Colton Dunn on His Emmy Nomination and Returning to NBC’s ‘Superstore’

Colton Dunn on His Emmy Nomination and Returning to NBC’s ‘Superstore’

The former 'Key and Peele' writer opens up about diversity in Hollywood, his Emmy nomination, and returning to NBC's ‘Superstore’

by Marissa Charles, August 19, 2016

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Colton Dunn on His Emmy Nomination and Returning to NBC’s ‘Superstore’

Trae Patton/NBC | NBCUniversal Media, LLC

A Black guy and a White guy get into a confrontation in the street, pushing each other, while a group of people watch. The Black guy lies down with his hands in the air and everyone runs away.

The film clip is posted on Twitter with the comment: “Nothing is more dangerous than a Black dude on the ground with his hands up. #CharlesKinsey.”

Welcome to the humor of Colton Dunn – the writer, actor and stand-up comic who has won an army of fans playing Garrett in the NBC sitcom Superstore.

The parody of the Charles Kinsey shooting is the sort of comedy that has earned him a Primetime Emmy nomination for a third year in a row as part of the writing team behind the popular sketch show “Key and Peele.”

But it’s his work as scene-stealing Garrett in “Superstore” that is Dunn’s most high-profile role so far. As the second season of the NBC sitcom returns, the 39-year-old promises fans they’ll learn more about the show’s resident smart mouth.

“He’s on Tinder,” Dunn said at a promotional event. “My favorite thing is you get to see the eclectic group of women that interest Garrett. He doesn’t have a specific type. He’s all over the board.”

Dunn took some time to talk to EBONY.com about Superstore (which co-stars America Ferrera) and why he thinks laughter is a great tension diffuser.

EBONY.com: Why do you think the show’s been so popular?

Colton Dunn: It’s a relatable show. You put it inside of a superstore, which everyone’s been to. Everyone’s been in a superstore or worked in a superstore.

You have a lot of shows out there that are about spies or fighter pilots – things where people get into it because it’s escapism and that’s fun. But sometimes it’s fun to sit down and just have something relatable. Everyone’s seen something weird while they’re shopping. So we just try to box that up, put it on TV, make it fun.

EBONY.com: Do you think the diverse ensemble makes it more relatable?

Colton Dunn: Definitely. I think it’s just a reflection of the diversity within the actual workforce. You go into the superstore you see a diverse group of people working there. So I think the anomaly is when you see a show where there is no diversity. It’s like who relates to that? I’ve never been to that place.

So for me I think it’s wonderful to be part of a show like that. But also what I love about it is that’s never really what the show is about. It’s what the world is so we just have a chance to actually play out the real world, which is great.

EBONY.com: What should fans expect in the new season?

Colton Dunn: Just exploring those characters a little more. That first season I think we did a great job setting up these real fun characters. So we’re not going to go too far away from that but what we are going to do is explore them more.

For instance Garrett, we definitely saw that he was very flirtatious in that first season. We’re actually going to see what his dating life is like. We’re going to find out about his love life and get a little bit more adventurous. I’m sure he’ll still be bad at his job but that’s why we like him.

EBONY.com: You’ve been nominated for an Emmy Award for your writing. Which do you prefer, writing or performing?  

Colton Dunn: I love doing both. I’ve been a comedian for a long time so writing and performing is a big part of what I do. If anybody’s doing comedy they should also work on writing.

As far as a job, actors get treated a lot better than writers so I definitely prefer acting. A writer has to make his own coffee and an actor has somebody bring them coffee.

EBONY.com: A lot of Black artists have been talking about the shooting of unarmed African-Americans like Charles Kinsey, the caretaker who was shot in Florida. But you did it in a funny way. Do you find humor is a good way to address issues like that?

Colton Dunn: Whether it’s a good way or a bad way, it’s the only way I know to address issues like that. I’m a comedian but I’m also a Black man and especially these days we’re dealing with a lot of issues when it comes to that, with law enforcement and stuff like that. So yeah I always try to address it. Figuring out a way to use humor to deal with important issues I think is very important. Laughter is a great diffuser.

Sometimes you want to have a talk about race, about police violence. It’s very hard to get through to somebody. Everyone’s got their side staked out. They don’t want to talk about it. But you can break the ice with a little humor.

With the video that I posted…just look how ridiculous it is to run screaming from a guy laying on the ground with his arms out. It just looks ridiculous. So now can we talk about why this thing is ridiculous and the serious issue here and what can we do to change that? I think it’s a wonderful tool to use to make any kind of social change. I think comedy is very helpful, satire as well. 

EBONY.com: What was the response of your followers?

Colton Dunn: People liked it. It’s crazy. You get such different responses because there are some people who don’t want any jokes. There are some people who are like, “You can’t make that joke.”

I mean I get it. They’re upset. They’re angry and they’re serious. You got to respect that. But that’s why I love Twitter. You can say whatever you want. I got all sorts of responses [from] people who were defending the police officer.

That’s the one thing too that I love about Twitter. There’s no rule that says it’s a discussion. So I love when I tweet something and somebody wants to have a conversation with me. I’m like, “Oh no, I don’t use Twitter for conversations. I just say what I want to say so you can ask me a question but I’m not answering it.”

Superstore returns to NBC tonight for a special Olympics-themed episode at 10:30pm/9:30pm Central.

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