Luenell [Interview]

 

Comedienne and actress Luenell is having a moment! The self-proclaimed “Original Bad Girl of Comedy,” is a comedic force of nature. The stand-up comic is best known for her breakthrough role as the “hooker with the heart of gold” in the  2006 Oscar-nominated, blockbuster comedy Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. She also appears in the Oscar-buzzy film A Star Is Born with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, plus, she’ll be in the new Eddie Murphy film, Dolemite Is My Name, coming out this year on Netflix. 

In addition to her film roles, she’s also making a splash in Las Vegas. After wrapping up a three-month Las Vegas residency at the SLS hotel in Sin City, she’s now doing a limited run at Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club at The LINQ Promenade in Vegas. Plus, she’s also touring the country as a stand-up comic, and tickling the funny bones of many from one comedy club to another. Trainwreck Society had a chance to catch up with Luenell, and chat with her about comedy, her work and upcoming projects.

 

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When did you first discover that you were a hilarious human being, and that you wanted to make people laugh for a living?

Well, how I became a professional comedienne is a long and complicated story; but, I come from a very large family, and being the youngest of eight children and seeking attention definitely had something to do with it! Or maybe it was being bullied at home and school, which made me want to speak up. It’s probably a combination of both.  Still, I landed on stage by accepting a dare. Never in my wildest dreams did I foresee a “career” in comedy or making a living at it. 

When I began my career in comedy, there was no ComicView or Def Comedy Jam. And the only African Americans I knew really making a living at it were Richard Pryor, Red Foxx, LaWanda Page, Flip Wilson, and Bill Cosby. Plus, there wasn’t a lot of women in the game. But TV exposure with the various comedy shows changed that.  I decided that instead of comedy being a hobby, and “something to do” to vent my frustrations, I felt I could make a decent living doing this. Basically, I made a commitment to make people happy because I didn’t ever want anyone to feel how I use to feel growing up. To this day, that is still my driving force to get on a stage every night and tell a joke. It’s not for the money. It’s a passion. If you do what you love and are passionate about, the money will come.

What was your very first paid gig as a comedian or actor that you can remember getting? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still affects your work today?

I can’t exactly remember my very first paid gig; but, I remember the timing of it. I had just met a young comic – that is, DL Hughley, and a guy named Quinton introduced us; so, we could do some shows together. This was before DL became the original host and familiar face on BET’s “ComicView” (1992-1993) and one of the Original Kings of Comedy. I believe some of the first money I received was like $25, and maybe a drink or a chicken dinner. Not Both! LOL And when the pay went up to $50, you couldn’t tell me shit! LOL.

 

 

We have had the pleasure of having many stand up comedians on the site in the past, and I am always curious to know about life on the road. Specifically, I am curious to know what are some cities that you love performing in that some folks may not realize are wonderful places for comedy, simply because they may not be on one of the coasts?

Well, I’m from the South. I was born in Tollette, Arkansas. So, being a Southern girl, I get lots of love when I’m there. I love to play Arlington, Texas. They support me to the fullest. I usually perform to a sold-out crowd, and they love to show up and show out! Also, Baltimore definitely turns up when I come to town. Great crowds. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention Cincinnati. They get me. 

And of course, I get mad love from the city that raised me and taught me everything I know about life, and where I really sharpened my comedy teeth – that is, Oakland, California. Actually the entire Bay Area, including San Jose, San Francisco and Sacramento, but Oakland is my heart. I got my start in showbiz, hosting a local cable show, called “Soul Beat,” run by Chuck Johnson. The show ran from 1978 to 2003, and discovered all the major Oaktown artists like Digital Underground, MC Hammer and Too Short. I credit that experience and the connections I made to that show — back in the late 1990s — to making me a “hood star” before landing in Los Angeles. They say if you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere; but that also applies to Oakland as well.

 

You’re absolutely incredible and hilarious role in the now legendary film Borat, which was absolutely incredible. I am curious to know what it was like to work on such a strange project. And when you were working on it, did you get the idea that you were working on something that would become such a cult favorite film for years to come?

My experience working on the Academy Award-nominated film “Borat,” was just that … AN EXPERIENCE! One, I will never forget.  What you may not know is that we shot some of that film in Bucharest, Romania. Not exactly my vacation destination spot, but it was a wonderful trip! We were also in very uncomfortable situations, like dancing in the country bar and going to peoples very proper, Southern homes, dressed like a hooker. Sacha Baron Cohen is a mad genius! So is the director, Larry Charles. It really shook people up and I’m proud to have been a part of that madness.

 

 

And how was your fan interaction around the time Borat was released? I imagine it was a bit strange? Any weird stories?

It’s funny, but I didn’t have much fan interaction after the film was released because everyone who saw the film and didn’t know me as a stand-up comic and actress really thought I was a hooker! I was actually under a gag order for months, per my contract, which meant I couldn’t talk about the film and I couldn’t correct people and let them know I was actually an actress. This went on for about a month or so. It was a little awkward sometimes, being in public, like waiting for a friend of mine at a bar alone, and I could hear the whispers and feel the stares. Very awkward to say the least. I’m sure people were saying, “There’s that black hooker from that movie!” LOL

 

I understand you have a new album out right now titled, Luenell Live: I Only Drink at Work. Can you tell our readers a bit about the new stuff? What can we expect to hear this go around?

Well, I wouldn’t call it my new CD because it’s been out for a minute now.  But, my latest one, I Only Drink at Work, talks about kids and relationships. My family is a constant source of material. I deal with universal topics that everyone can relate to. In fact, I pride myself on actually being relatable to ALL audiences and everyday people. 

What else does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

My future is looking pretty bright! I’m excited about the new Netflix film, Dolemite Is My Name, dropping in October, and starring THE GREAT EDDIE MURPHY! I have a lovely role in that. I am currently in collaboration with Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx on some projects for myself. Plus, I am enjoying an eight-week run in Las Vegas at the Jimmy Kimmel Comedy Club. In addition, I just signed on for a role in a huge sequel to a movie that people know and love.  HINT: Comic legend Eddie Murphy stars in that film too! My current tour – that is, the “Easily Annoyed Comedy Tour” — is doing very well around the country. And I’m ready for anything else God sends my way!

 

What was the last thing that made you smile?

It’s hard to pin down the last thing that made me smile because I smile a lot. My daughter makes me smile … when we’re not trying to kill each other). Her little puppy makes me smile. Flirting with cute men makes me smile. Watching the faces and reactions of my audience makes me smile. Needless to say, I like smiling … and l Iove laughing … out loud!

 

For more about Luenell and her touring schedule, visit www.HeyLuenell.com.

And be sure to follow Luenell on Instagram (@Luenell) and Facebook.

 

 

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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