Talking to the one and only Luenell
This is the best part about doing what I do. I get to chat with comics that have made me laugh and shaped my sense of humour over my teen years. I used to watch Comic View on BET religiously and Luenell is one of the comics that always stuck with me. Fast forward and pause to Just For Laughs 2015 when I saw her chilling with other comics and I have to say I was a bit star struck. There she was, the lady that made me laugh to the point of pissing myself, standing right in front of me. Now fast forward one more time to today and I get interview her. Life has a funny way of working out.
Luenell will be touring with some of the hottest comics in Canada bringing her unique style and flavour to Canada.
To say the least, she is a everything I hoped she would be and more. Here’s what we chatted about.
What was your first experience in Montreal?
I wasn’t sure how Montreal would receive me. I don’t ever change my style but I may make certain accommodations according to the crowd. Luckily, I was on the Nasty Show and that fit my comedy style no problem. I had a wonderful time and everyone was so sweet and nice. So I’m very excited to come back and meet everybody, take pictures and expose Luenell to Canada.
What did you like the most about Montreal?
I think I just like men. Men of all sorts, from every nation. All the beautiful men. But I hope I don’t get in trouble for this one, but I’m really over the poutine. I’m over it. It’s like what Ruffles potato chips and dip with popcorn is for me, what poutine is for you Montrealers. Morning, noon and night – y’all are eating it. It’s hilarious to me.
You started out acting, you went to theatre school… How did you transition from theatre to being a stand-up comedian?
I guess that theatre and acting are other peoples words and doing stand-up is the opportunity to say what I feel, the way I feel like saying it. Being the eighth child of eight children, mom and dad were tired of listening – way before they got to you. So I never had anyone to really listen to me. Through stand-up, I can command, direct and they listen to me. It’s a dictatorship, not a democracy, so you have to listen.
I don’t really tell jokes for say… I tell stories like many of the old comics. The way I got into comedy wasn’t a choice and it wasn’t a dare. It was an invitation from a comic I had met. So I thought of a few stories that were funny to me and that I didn’t mind sharing. So that’s what I did. We went down there, I did my thing, didn’t really fumble or anything. I had a great time. It was like a duck to water situation.
Did you find it hard transitioning into comedy?
I didn’t really have any difficulties. I think I had to learn the art of comedy. I have an English Major, so I know how to creatively write. A story must have a beginning, a middle and an end. I believe the best comics take you on a journey through a story which is why I don’t just fire out jokes -Bang! Bang! Bang! I learned about segues and what performing stand-up comedy meant. It was easy for me to do but it was a process for me to learn the mathematics.
How do you deal with hecklers during your set (if people even attempt this during your set)?
There’s different types of hecklers. There’s hecklers who do it because you suck and they want you to get off stage. But my hecklers…. First off, nobody would dare heckle me because I would tear their head off and secondly, I don’t give anyone a reason to heckle because I’m there to have a good time and I do good material. I get a lot of interactiveness from time to time where people would talk to me or ask me a question. People like to talk to me during my set. Back in the day, when you don’t know what to do and have less experience, you may retaliate in a negative way. But now, I’ll go ahead and have a conversation with that person as long as it doesn’t take too long or take away for the show. A lot of the times, it can enhance the show. So I wouldn’t call my hecklers “hecklers” per-say.
What throws me off even more is when food is being served. Because then people are talking about bills and tips and that can be very distracting.
What was your time in jail about and what did that experience bring to your comedy career?
Back when I was young and impulsive, I was working at several banks and saw that one was going under soon. It’s very tempting to be around millions of dollars every day especially when your paycheck is only 128$. It’s like “Let me get some of this money!” – It wasn’t the best decision. It cost me 4 months away from my daughter and I wouldn’t do it again. I’m just sorry to say I didn’t do anything good with the money. But it comes down to sometimes you want to live like the other half does. Even if its for a moment. As far as my career, it has definitely added my street cred. I’ve always had a gangster personality anyways and now I can back that up. Because you can’t be gangsta and not have jail time. I use to be a poser. Not anymore! I’m a full gangster now.
Beside travelling, what is your favourite part of being a comedian.
The love and adoration you get. Comics have an insatiable need for love and attention all the time and that’s why we need to get it fed every week. Just having people adore you is super cool. So besides the travelling, the attention is great. Packing is a pain. Men can pack in a backpack, I need trunks like a Kardashian to pack my stuff.
You have such great style. Where does that come from?
I haven’t always had the greatest style. I had a lot of trying-to-get-it-rights.
The style I’m comfortable with now is glam and glitz and that comes from watching the stars from the past live Stevie Nicks, Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight. Real Divas. What I took from watching these stars is their class and I feel like if people are going to pay money to see a star, you should look like one.
What steps to success would you give to an upcoming comic?
I think you should study. Don’t always try to get on every stage at every comedy club you go to. Sit, watch and see what makes a person great or suck, what kind of comedy do they like in this room as opposed to the type of comedy they like in the room across town. I think you should listen to comics on the radio, you should watch the comedy channel… Study the art of comedy.
People are so anxious to get feedback that all they want to do is get on stage. You need to study before you jump into that water. And don’t fool yourself, just because you can make your friends laugh at a BBQ doesn’t mean you can go into a room full of people who’ve never seen you before and rock it. It’s a completely different animal. If you’re funny and inherently funny, and this is what you really want to do, then pursue it. The beauty of comedy is that it’s not going anywhere, it will be here forever. And there’s no age limit so you always have plenty of time. So take that time to study and stop concentrating on being the centre of attention all the time.
If you could compare your comedy as a cocktail, what would it be?
A Bloody Mary with cherries. The bloody mary is kinda spicy, kinda tart, it has a little kick to it. But you add the cherries and that adds a sweetness that comes along with it. I don’t want to come off as a badass, even though I am. I’m a mother, a sister, I go to church, I attend functions at my daughter’s college like anybody else, so there’s a sweetness to me. But you do have to have a huge set balls to be in this boys business because they’re not just opening the door and ushering women in, you have to fight your way in. That’s where bloody mary comes in.
I can’t wait to meet you and complete the full circle of meeting. Not only was is she a boss and takes interviews in the bath like the gangster she is, she is kind, interesting and you just want to talk to her all day long. I’m so pleased to have connected Luenell and will give you the biggest hug when I see you.
You can catch Luenell in Montreal, May 8th at the Plaza Centre-Ville. Check out all the details for dinner and show tickets at Juice Comedy Toronto.
I was listening to your podcast and this will stick with me.
“There’s something about the word Motherfucker that just makes me tear up.” To listen to the podcast and many more, please check out HeyLuenell.com. It is hilarity non-stop!