Comedian Hughley happy in his ‘comfortable shoes’
It’s a long way from South Central in Los Angeles to “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.”
Along the way, Darryl Lynn Hughley performed his comedy in dance clubs, skating rinks, strip joints, restaurants … anywhere people gathered and would listen. He didn’t actually begin playing the nicer comedy clubs until about 10 years ago. And look at him now. Mr. Big Shot.
“When you look at the life of any human being, there are going to be stretch marks,” said Hughley, who brings his comedy to MontBleu Resort and Casino on Saturday, Aug. 4. “Everyone has a growth curve. There were some hard times, but I’m proud to say that I’m the man now that the little boy always wanted to be.”
Hughley was born in 1963 in Los Angeles, and in his youth seemed destined to follow a dangerous but all too familiar path. He had a difficult upbringing, getting expelled from high school and experimenting with gang culture — for a time he was even a member of the infamous gang the Bloods.
But instead of defining him, Hughley’s rough childhood served as a motivation to aspire to something better. Having a sense of humor certainly helped.
“I still remember the first joke I did that got a big laugh,” Hughley said. “It went like, ‘Crips are blue, Bloods are red, and I didn’t want to offend either. So I wore plaid, but then two golfers tried to kick my ass.’
“From the ages of 12 to 19, I was in a dark world,” he said. “It was evil and mean. I didn’t even know how to read. I’m a different person now, and I owe a lot of that to comedy.”
Hughley received a big wakeup call when his cousin was shot, deciding to go back and get his GED. He got a job as a telemarketer for the Los Angeles Times, quickly moving to management. And it was his wife, LaDonna, who prompted him to then try stand-up.
While some comics were working out their material in comedy clubs, Hughley worked the mean streets; grabbing gigs wherever he could. It was a trial by fire that helped him greatly.
“It still amazes me when people in nice comedy clubs try to heckle me now,” he said. “I’m like, ‘Do you know where I’ve been?’
“I remember playing this club in Long Beach, where cats would be getting out of jail on Monday, and come in that night to see my show. They’d be in the audience with their jail outfits still on. Now that’s a tough crowd. But it taught me to be fast.”
Hughley compares his early days in comedy to wearing a pair of tight-fitting shoes. “When you finally get to wear comfortable shoes,” he said, “it feels good to walk.”
Hughley was picked to be the host of Black Entertainment Television’s “Comic View” in 1992, the same year that he first appeared on HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam.” And from there he has run, not walked, to comedy success. He landed a recurring role during the third season of the Will Smith TV vehicle “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” then, in 1997, became part of the Kings of Comedy Tour with stand-ups Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer and Bernie Mac.
Hughley’s sitcom, “The Hughleys,” debuted in 1998 and ran for four seasons — two on ABC and two on UPN. He now plays Simon Stiles on the series “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.”
Hughley’s comedy is edgy and often involves some raucous audience interaction — it’s not for the timid. But there is a feeling of warmth and truthfulness that also shines through.
“I kind of see comedy as the last great art form,” said Hughley, who has three children with wide LaDonna — daughters Ryan Nicole (20) and Tyler Whitney (16) and son Kyle Aaris (18). “Most other stuff; music, movies, are owned by corporations. The only place were you’re really free to create now is the comedy stage.”
One of his greatest inspirations, surprisingly, was singer Marvin Gaye.
“He wrote these wonderful songs that are so vivid,” Hughley said. “It made me want to see the world that he’s singing about. And that’s what I try to do with my comedy. I want to paint a picture, and let people see my world.”