He’s on the radio, television, Comedy Central, movie screens, podcasts, bookshelves — and hugely on the road.
DL Hughley — former game show host, star of “The Hughley” sitcom from 1998 to 2002, and 2013 “Dancing with the Stars” contestant — is returning to Cedar Rapids with his standup routine Saturday night (11/4), leaping from past shows at Penguins Comedy Club to the Paramount stage. That’s about the fanciest his footwork will get. He “hated every minute” of his turn in the “DWTS” celebrity ballroom.
“The only reason I did it, because I hate dancing, is that grown men shouldn’t just eat dessert,” Hughley, who has homes in New York and Los Angeles, said by phone from a recent comedy stop in Charlotte, N.C.
He’s been pushing outside his comfort zone his whole life, so taking on the mirror-ball challenge was just one more step in his personal evolution. It’s a journey that began on the mean streets of Los Angeles, where he hooked up with the Bloods gang in his teens.
How did he get out? “I just woke up every day,” he said, and carries with him some powerful lessons learned.
“We’re all sum totals of our life experiences. Everybody’s what they’ve been through and how they process,” he said. “It taught me a lot about what I would believe and what things meant. But more than anything else, it taught me to rely on my perspective. It really taught me to trust in myself, not to necessarily wait for a hero. There is a desire to make everybody feel the same way and act the same way. They’ll punish you if they think you’re doing something you’re not supposed to. My experience taught me to be me, and if you can take a punch, you can do with it what you want.”
His path to comedy began with his love for telling jokes — not on a stage or open mic nights, but at the barbershop.
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“The cats that I would see in the barbershop were promoters,” he said, “so all of a sudden, they put me onstage, and I never looked back.”
Now 53, in his youth, he admired “a weird combination” of entertainers. The usual comedy suspects, like George Carlin and Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx — but also singer Marvin Gaye.
“Even though Marvin Gaye wasn’t a comedian, he was the kind of artist that was so timeless and was so resonant that you’ll be able to listen to what he was singing about decades from now — and it was so vivid that you could see it,” Hughley said. “That’s what I’ve always aspired to do.”
Today, he admires comedy’s “brave cats,” including Bill Maher, Marc Maron and George Lopez, who have “organic points of view.”
Hughley’s mentors, however, weren’t connected to comedy.
“There were a lot of people,” he said. “I learned things from a man’s perspective or a human’s perspective or a woman’s perspective. It wasn’t even necessarily connected to my particular endeavor, but just the way they did things and their approaches. This is weird, but the most fascinating people I’ve ever read about are Mark Twain and Helen Keller. Even though obviously I’ve never met them, I felt like they inspired me in every way that a mentor possibly could.”
“Darryl” to his family and friends, the married father of three is known to everyone else as “DL,” because he said emcees found “Darryl Hughley” too hard to say when introducing him onstage. “I guess that was a lot of vowels,” he said. They shortened it to “DL,” for “Darryl Lynn,” and it stuck.
He’s one of “The Original Kings of Comedy,” featured in Spike Lee’s 2000 film showcasing the biting wit and points of view from Hughley, Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer and Bernie Mac.
And even with all of his side projects, including writing a third book, he still spends about 48 weeks a year on the road, with his solo show as well as with his “Comedy Get Down Tour” colleagues, Cedric the Entertainer, George Lopez and Eddie Griffin.
He loves getting out and connecting with audiences.
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“I want the same things they do,” he said. “I do the same things they do, I eat the same things they do, I see the same things they see. I think that there’s a tendency the more successful you are, the more insulated you are. You have experiences that aren’t necessarily connected to anybody. You don’t have those similar experiences, but I just see what they see, eat what they eat and when I’m in New York, I take the train. I just am an artist who is impacted by the things I see, and I think that the more organic experiences you have, the more that incorporates itself into your act.”
Carving out a niche in political commentary, he has a lot on his mind these days.
“I see that Bill O’Reilly’s mad at God — I wonder what She did to him,” he said with a laugh.
“We live in interesting times. It’s the first time I could ever say that the president isn’t an aspirational figure for kids. If a kid acted like the president acts, you would beat the (expletive) out of him. So it’s the first time in memory where you can’t say, ‘I want my kid to grow up and act like the president.’ No matter what side of the political aisle you come down, he’s not somebody you aspire to be like. You might want his wealth, or you might want some of the aspects of his success, but in terms of a personality, you wouldn’t want your child to embody the same things you see him embody. ...
“It is true that a white dude’s luck is much better than a black dude’s Harvard education. In terms of comedy, it’s just a vantage point you’re able to take, and it’s clear. The one thing about it is, the lines are much darker. People can’t pretend to be as offended. I think that he has definitely lowered the approval value on the president.
“It’s the first time a black dude moved out (of the White House) and a white dude moved in, and the neighborhood went down.”
WHAT: DL Hughley
WHERE: Paramount Theatre, 123 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday (11/4)
TICKETS: $55 to $75, Paramount Ticket Office, (319) 366-8203 or Paramounttheatrecr.com
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Realdlhughley.com