The comedian is bringing his stand-up show to Cleveland this week.
CLEVELAND -- Leno. Letterman. Hughley?
That's right, comedian D.L. Hughley is returning to television. However, this time the star of "The Hughleys," which ran for five years on ABC and UPN, is throwing his name into the late-night talk game with a proposed Comedy Central show due to begin airing later this year.
Recently, the Los Angeles native got his feet wet behind the desk, so to speak, when he subbed for Craig Kilborn who up and quit "The Late Late Show" without warning. Even though he didn't get the fulltime CBS gig (CBS recently announced Craig Ferguson is the new host), the rewarding and laugh-filled experience cemented his desire to have his own show.
"CBS invited us to come and do a week and we tested really well, and they let us do another week," said Hughley calling from his home in Los Angeles. "But the interesting thing about that was, we actually got their best ratings and didn't get the job but I kind of thought, CBS and me? Come on, CBS hasn't had black people since 'The Jeffersons.'"
It appears as though 2005 will be a busy and important year for Hughley. In addition to his own late night talk show, which he postulates will have an intimate David Letterman feel, similar to the host's NBC years with its cast of unique and off-the-wall characters, the comedian has an upcoming one-hour Comedy Central special due in May and his first-ever comedy CD "Notes from the GED Section" due out around the same time.
Even though today's comics have so many media outlets available, the notion of releasing a comedy album of yesterday appealed to this stand-up comedian.
"My inspiration was, I wanted it to feel like one of those old school albums that we used to have to sneak and listen to, and your mother used to put them in a paper bag and you weren't supposed to know what they were," Hughley said.
In looking back over his maturation as a comedian, Hughley points to his decision to stop trying to be funny and just telling audiences about the world as he sees it as being a key to his success. As a result, the performer possesses a certain integrity and honesty that transcends the normal joke telling aesthetic of set-ups and punch lines.
While he discounts any talk of his material being positive, the comedian can't deny the inspirational nature of his background. After dropping out of high school, Hughley was briefly a member of the Los Angeles gang the Bloods before turning his life around.
"It's funny because out of all of the cats that I grew up with, I'm probably the 20th funniest person," Hughley said. "For whatever reason, I was blessed and I think it's more that I knew that I wasn't going to be able to have the attitude to do a lot of things that they were into, dealing drugs and hurting people and doing that kind of stuff. It wasn't in me to do it. It was cool to be around the friends when I was younger but in the end, when you think of taking another black man's life, that just wasn't what I wanted to be. So, I had to find something. And when I picked up a microphone, I understood very clearly that it was what I wanted to do."
Back on stage
As a part of the overwhelmingly successful "The Original Kings of Comedy" movie to feature film roles ("Scary Movie 3," "Soul Plane") and countless stand-up dates around the country, this 41-year-old funnyman feels most at home when he is on stage entertaining audiences. You can see Hughley Thursday through Sunday at the Cleveland Improv.
"It's the creative engine that drives everything," Hughley said. "So whatever else I use my comedy for, it's really ancillary. The source is really comedy so I'm always going to be on the road, I'm always going to be doing what it is I do. As a matter of fact, the reason I want to do late night is it's cool to duplicate standup every night. Every night have to write a monologue, every night have to do stuff that you'd do every weekend anyway. So, that's exciting to me."
And considering that his father's family is from Northeast Ohio, Hughley's upcoming dates should be an exciting affair.
"You can't avoid that," Hughley said. "If you're that close to Youngstown, Warren and Zanesville, somebody is going to come by."