Deon Cole On How Steve Carell Wrote His ‘Angie Tribeca’ Part Just For Him

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Deon Cole — a stand-up from Chicago who got his big break when Conan O’Brien hired him to write for The Tonight Show — has spent almost two decades crafting his writing and acting abilities to perfection. He wrote for Conan after the move to TBS and for O’Brien’s appearance at the 2013 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, in addition to appearing on his own show, Deon Cole’s Black Box. Cole also starred in the first two Barbershop films and the ABC comedy Black-ish. Now he’s playing police detective DJ Tanner in Angie Tribeca.

One of the more prominent features of the new TBS show is a dog cop who “does people things.” And whenever Hoffman (Jagger) appears in advertising for the Steve Carell and Nancy Walls-produced comedy, his partner — the human detective Tanner — is always by his side. This is exactly the kind of satirical, goofy and downright silly scenario viewers should expect from the show, and as Cole told Uproxx over the phone, he feels incredibly lucky to be a part of it, even the 25-hour live marathon he’s hosting from Sunday, Jan. 17 at 9 p.m. ET to Monday, Jan. 18 at 10 p.m. ET on TBS.

I didn’t realize the marathon was a live event.

Live, all day.

You ready for that?

Yeah, man. We’re in rehearsals now, so we’ll see what happens. You can rehearse as much as possible, but anything goes. It’s going to be wild.

Have you ever done a live show of this scale before?

No, I haven’t, but as far as my experience goes, I’ve got plenty of it with single takes on Conan. When I was writing for Conan O’Brien, when we taped the shows, we’d do single takes only. It has to happen right then and there on the spot. Yeah, it airs later, but we would tape in real-time, so I’m used to the same pressures as doing a live show.

How are you going to stay awake?

I’m just going to sleep in between shows, wake up and do what I do. [Laughs.]

Whether scripted or improvised, doing comedy with people is probably a lot easier than with animals. What was it like working with Jagger the dog? 

It was fun! The dog was excellent. He was younger when we started, so now he’s more relaxed than he was at first. Earlier in the game, he was all over the place, but he’s awesome now. It’s amazing what they were able to make the dog do. He drinks coffee, uses a computer, drives cars — it’s funny what he does.

Will he be at the marathon?

Yeah! Absolutely. You can’t have the special without Jagger.

How did you get involved with Angie Tribeca?

I had just finished my show, Black Box — which only had a six-episode deal at TBS — and we were trying to figure out what I was going to do after that. Was I going to go back to Conan and write? What was I going to do? So, in the midst of that limbo, a producer friend of my manager asked if I could come audition for a new show he had with Steve Carell. I went and auditioned, and it went so off the rails that Steve decided he wanted me to be a part of it. I had auditioned for the lieutenant, but I didn’t get the part, but Steve liked me so much he ended up writing me a part.

Do you like the audition process?

Hell no! Nobody enjoys… I don’t know who enjoys auditions. But it has to happen. You go in and do the best you can do. You just have to fit the outfit they have, and if you don’t, then you’re not going to be a part of it. You wish that you knew that off the top, but you never do. It’s just part of the business.

I imagine it’s becoming a lot easier for you, what with Conan and Black-ish, and Angie Tribeca and Barbershop: The Next Cut. Plus Black Box, which was a great show.

I loved it, too, but that was the regime of the old network. They were conservative, and all of their programming was based on baseball and old white guys. That’s how their shows were! They weren’t even ready for what I was doing, and actually they looked down on it. There weren’t any posters for it, or anything like that. It just wasn’t that clean, white American type of thing, so they didn’t want it. But it’s a new day at TBS. All those people are gone and it’s a whole new regime that’s a lot hipper and edgier. They’ve embraced me and even the idea of having Black Box coming back. I wouldn’t mind that, but I just don’t have the time right now.

That makes sense, especially with shows like Wyatt Cenac’s People of Earth and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee just around the corner.

Absolutely! We’ve got Samantha and Wyatt coming. A lot of great people with great shows that are edgy, fast and unapologetic. It’s a whole new thing, and that’s what Tribeca is doing. Not only are we watching our show on Sunday, but we’re also launching the new network. Everyone who’s a part of all these new TBS shows will be there for the whole binge-a-thon. We’re going to have clips and cast members from these new shows, as well as many special guests. It’s going to be insane.

And then there’s Angie Tribeca‘s second season.

We’ve been filming the second season, and we’re almost done. I think we’ve only got three more episodes left, and I’ll be done in three weeks. It’s pretty crazy.

With all this going on, do you still have time to work on your stand-up?

I’m doing an hour special on Comedy Central, and we’re filming in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, Feb. 6. It’s free, so anybody is welcome to come on out. There’s two shows. And it will be out later this year. I’m not sure about the date, but I know it will be around or before the summer. I still travel and do stand-up shows, but besides my older Conan fans, they haven’t really seen me lately. Conan fans come to a lot of my shows, but a lot of newer viewers haven’t seen me pop up lately. But yeah, they still come out.

I talked to Brent Morin about working on The Tonight Show and Conan with O’Brien. What was it like being in the middle of all that drama?

It was crazy, but it was all new to me. I had no idea we were going down in television history. I was new to it, so when it all went down, I just thought I’d try to go to another network. I was the one who looked at it all as being a problem the least, because I’d just started in the business. But yeah, it was nuts.

The 25-hour marathon of Angie Tribeca begins on Sunday, Jan. 17 at 9 p.m. ET on TBS. Until then, here’s a preview…