for help. (Laughter) In other words, “I need a doctor.” “We don’t have that, but you can have this gun.”

Tavis: Yeah.

Hughley: So there are so many things that are ironic, and so many things that are just so sad that it just cries out. Like I don’t think things are funny in and of themselves, but I always think that if you take an ironic tone, if you take a look at it from an ironic vantage point, then it looks a lot more, I think, soluble. You can digest it a little more. But it’s just a really funny time to me.

Tavis: I wanted to ask you a question. It just occurs to me, since I know you and your family and your wife, I really – you don’t really know the answer to this, but I’m wondering if that line would work in a bar, like, “Trust me, I’m a talk show host.”

Hughley: Oh, yeah, absolutely.

Tavis: Then can I use that -

Hughley: They would know you got a job. Let me tell you something (laughter) – when women know you got a TV show, all kind of things happen.

Tavis: The new show co-hosted by D.L. Hughley is called, “Trust Me, I’m a Game Show Host,” on TBS. D.L., congratulations on this new venture.

Hughley: Thank you, man. Thank you.

Tavis: You always doing something, and I love that about you.

Hughley: I better. I better, because those kids always want to eat. (Laughter) Thank you, man.

Tavis: Good to see you, D.L.

Hughley: Thank you, likewise.

Tavis: That’s our show for tonight. Thanks for watching, and as always, keep the faith.

“Announcer:” For more information on today’s show, visit Tavis Smiley at PBS.org.

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“Announcer:” And by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. Thank you.

Last modified: November 27, 2013 at 8:08 pm