Exclusive: D.L. Hughley Talks ‘The Laugh Experience’ and Adjusting Comedy to the Digital World

D.L. Hughley has been a household name in comedy for three decades. One of the Original Kings of Comedy has continued to find ways to adapt to consumer behavior rather it is on stage, television, or over radio airwaves.

For his new venture, Hughley is starring in The Laugh Experience, a virtual reality comedy show that will be created in partnership with the black-owned, digital streaming platform, CEEK VR. Not only will Hughley and his friends provide laughs, but a portion of the show’s admission cost will be donated to the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund for affected members of the entertainment industry. The premiere will feature live sets from D.L. Hughley and friends, Chris Spencer, Bo
Dacious, Ryan Davis, Clint Coley, and Hughley’s daughter, DJ Lucci Hugh. The show will begin as a new stage but also will be a competition series for rising talent. The show premieres on May 15.

The Laugh Experience is not the only thing going for Hughley. He has relaunched D.L. Hughley Uncut with Pluto TV, still active in radio, and has his fourth book on the way.

In conversation, D.L. Hughley shows a flawless availability to transition from real-life topics to jokes, while covering his ventures, dealing with coronavirus stay-at-home orders and more. – Shawn Grant

The Source: How are you holding up during stay-at-home orders physically and mentally?

DL Hughley: Well, physically I think I’m, I’m great. And you know what, I’m used to being on the road. I’ve been doing comedy for 30 years and I haven’t been on stage in almost two months, so that’s tough. But I’m really enjoying spending my time with my family. But I can’t tell you though that I don’t miss the word old because I missed it a lot.

I see a lot of places are doing streaming content and trying to hook up with their coworkers online. Is there a way that you found that works better for you?

DL Hughley: Well, I still do radio. So in the studio we just social distance and then we started our new TV show, DL Hugley Uncut and it’s on Pluto, so I’ve been busy. For others, you can zoom in and have conversations with somebody and you can zoom in, sing songs, you know, people can do stuff like that. But in terms of comedy, it’s such an interactive format that it loses something if there’s not somebody that can do it in front of them.

That’s a tougher thing for sure. You mentioned that you’ve been doing this for 30 years. Throughout those three decades, a lot of things have changed. The way people get comedy, just consumer behavior in general. How have you been able to adjust it?

Cause it was a transition to stay successful. We know what I’ve always tried to do, let’s try to interpret what people want or try to be what they want or anything. I think what is authentic is how I feel at this very moment right now. So to me, I’ve always just trying to be as honest with myself artistically as I can be and everything else is kind of trust. I think the source has to be, no pun intended, but where it comes from has to be original otherwise the whole thing is tainted. I’ve always just tried to just be exactly who I am.

When you made the transition to digital it seemed like you knew how to embrace it.

It’s what I was saying earlier, the source. Because if you have water in your house, there is some you use to cook with and some you take a shower with, but it’s all the same source. So it’s applicable to where their medium I’m using. If I’m writing the book, I’ve got the source. If I’m doing the digitally, I got the source. If I’m on stage, I got the source. So it’s all the same thing for sure.

Another source is your Instagram, you have the #TeamDL hashtag where you are uniting a community, but now it’s even more important because you’re supporting them. How did you know that the pandemic, politics, and subjects like that were what you wanted to touch on?

Well, it’s interesting, to me it’s just like a conversation. Any conversation you have with somebody starts with a level of interest in a particular topic. So I’m interested in these things. I got to do radio, I have to write books, I have to, so I have to interact with people and, and you know, it’s amazing how, how interested we are in kind of the same thing. But I think anything that affects the people I love and who I look like is interesting to me. People in general but I think we have been so devoid of knowledge like deliberately people try to keep things away or extract the view of things. 

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#Repost @realdlhughley with @make_repost ・・・ BE A PART OF HISTORY💪🏾 MAY 15th 6pm PST/9pm EST – THE LAUGH EXPERIENCE brought to you by @ceekvr THE 1st EVER VIRTUAL REALITY COMEDY SHOW!! THIS ISN’T THE FUTURE OF GIGGIN… THIS IS NOW!! LINK IN BIO FOR TICKETS ✌🏾 #TeamDL #Giggin #makethechange #TheLaughExperience #comedy #comedyshow #virtualreality #vr #CEEKLaughX #CEEKVR #CEEK

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In addition to that, you are heading into a new show, The Laugh Experience. How did you know that was the next move for you.

Well, originally it wasn’t even supposed to be this. We were supposed to do it on this on this platform, but it was going to be a comedy contest where I was going to perform and we were going to go to different venues and find the next guy or girl, but Corona happened. So it kind of morphed into this thing that we’re doing now. But it’s actually very interesting because now I think the way we spoke about this earlier, the way people consume live entertainment may change for a lot of people, even once the restrictions are lifted. There are a lot of people that just are not going to feel comfortable being in a crowd.

You mentioned earlier about how comedy is a little bit different from some of the other performing arts because it kind of feeds off of the energy of a crowd. Do you think that will affect the performance of these comedians to ensure they are getting this message across while not having that crowd to rely on?

