A CANDID CONVERSATION WITH
2006 WINNER OF THE BAY AREA BLACK COMEDY COMPETITION
COMEDIAN DARRYL LITTLETON
BY MISS ELOQUENCE
Stand up comedian, comedy writer, producer and newly signed book author, Darryl Littleton, aka D’Militant is making big strides in comedy. An emerging force to be reckoned with, Darryl is an insightful and politically astute veteran comic. Darryl is also an accomplished comedy historian, as evidenced in his forthcoming book (They’ll be more on that later).
“D” has been on the road for years honing his craft. He’s had numerous appearances on television, written screenplays, written numerous comedy sketches for television, produced Comic View for BET and helped more than a few up and coming stand ups get their acts together along the way.
On April 15th, 2006, at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre, he took his entire game to the next level. Amidst a deluge of fanfare, hype and a very competitive playing field, he ‘broke it off the hinges’ and won the internationally acclaimed Bay Area Black Comedy Competition & Festival, joining the elite alumni that include: Academy Award Winner Jamie Foxx, D. L. Hughley, Don D.C. Curry, Mark Curry and many more of today’s top urban comedians. A “dark horse” in all of the prognosticators minds, Littleton put his mind to the task at hand. He was not to be denied the $5,000.00 first place prize and bragging rights as the country’s top up and coming urban comedian for 2006.
M.E. How does it feel to be a veteran comic and a champion? I mean, with Jay Deep, Reggie Reg, my sistah B-Phlat, one of my favorites Derrick Ellis and others amongst the finalists, you were in some very ‘tall cotton’, my brutha’.
D.L. I honestly didn’t expect to win, no BS. My intent was to garner some extra exposure and let folks know I’m still out there and still throwin’ down.
M.E. Let me expound on that point for you, Mr. Littleton because everybody needs to take note. To all my readers out there: Darryl Littleton has arrived. He is definitely in the building! Y’all know I wouldn’t say it if it were not the truth.
M.E. Darryl, you have a lot to say about politics and governmental hypocrisy. It’s mostly all true and all very funny. Where does all of that insight come from?
D.L. My late father instilled a lot of social consciousness in me. He raised me on Dick Gregory albums and he was a big fan of Malcolm. “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” is one of the first books I ever read once I got past “Dick & Jane”.
M.E. You have a point of view that harkens back to legends like Dick Gregory, who you just mentioned and Paul Mooney. By that I mean, you pull no punches and you make us laugh at society and ourselves. And like both of them, you’re very quick on you feet. That razor-sharp wit of yours could sting somebody, if they’re not careful.
M.E. Are those your actual feelings on the subjects you talk about or are they just part of your act/your on-stage character or personae?
D.L. I’m pretty much the same guy off stage as I am on, minus the tam (head wear), and I don’t walk around with a mic in my hand.
M.E. Speaking of headgear, I noticed at the Competition that you actually ditched the tam, the revolutionary sunglasses and the dashiki along with the name D’Militant. Good move.
D.L. Thanks. I have to admit it did something for me but mostly; it did something for the audience. It gave them a chance to focus in on the comedian, not the character. It allowed them to hear my voice. Lose the D’Militant outfit and they’ll begin the see that there is a lot of good information coming from the loud little guy.
M.E. How do you come up with your material? Where does it all come from?
D.L. All artists get their material from their supreme being. I read an article where Prince says he merely takes dictation. So I feel that any quality jokes I am blessed to have come out of me, are a result of my God bestowing that humor to me. Let’s face it he’s the greatest comedian of all time. Just look around. Ugly dudes hung like horses, gorgeous women who want nothing to do with men and the world’s most powerful nation ran by a remedial who probably needed a bib until he attended home school.
M.E. That’s funny! I wonder if they’re e-tapping this interview. Okay. That explains the jokes. But where did you get that extremely original point of view?
D.L. God, but why me – I dunno. I think I get away with some things because I’m short and have a distinctive voice.
M.E. Many comics say they have a bone to pick with something or somebody. You seem to have one to pick with our country’s leadership. Does it go further than that? Were you a victim of racism growing up? Or are you just an observer and a commentator on what has happened to others?
D.L. Most black people are victims of racism whether they care to acknowledge it or not. Sometimes it’s not blatant or evident, but chances are, if you’re black, you missed out on something in life because of your skin color. I used to work in the mortgage business and there was a position open for a loan officer in the Oakland branch. I was up for the spot and then heard the company vice-president say, “He’s a good worker, but would you rather walk into the office and see a black face or a white face?” And they gave the job to a white dude.
That let me know that no matter how good a black man is there’s still that portion of society that doesn’t want him. Have I ever been called ’nigger’? Sure. As a beer bottle was whizzing by my skull, thrown by rednecks in a pick up, as they roared past a buddy and me. Do I dislike all white people? No? I’ve had white people do me justice just as I’ve had brothers screw over me.
America is a racist society, but not everybody takes out precious life hours to attend meetings in pointy-headed, ratty outfits to plot the destruction of another race of people that really ain’t thinking about their asses. There are plenty of white people getting dogged out with the rest of us. Just look at the composition of the hood these days. Even the Mexicans are looking at them like, ‘What are you doing here?’
