Cole talks of comedy, late-night TV show
When I caught up with comedian and “Black-ish” co-star Deon Cole recently, he was in Arlington, Texas, for a stand-up gig. I couldn’t hear him clearly at first. “Oh, I’m sorry,” he explained, “I got you on speaker because I’m trying to iron my clothes.”
Multitasking is what drives his career these days. The Chicago native also co-stars on the TBS police comedy “Angie Tribeca” and occasionally appears on “Conan” (where he was a staff writer for five years).
But an older project is on his mind. Recently, Cole has been tweeting clips from his short-lived late-night comedy show from 2013 (also on TBS) called “Deon Cole’s Black Box,” which offered commentary on the week’s news, not unlike what John Oliver is doing on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight.”
“I’m not mad at John at all; that’s just how the progression of television goes,” Cole said. But it’s not lost on him that Trevor Noah of “The Daily Show” is the only black person to host a high-profile late-night comedy show on a major network. “It’s nuts that they (the networks) only that one perspective too. It makes no sense,” he said.
I asked if he was hoping to generate interest in a reboot. “Yeah! It’s one of those shows that should still be on the air, but I was around some of the whitest execs you ever want to see and that never even believed in me and kind of sabotaged the show. It cost $250,000 per episode; it cost to do. And the numbers were close to what Conan was doing.
“But the execs at the time — and none of them are there anymore — they were basically like, ‘This isn’t white enough for TBS.’ They made a promo that was a clip of a woman smashing a watermelon (on her body), and I was like, ‘What is going on?’ I wasn’t doing a show that was about videos of guys getting kicked in the nuts; I was dealing with topical stuff, using clips from CNN and dealing with stories in the news. So I feel like they sabotaged it. And I think that’s why a lot of black people stopped watching TBS.”
Cole said he hadn’t considered being a comedian until he was out of high school and a friend bet him $50 to go onstage and do a set.
“And 24 years later …” he said, laughing. A standout role on ABC’s “Black-ish” has raised his profile significantly, playing Charlie, who works alongside Dre (Anthony Anderson) at the ad firm and a guy who tends to arrive at ridiculous conclusions whenever topical issues are debated around the conference room table. The character is supposedly based on show creator Kenya Barris. How is that possible, I asked? There’s no way a buffoon like Charlie could achieve Barris’ level of success.
“OK, so I’m Kenya Barris on steroids,” Cole said.
On “Angie Tribeca,” Cole’s primary co-star is a German shepherd. “I actually love that dog,” he said. “When they want the dog to lick on us — this is going to sound weird — (the trainer) puts this, we call it, ‘meat juice’ on us. … Then the dog comes over and licks the skin right off your face, it’s delicious.” April 16 birthdays: Singer Bobby Vinton is 82. Actress Ellen Barkin is 63. Actor Michael Gill is 57. Actor-comedian Martin Lawrence is 52. Actor Jon Cryer is 52. Actor Peter Billingsley is 46. Actor Lukas Haas is 41. Actress Sadie Sink is 15.