(AP photo/Ian White)
When David Alan Grier comes to Boston’s Wilbur Theatre this weekend, audiences can look forward to a great show filled with original, relevant, gut-busting material. The man known as “DAG” is not only a comedian’s comedian, but — as a graduate of the Yale School of Drama — also an entertainer’s entertainer, possessed of the ability to push any performance above and beyond even his own heightened expectations.
Grier took some time to speak with the Banner, offering some insight into the mind of a gifted and versatile actor, comedian, producer and now author, whose first book, “Barack Like Me: The Chocolate-Covered Truth,” is slated for release this October.
I checked out your new Web site (http://www.dagcomedy.com).
Finally! I’m like the last dude on Earth to finally get a Web site up and running.
You have the Web site. You’re on Facebook. Are you Twittering, too?
I’m working it out, man. Modern.
Are you able to keep up with all this new technology? Are you doing it yourself? And if someone wants to add you as a friend …
Definitely on Facebook. But on MySpace, not so much. And the Twittering stuff, I do myself. But I’m, like, under Twitter anxiety. People are like, “You have to be really funny.” And I’m like, “Really? I can’t be funny 800 times a day.” (laughs) … I don’t really know what I’m doing. I’m still getting used to the Twitter.
You were the creator and host of “Chocolate News” on Comedy Central. There were plenty of good stories and skits for us to talk about from the show, but for now, can you tell us about Blomicon?
(laughs) Blomicon. That was a tribute to all the black nerds. Actually, on “Chocolate News,” everything was based on [truth] … we’d start with reality and just go from there. The fact [is] that there are still more and more African American characters in comics, and all that kind of stuff … and [we made up] this guy who wanted to do his own [comic book] festival only for African American characters.
So when we went back and historically looked at it, [we discovered] that the way that black characters were depicted in early comic books were really racist. The original black characters were never heroes, and they would always get caught. They were racist, stereotypic caricatures of African Americans. So that’s an actual point of fact, and we started from there, and then tried to find the comedy in that. [From] that, there was this guy who was trying to do superhero things.
And the funny thing there is that every superhero — EVERY superhero — is always created the same. There’s a guy. He’s really despondent. He trips and falls into a vat of something that is nuclear-active. Or he gets hit by a meteor. He comes back … now he’s got super powers.
Or there’s a dude. He dies. He makes a pact with the devil. The devil brings him back to Earth. He [now] has magical powers. … So it’s [a take on how] every single person, every single hero, had the same story.
Were you a nerd growing up?
(laughs) I didn’t think so, but to some people … yes. I had all my comic books, that my mother [later] gave away. That, for me, was a tragic moment. She thought she was doing good … spreading the comic book knowledge to the next generation. But to me, it was heartbreaking.
I know exactly what you mean. My mom threw away my original copy of “Superman vs. Muhammad Ali.”
(winces) Oh, man. But you can’t get mad. They don’t … Momma don’t know.
Momma didn’t know no better.
(laughs) Then when you try to explain, they’re like, “I don’t understand.” And you’re like, “Never mind. Never mind.” But that’s hurtful. I feel for you, brother. It’s hurtful.
Speaking of hurtful, it was really upsetting when you were voted off of “Dancing With The Stars.”
Man … They dogged me out, man. Disrespectful, my brother. It was disrespectful. (laughs) It was fun to do. It was hard work, but I thought we had two or three more weeks [before we would get voted off], at least. But doing “Dancing With The Stars” is kind of like running for prom king or queen. It’s like a popularity contest.
Well, it’s evident you’re popular in your own right. You’re still doing plays on Broadway.
Yes, I’m doing David Mamet’s new play called “Race,” and it’s really a totally dramatic piece. It’s an amazing play, and it’s an amazing character and part for me to play. It’s a whole different side, it’s all dramatic, and an excellent cast. So I’m really excited about doing this production. New York, on Broadway … it should be a lot of fun.
Do you get as excited doing the plays as you do performing live stand-up comedy?
More so, because [the play] is the kind of thing that I’ve wanted to do, that I’ve been looking to do, and it just came here, and like, wow, it was put in my lap. It’s David Mamet’s new piece, it’s going to be premiered, and no one has done this role ever before. All these things, plus he’s directing it. I’m just really excited, I couldn’t ask for more. It’s real good work.
My stand-up is kind of like a different thing. It’s a whole different feeling, because when I do stand-up, that’s all my stuff. I mean, I’m saying what I want. It’s my words. But [the play] is other people’s words and characters, encased in the reality of the play. And so you kind of have to do your work that way. So it’s a whole different kind of thing.
Have you ever thought about writing your own play?
I have. I mean, I’ve talked about writing a play, but I haven’t. I mean, I just finished writing my first book. (laughs) … Give me a break first. Let me rest for a minute, and maybe I’ll do a play next time.
Deal. Tell us about this first book you’ve written.
The book is called “Barack Like Me,” and the book is my take on all of that madness leading up to the election of President Barack Obama. In a way, it’s really good to say, right now, Barack Obama is the president of the United States. It’s not as exciting as it was during the election. I think everybody was like, “Can this happen? Will this happen?” We didn’t know. I think we were addicted to the election coverage and every aspect of it.
Now that he’s in office, he’s president. So you can’t really say, “He sure did pass that bill like a black man.” No, he’s just the president. Which is good.
The book is really going back [on] all that stuff leading up to the election, and [it’s] partly my memoir, about my life and my background, because all of that infused my take on the election. And it’s a funny book, a humorous look on all that stuff.
Have you been keeping up with the local news, which received national attention, about the incident that happened with Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.?
Oh, yeah. Of course we were watching the whole thing — the guy with the e-mail with racist remarks, and all that stuff. I mean, I guess some things don’t change. I don’t know. It’s crazy.
But also, if we were doing [a bit on] that, I don’t know what the “Chocolate News” take on that would be. I mean, it’s so real. But in the other sense, I do remember thinking, “Everyone is talking like we are all done now. We are even now. No more racism, no more anything, because Barack Obama was elected.” And I was like, “Oh … OK.” Do you really think that is going to change everything [and everyone’s] feelings about race? No, not every person’s.
I mean, it is a huge step, a momentous and historic step, but you know, funky stuff still goes down.
Well, you’re coming to Boston to perform this weekend …
And to not get arrested is my goal. I do not want to get arrested.
If you get a knock at your door, and the officer asks you to come outside …
(laughs) Oh, trust, I’m gonna come out, brother. And I’m gonna be polite. I ain’t talking about nobody’s momma, and I’m going to keep my voice down.
David Alan Grier will perform on Saturday, Aug. 22, 2009, at 9:45 p.m. at the Wilbur Theatre, located at 246 Tremont Street, Boston. For tickets and more information, visit http://www.thewilburtheatre.com.
Corey Manning is a stand-up comedian by night, a superhero by day, and a freelance writer when he has the time. Check him out at http://www.coreymanning.com.
There's a host of David Alan Grier content on his new Web site -- from links to his work on VH1's "Black to the Future" to "Chocolate News" clips, information about his upcoming book "Barack Like Me," his work on the classic sketch show "In Living Color" and more. More »
What would you expect to be the first thing to come out of the mouth of “In Living Color” alum and stand-up comedian David Alan Grier in a phone interview? How’s this for a man in tune with his audience-to-be: “Did you watch the Red Sox game last night?” More »