M.E. You are a lunatic! You are making this interview so enjoyable. I’m actually having fun. Why is Darryl Littleton funny?
D.L. Because he says what people are thinking without concerning himself with the consequences. I’m like that little man in your head that wants to scream out when he sees shit stacking up too high. The difference is that I do it, so the audience lives vicariously through me.
M.E. Tony Spires always likes to say that Black Comedy is “cyclic and ever-evolving.” From your perspective, where is Black Comedy heading?
D.L. I see resurgence. The major names have blossomed out into music, film and complacency, so now it’s time for the next tier. You can see it in the emergence of Mike Epps, Katt Williams, Kevin Hart, Nick Cannon and others and realize black comedy simply regrouped so the new players could come forth. And I expect to be one of them.
M.E. I think you already are one of them. When I say “you,” I mean ‘Darryl’. By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask you, about your new name, that’s actually your real name. I think you’ve explained why you made the name change from D’Militant to Darryl Littleton. But what was significant about the timing of the move?
D.L. I wrote a book entitled “Black Comedians on Black Comedy” due out November 1st. In it I interviewed over 120 comedians including Cedric, Eddie & Charlie Murphy, the Wayans, Bernie, Franklyn Ajaye, Marla Gibbs, Arsenio and the icon who penned the book’s introduction, Mr. Dick Gregory. We go over the history of black comedy in an informative and flat out funny fashion. So I wanted to get some juice under my birth name since that’s the one on the cover.
M.E. What are you first? Are you a comic? An author? A screenwriter? Other?
D.L. I’m a comedian first and foremost. Everything else follows that lead. It’s the only way I truly know if something is funny. It’s not like doing movies or TV or radio or writing. You make the crew or co-workers laugh and think you’re the man. But it’s an audience full of perfect strangers who really don’t care about you-that’s the real test.
M.E. Where are you from?
D.L. Believe it or not, Los Angeles, but my parents were from the South so the grits and ass whoopings I got were ‘down home’.
M.E. Why comedy?
D.L. I’m a late bloomer as far as comedy. Originally I wanted to be a professional trumpet player and travel the world jamming with the greats. However, I soon realized after attending a summer music camp at Kansas University in high school that I would probably never be great at trumpet.
Though I may never be a king of comedy (I’m actually more like a duke or earl), I am comfortable in my abilities and know that I can share a stage with any comedian on the planet and not embarrass myself. I worked hard to get to that point. But the bottom line is, you never fully get comedy. A laugh is not an exact science. How to make a person react a certain way using only your voice and physicality is illusive, but doing it to an entire gathering is a whole other animal. But that’s what keeps comedy interesting. You never have it locked down because every audience is different. George Burns at 90 said that he was still learning new tricks and that’s why he loved it. I’m only a few years away from 90 so I’ll tell you how I feel when I get there.
M.E. Wait now, I may’ve seen one or two gray hairs but you can’t be a day over 38 or 40, can you? I mean, are you as young as you look or just “well preserved?” I’m not even going to ask your age. See, how they do us, ladies? These men out here are more conscious of their ages than we are! Anyway, Mr. Darryl, I see you as an incredibly funny stand up who is, quick-witted, razor-sharp and polished.
M.E. How would you describe a typical Darryl Littleton set?
D.L. I have an agenda because I like to try new bits and that keeps me sharp; reworking a set. But depending on what’s going on in that particular environment is how I’ll roll with it. But usually I’ll touch on politics, social issues, the tug-of-war between the sexes and attempt to blow away some of the long-standing myths we sometimes erroneously hold near and dear. For instance, right now, I have a bit where I question why straight men hate gay men. Personally I love ‘em. Mathematically they’re our friends. Here you have a guy who’s not only willing to take himself out of the game leaving more women for the rest of us – he takes another guy with him.
M.E. That’s true but that ain’t right! What did you do before your career in stand up?
D.L. I sold real estate and packaged mortgages. Excuse me while I yawn.
M.E. Like that, huh? You must get on your knees every night and Thank God for making you funny! I can tell you just weren’t cutout for the 9-5 lifestyle.
M.E. What was your first big break?
D.L. “Working for Tom Joyner’s Morning Show as a writer and featured character. Television-wise I’d have to say it was when Tony Spires and D. L. Hughley got me the job writing for D.L. when he hosted “Comic View’. That led to me going on to produce that show and put my name on the map as far as many black comedians were concerned.
M.E. Where do you want comedy to take you?
D.L. Wherever God wants me to end up. I want to write more comedy related books. I intend to tell jokes until I can no longer talk and I want to do more TV and film. I’ve been told by a number of the younger comedians that I’ve provided some inspiration and if that’s true I’d like to provide more and even assist more. I love what I do and those who also do it.
M.E. What's your ultimate fantasy?
D.L. A bacteria-free hotel hot tub.
M.E. You know that I could ‘go there’, but my brutha’, I am going to leave that one alone! So that my female readers out there know what’s really going on, what's your marital and/or relationship status?
