Deon Cole: Stand-up comedy is 'my sanctuary'

By Ben Hooper
Comedian Deon Cole said he has a solution whenever he starts to think that he's tired and overworked: "I remember the times when I had nothing to do." File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Comedian Deon Cole said he has a solution whenever he starts to think that he's tired and overworked: "I remember the times when I had nothing to do." File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 8 (UPI) -- Comedian Deon Cole's latest stand-up special, Cole Hearted, hits Netflix on Tuesday, and the long-time comedian and star of both Black-ish and spin-off Grown-ish said no topic is off-limits for his comedy, provided it is done "in a classy way."

Cole, 47, made a name for himself as a writer and occasional on-camera contributor for The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien and Conan before landing the role of family friend Charlie Telphy on Black-ish, a recurring role that became a regular one in Season 4. He later became a series regular on Grown-ish.


Cole told UPI in a recent interview that despite his busy special with the TV shows and movie projects, he doesn't plan to stop doing stand-up.

"It's what got me to everything else," Cole said of his stand-up career. "That's my sanctuary, that's where I feel comfortable. It's therapeutic, as well. It's a way for me to get off the stuff that's on my chest."


Cole's comedy tackles a broad range of subjects, from the lack of "B batteries" to the unique struggles involved with being black in the current political climate. He said he doesn't see any subject as too controversial to be discussed on stage.

"If it's funny, it's going in. It's as simple as that," Cole said, adding that even a "touchy topic" can make it into his set if he finds a way "to go around" the controversy and keep it funny.

"There's nothing that I would never not talk about, but I would do it in a classy way," he said.

Cole said he often finds himself toning down the material that he writes to avoid raising controversy.

"Unfortunately, these days, you have to," he said.

The comedian said that, ideally, freedom of speech and the freedom to be true to "who you are" would win the day, but performers have to walk a careful line to avoid being subjected to censorship and boycotts.

He said he doesn't understand the mentality that leads to backlash against comedians for the jokes they tell.

"Why do you have to go start a campaign, get me fired from the people who do love me, and now they can't see me because of something you couldn't handle?" he asked rhetorically. "It just doesn't make sense. Just don't watch it. If you don't want to watch the Playboy channel, don't subscribe to it."


"The things you like, I probably don't like, but I'm not about to go write a letter about it. It's just not for me. So unfortunately, we have to watch out for this [politically correct] era we're in."

Cole's role as Charlie Telphy on Black-ish began as a friend and coworker of Andre Johnson (Anthony Anderson), and segued into Grown-ish as the character became a part-time professor at the college attended by Zoey Johnson (Yara Shahidi). He's now a series regular on both shows.

Cole said fans can expect Charlie to remain "as odd, weird and quirky as possible" in the current sixth season of Black-ish, which premiered in September.

The comedian said he enjoys the "over-the-top" aspects of the role, but he doesn't see much of his own personality in the character.

"I like how you learn something about him every time you see him, which is great," he said. "Maybe I have a little bit of that in me. But not overall. I'm nothing like that guy."

Black-ish is known for taking on a wide variety of complicated social issues, and Cole said he trusts in the writers to handle those topics delicately.


"There's always different social issues that we can tackle, I'll leave that up to the writers. But I would love to touch on just how PC everybody is nowadays. That would be a great episode," he said.

Cole said he doesn't feel worn out by pulling double-duty as a regular on two shows, in addition to his stand-up schedule and appearances in several upcoming movies.

"I remember the times when I had nothing to do. So anytime I feel tired, I feel like complaining, I think of that, and I go: 'Remember, you had nothing to do.' So I get up, do what I gotta do," he said.

He said that when he has enough of a break in his schedule, there's one thing he would like to add to his resume: directing.

"I would love to direct," he said. "Hopefully, I could probably direct an episode of Grown-ish, but I have to show them that I'm serious and put in the work and the time. Once I get to that moment where I can go, 'OK, let's focus, let's get this going,' then I will."

Deon Cole: Cole Hearted streams Tuesday on Netflix.

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