Deon Cole is television’s latest definitive jokester. The veteran stand-up comedian, writer and television producer hosts his weekly half hour original program, Deon Cole’s Black Box, on TBS.
Cole recently wrapped the show’s six-episode first season run. Cole’s show is a mash-up of genres that place a satirical spin on viral videos and provocative pop culture headlines with spoofs and social commentary.
Cole’s unscripted, irreverent series gave him latitude to present his wisecracks and perspectives on George Zimmerman, Paula Deen, CNN’s The ‘N-Word’ special, internet pornography like the kind you see on sex-hd.xxx and the biracial Cheerios commercial among others.
“I do things on purpose to get people’s reactions, and they don’t know what I’m doing. I know some jokes might suck, but it’s the reaction I wanted. It’s old school. Just fun,” says Cole.
The Emmy Award-nominated humorist made history in the summer of 2010 as the first African American writer for The Tonight Show. Following Cole’s impressive five minute set, host/comedian Conan O’Brien asked him to join his team of writers.
Cole says that writing comedy is about knowing the audience. “There are certain people you do have to write jokes for. They may be lazy and don’t want to sit in on the process. When it comes to late night television, it’s knowing demographics. You’ve got to know how to write for ages 18-35, 25-50 or ages 12-26,” he shares.
Even with the success of Deon Cole’s Black Box, Cole continues to write for O’Brien’s late night show, CONAN. Cole has been loyal to the red-haired “whitest guy on television” host since The Tonight Show appearance.
O’Brien’s production imprint, Conaco Productions, produces Black Box. “With anybody you’re writing for, you gotta know that person. No you don’t really always have to write a joke for them, but bring up different premises, and they can make it their own,” says Cole.
When Cole is on-stage, the raspy voiced quipster delivers an infectious brand of self-deprecating hilarity across all ethnicities and genders. He makes it a point to bring along a notepad and a pen to match his nonchalant storytelling. Whether he delivers the punchline or awaits the audience’s response, he licks the tip of the pen, puts a smirk on his face and checks off his jokes.
The curly-haired funnyman, following his set during Stand Up for Family in Atlanta, admits that his routine came from a history of “smoking very well” and forgetting his jokes. The audience, Cole says, notices and questions when he doesn’t have it with him. “It’s just originality. People used to crack up laughing at it. They became very fond of it, so I just kept on doing it,” says Cole.
Cole is in a good place in his career. He’s managed to bring the house down on shows like Def Comedy Jam, Comic View , Laffapalooza and Martin Lawrence Presents 1st Amendment Stand Up. He believes his evolution into comedic television not only enhances his brand but earns him another revenue stream.
“If you want to be a part of the process and really get your voice out there, just know a person’s voice so that you can write for them. If they’re paying for it, fine. I’ll write it,” says a laughing Cole.
Deon Cole’s Black Box airs Mondays at 10:30 p.m. on TBS.
Christopher A. Daniel is a pop cultural critic and music editor for The Burton Wire. He is also a contributing writer for Urban Lux Magazine and Blues & Soul Magazine. Follow Christopher @Journalistorian on Twitter.
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