Well, I think that it’s going to be an interesting thing because if you could swim in five feet, go swim in a thousand feet. The mechanisms are all the same. I think psychologically it’ll take some getting used to. For me, I’ve done radio for so long I’m not necessarily used to hearing what people say or their feedback there. The other cast that I work with is so strong and artistic and that was the reason I picked them because they seem that they can go roll with the punches and kind of give a great performance in a case.

As a part of this show, you’re also going to be delivering new sets. In your way of delivering comedy in 2020, how do you decide which topics you want to touch on?

It’s just what’s important and what’s going on right now. Like, like the fact that its comedy kind of writes itself. Like now you’ll hear all these protesters carrying guns because they want to get – like black people protest when a kid gets killed. White people protest cause they can’t go to the mall. I know the food court is good but God damn! The food court ain’t that good.

But I think the differences and the subtleties in what’s going on. Just the fact that you know, you had a president that told you to take a disinfectant and that makes sense to me because Clorox is just like the Trump administration, it works great for whites but it’s hell on colors. 

I think it has to be invested in what people are saying now because unlike any other time in history, everybody is home. For the most part, the majority of the country is home and the proximity to seeing the same things. I’ve been watching documentaries and the first one I watched was Tiger King. Apparently petting a tiger long enough and it will eventually make you want to fuck a dude. I threw out my frosted flakes. I was like, wait a minute.

But I just, I think comedically, there’s nothing that’s off limits comedically. You just have to kind of have a true kind of line, do the things you believe, and the things you say. And I think they have to be some somewhat familiar to people once can’t talk to something about something so abstract.

You mentioned a couple of minutes ago about how you got some other people that you’re working with. How did you choose who should be a part of this project?

If you’re going into a new endeavor and have a Rolodex or lexicon of people, you choose the people who you think are best suited for that thing. These cats are just solid and I think they are the brightest young cats in the country and so it makes sense that they get this medium. One of the great things is now people are used to, by virtue of this pandemic, they’re used to consuming things a certain way. For right now you’re used to seeing a TV show with no audience. You used to, you know, people talking on screens now instead of going into a studio. And these cats are millennials, so everything correct. New to them for sure.

There are so many different outlets that are out here now. Netflix, Amazon Prime, other streaming services. What let you know CEEK was the right platform to do this with?

I think Mary [CEEK CEO and Founder] is an extremely bright woman. When you say it ain’t take a rocket scientist, well she is one and it just made sense because I don’t think the medium is going to ever change where I think men and women will always stand in front of sound amplification and tell people how they feel. That’s never going to change but the way it will be consumed is. The platform seemed avant-garde and that was what attracted me.

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I’ll tell you why! What is it called when Italians kill other Italians, when Russians kill other Russians or Jews kill other Jews?? Why is it that any crimes committed between us has this STAIN, THIS STIGMA ATTACHED?? STOP GIVING OTHER PEOPLE A JUSTIFICATION FOR KILLING US!!! THEY’VE BEEN DOING IT LONG ENOUGH WITHOUT ONE!! #TeamDL A little note from The GED Section

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Your show returned but on the Pluto network. Do you see it being different than other places it was before?

I think that the digital platform more wide open. We’re going to be on Pluto. Here’s the thing, it’s such an interesting, we live stream on Pluto on Friday, then Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday when another digital platform called GFN. Those are 30 minutes shows.  So I just take, it’s kinda like syndications like The Tamron Hall Show can run on CBS or Fox or NBC, whoever decides to carry it. But it’s kinda the same. So I think it’s just the wild, wild West. I think more people are used to it. You can even pull it up on your phone and watch it when you want to. TV is more a la carte now. So I think the more different ways you can get the people, the more advantageous it is.

I definitely think that was an interesting way of putting it. I didn’t think of it in the sense of syndication but that’s what it is. We’re used to syndication and in process of, you start on NBC and then you hit a hundred episodes and it can go to different networks, but using the syndication out the jump and your access is everywhere.

It’s just like even radio, radio, you could be on cumulus, you could be on radio one and it could be the same show. So it’s just different ways of introducing people to you and how, and kind of making it easy to access it. It’s kind of like like door dash. You can have it with you and when you want.

You are getting ready for the launch of your fourth book. When can we expect it to be available?

I’m the most excited about this book. It comes out July 7th and called Surrender, White People! Our Unconditional Terms for Peace. It’s very funny and I’m excited about that. Reading this is something you can do without risk is your life though.

How do you manage to balance all of these various ventures? We talked about various shows, various networks, radio shows, books, everything. And then like you mentioned now you’ve been forced in to have more family time, even though I’m sure you were already taken care of that, but at the end of the day, you’re still one man. How do you, how do you merge all of that together?

I think that it’s all seamless to me. They’re so congruent to me. They’re so linear to me. It’s like going from one to the other. I love to work. I love reading, I love interacting with people. So all of that kind of works for me.