D.L. I’ve been married to my wife Alicia, almost as long as I’ve been in show business. I’m not jumping up and down on anybody’s couch, but I love my wife. She’s hung in through the good as well as bad. So she’d have to do a lot at this stage of the game for me to jump ship.
M.E. If that’s not a clear declaration of undying love, what is? Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
D.L. My father. He gave me solid principles to live by. A lot of times I was hardheaded and thought I knew it all, but every mistake I’ve ever made I can trace back to how I didn’t have to if I had listened.
M.E. How do you spell r-e-l-a-x-a-t-i-o-n?
D.L. I really love hanging out with my daughter Darina. She’s really cool and I travel a lot so whenever I get a chance I work at keeping that relationship strong. I love live sports; especially boxing and live music. That’s what I did the night I won the competition; went out with the first runner up, David Arnold, and checked out a live band; poppin' bass, tight-ass drummer – it was cool. Granted, a bit sedate, but I’ve been drunk and partied out and right now I’m at a place in my career where I don’t want to screw anything up.
M.E. You need to share those words of wisdom with some of the younger comics out there!
M.E. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
D.L. Doing pretty much what I do (Writing, performing, working in front and behind the camera), but getting paid more to do it. Hopefully I’m in the position to help other comedians reach their goals so the ball can keep rolling. That’s why I admire men like Cedric and Adam Sandler. They put lesser-known talents in their projects to feed the comedy pool. They’re secure enough to share some of that limelight and God bless ‘em and others who do the same.
M.E. What is your ultimate professional goal?
D.L. I don’t think in terms of “ultimate” because if I reach it – then what, I die? I just want to maximize what opportunities come my way. There are things that will open up in the future that we can’t imagine at this moment.
M.E. What does winning the 20th Anniversary Bay Area Black Comedy Competition & Festival Finals mean to you?
D.L. It puts me in historic company and I feel especially pleased about it because it was the 20th Anniversary. That, in itself, is significant.
M.E. What's your life's guiding principal?
D.L. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.
M.E. What other words of wisdom do you have for young people (or not so young people) trying to break into show business?
D.L. Love it or forget it. The amount of failure you’ll have devastates the average person and if by a miracle you do get over quickly, you’ll probably be spit out just as fast and you’ll have to go around the rest of your life with people asking, “What happened?” and saying it with pity in their voices.
M.E. If you couldn't be a comedian, what would you be?
D.L. A mediocre musician.
M.E. Maybe you would’ve just become an author that much sooner. Finishing a book is a major achievement. I’ve got to take my hat off to you. That’s why I write entertainment profiles. Tell us about the book.
D.L. “Black Comedians on Black Comedy” covers black comedy from 1619 when slaves used to make fun of their master behind his back, which started the minstrel era because the whites that spied on those slaves thought that behavior was authentic African. So the whites painted their faces and acted ‘black’. The book covers African-Americans in movies, TV and cartoons, Bert Williams, Stepin Fetchit, Las Vegas, Moms Mabley, Redd Foxx, Pryor, Murphy, the truth about what really happened with Arsenio and Farrakhan, the Kings of Comedy and Dave Chappelle.
The book tells who was the first black stand up comedian to appear on TV in 1961 and why’d it take so long? I deal with female comediennes, whites doing black comedy, as well as interviews with many of the top stars: Chris Rock, Mike Epps, Nick Cannon, Marla Gibbs, Sommore, Adele Givens, Sinbad, Charlie Murphy and his younger brother Eddie, John Witherspoon, Robert Townsend and on and on. There are never-before-seen-photos of famous comedians throughout the book and it’s hilariously funny as well as informative. It’s the kind of book that if I hadn’t written it I would have wished somebody would.
M.E. What inspired you to write it?
D.L. My lawyer got me this book deal while we were shopping another book I had written on black comedy. They liked my writing style and felt I knew what I was talking about so I was entrusted with what I feel is a pretty important project. There has only been three books written on the history of the subject, as we know it: “The Redd Foxx Encyclopedia of Black Humor” in 1977; Mel Watkins “On the Real Side” in ‘99 and mine.
M.E. Why now?
D.L. Why not now? Def Jam is coming back and “Comic View” is gone. It’s time to assess where we’ve been and get some inkling of where things could be headed. We need our history preserved like all history.
M.E. What are your plans for the book?
D.L. To let as many people know it exist as possible. Guaranteed – if you read one page you’re hooked.
M.E. What else is coming up for Darryl Littleton?
D.L I host the Ice House Comedy Club on Thursday nights. I’m doing stand-up Internationally as well as all over the US and I’m already working on the next book. I’m wrapping up a political documentary with Ice-T, Professor Cornel West and KRS-One and a comedy starring Miguel Nunez.
M.E. That's it Mr. Littleton! I am all out of questions and little asides. This has been very educational for me and I’m sure for my readers as well. As Tony Spires told me, “Darryl is for real out here!” He was right. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. All the best to you and all the best with the book (even though I am a little jealous.)
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Miss Eloquence is a freelance entertainment writer and a contributing editor of the Urban Comedy Reporter. She can be reached at: MissEloquence@BlackComedyCompetition.com