As one would imagine, Deon Cole is trying to make people laugh with his new Netflix comedy special, Cole Hearted (available to stream now). He’s not trying to save the world, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t paying attention to it. The veteran comic (who you might know from his role on Black-ish or his many on-screen appearances on Conan, where he’s long worked as a writer) is aware of the comedy culture war that’s brewing and he’s got opinions on it. When we spoke with Cole recently, we touched on some of those opinions, engaging in a healthy back and forth before discussing some of his comedic influences and how they’d fare in the here and now. And if you don’t like those opinions, well, he’s got thoughts on that too.
Tell me about the special, what inspired it, and where are you at comedically right now?
The special’s just about [being] really uplifting. Love yourself. On top of just, you know, being me, showing you who I am, what kind of person I am, and what I believe. That’s basically it, man. Just having fun with the people and bringing some fun back. Laughing, loving, and just bringing that fun, fun energy, man. Making people just laugh again, so that’s where it is. Comedically, man, I’m just trying to be on a page where I can just uplift people, no matter what it is. Just try to give them some type of upliftment and make them laugh. At the same time, make them think about something they wouldn’t normally think about.
Do you think comedy is in a kind of place where people too frequently look to it to solve problems as opposed to just kind of finding that way to laugh?
Yeah, everybody’s looking at us as… Well, they only put us in position as far as holding us accountable when we say something wrong. Other than that, they really don’t care. [Laughs] That’s what I think. If you say something wrong, then they hold you accountable for it. Or [say something] that’s wrong to them, then they hold you accountable for it. But other than that, they there to listen. I told the audience last night, I said, “You all are here to see if I say something that will end my career, aren’t you? That’s the only reason why you’re here, right?” [Laughs] I was like, “Well, hold on tight, it might happen.”
[Laughs] Does that change your approach, though? Does that cause you to be on guard more or do you just throw that out the window?
I mean, yeah, you have to be on guard more. I mean, here’s the deal. First of all, something happens, or something occurs to you that’s hilarious. You laugh at it. Genuinely, you laugh at it and then you go, “This is funny.” Now, you have to write it down and think about how to convey it to an audience. When that happens, it’s not funny. Now, you’re doing work on something that was truly funny. When back in the day, you would just do something that was funny, that you heard was funny. You’d be able to say it back at people, and it became hilarious. What people don’t know right now is everything is staged, man. You have to control what you say. You can’t just… because people can’t handle it, and I don’t understand how we got there. How everybody got so sensitive and timid, but here we are.
But there’s always been a line. It’s not like it’s been completely unchecked and wild. Maybe it’s evolved some from Pryor’s day or Carlin’s day, but it’s always been somewhat in effect, hasn’t it? Am I wrong?
As far as people being timid?
A little sensitive to things, or there being a line where there are things you can say, things you can’t say.