D.L. Hughley's comedy has long since been rich with his insight about politics and global affairs, a fact that led to him getting his own CNN news show in 2008. Though D.L. Hughley Breaks the News went off the air the following year, the veteran funnyman has continued to share his wry insight about what our leaders are doing wrong (pretty much everything) and the state of society (screwed) in his standup and on apperances on shows such as Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher. Hughley has decided to kick his political preaching up a notch and recently released his first book, I Want You to Shut the F*ck Up: How the Audacity of Dopes is Ruining America (Crown, 2012).
The 49-year-old has a great command of world history and American politics; though some of his assertions will garner more than a few eye-rolls (his 'defense' of bullying as a character builder, his commentary on Black women and his recent description of President Obama as being 'like a White kid' among them), many readers will be surprised by just how much he has to offer. Our News and Lifestyle Editor Jamilah Lemieux recently chatted up the California native about the book, the upcoming election, the arrest of his sitcom son and his controversial thoughts about dating sisters.
EBONY: Why do you think that comedians are doing a better job of telling us what’s going on with the world more than the people who are supposed to be doing that?
D.L. Hughley: I think it is more about people’s attention span. Why do people get their news off Twitter? It’s because it’s easier to digest in 140 characters. I think we are a much less complex society than we have ever been, which is probably why people respond to the more simplistic things. Nobody likes to think anymore. People kind of like to have things handed to them or figured out for them. With comedy, the premise is set up in a punch line, so all the parts are there.
EBONY: [EBONY founder] John H. Johnson said the entertainment coverage that he included in his magazines was like giving your child orange juice with their castor oil. Do you think that it’s valuable that you are able to tell people real things?
DH: I think there is a level of catharsis in it. I was in Charlotte and the 'Religious Right,' both Black and White, there didn’t want gay marriage. One of the reasons they pointed it out was that it was 'a sin against God.' Gluttony and greed are also part of the Seven Deadly Sins…God could be just as mad at us for gluttony and greed! I think it’s funny in the way that we process things is almost like children. Like, we have to have good vs. evil or right vs. wrong. Only children think of things in such simple kinds of terms.
EBONY: How have we gotten to that place overtime? Is it technology?
DH: I think that’s it. We are the grandchildren of people who did great things. [Yet] we are not great… Everything is me me me me me. One time we sent a man on the moon and now, we are not that advanced. It is amazing when you watch the fact that our fathers could sell us that we are the best labor force in the world. If that’s the case, why don’t companies ever hire us to do anything? When is the last time you went to an American doctor? I think it is because we decided we wanted to be a mighty country and not a bright country. We could blow the world up but we can’t read instructions.
With the current election, the Republican Party has pushed the idea of strength or being strong and posing the president as this intellectual snob, do you think that people will vote for strength over intellect?
EBONY: How big of a factor is race/racism in that?
DH: I think the fact that this country has a Black president has driven people insane… It might be okay when you live with somebody who is a different race or work with somebody who is a different race or have someone who is a different race in your family, but when you have to get used to the “mightiest” country in the world, in our minds, being headed by an African American…that has just driven some people crazy…[Obama] has done certain things differently than I think people who voted for him thought he would have. But at the end of it, it is really a simple choice for me. Do I want to role for a man who spent his life trying to make other people’s lives better or do I want to vote for a man who spent his life trying his, his family's and his friends' lives better?
EBONY: Shifting gears, I have to address some of the hostility you seem to have towards Black women in your book. You know, Black women have been in many ways very supportive of our brothers…
DH: I think that the relationship between Black men and women is almost very antagonistic now. I think that this happens for a number of reasons. I think that Black women feel abandoned. I think they feel left out, left behind. I think they think we have been supportive and this is what we get? I read a survey or poll that said that interracial marriages have never been more popular and the most likely to marry outside of their race is a Black man. I also read another poll that said 45% of Black women will never marry…We grew up with Black mothers and so you really picked what you knew. You were around Black women, and that was all you could get…Now the world is so much more diverse and Black men are making a lot of different choices and are comfortable making choices. I think that Black women are not as comfortable making different choices. I think is still a last frontier for them to venture out to do something different. I think when they are envisioning family they want what they grew up thinking about which was a Black man and a Black women raising Black kids.
EBONY: More Black people in this country more have a [present] mother than they do have a father, yet as women when we look for a partner we are very loyal to you in a way that, as you say, isn't always returned. Why don’t you think that there is a level of reciprocity? Should we be looking for it?
DH: could only speak for myself. I have been married to a Black woman 26 years. I have never been with a White woman, although if my wife is ever hit by a train or truck or something, that might be a different thing.
EBONY: You said in your book that she was the only Black woman you could marry.
DH: Absolutely the only one.
EBONY: Why is that? Because she is so wonderful or because you think the rest of us are screwed up?
DH: I think it’s a combination of both. I could never marry any of her friends, I couldn’t have married my mother, I couldn’t have married my sisters, I couldn’t have married my cousins, I couldn’t have married my friends. Black women are kind of like… it is a relationship where its either your in charger or they are in charge. It is like you either you run the house or I run the house. I mean that’s cool, I think a lot of that is because they had to learn how to support themselves and to do things alone. And now its either you’ll be stronger than them or you wont be in their lives. I've seen Black women leave good men because they were bored or because they thought they could run all over them…Black women are a specialized taste.
EBONY: You have powerful things in your book where you say wake up y'all to the brothers, but we (black women) are kind of depicted like the bad guys. "A specialized taste?"
DH: I didn’t say y'all were the bad guys. I think Black women in general require a stronger hand. It is a delicate dance. It is not an easy thing at all. You have to be strong, but not so strong and you have to be sensitive and not so sensitive.
EBONY: Is it worth it?
DH: If it wasn’t I wouldn’t be here. Actually after a while, if it is not what you want to do, you don’t do it. I’ll say two things, if it wasn’t worth it… I have never known a woman to make me as angry and I have never found a woman who I found more striking just in general. I have never seen a more beautiful thing on earth than a Black woman.
EBONY: Your next book should be how to love a Black woman.
DH: Who the f*ck knows how to do that? I think I know how to love [my wife] and I would think that she would say it is as hard to love me. I know I am not easy either.
EBONY: So can we agree that it isn’t easy for us to be with you all and it’s not easy for you all to be with us?
DH: Wait a minute. I didn’t say that. I just said my wife would say I wasn’t an easy man to be with.
EBONY: Let's move on. Are there any other projects that you have coming up in the next year?
DH: I am a correspondent on Good Afternoon America. Right now, I'm taping a documentary with Comedy Central where I’m trying to get the Black man declared as endangered species. It took me eight yeas to sell it, but we just started shooting last week. Me and five other writers from The Daily Show are working on it. It’s funny and sad at the same time. I can’t tell you how sad it is. We may be the only species that was consistent in our own demise. I’m proud of what we have done. So far we shot and spoke to an expert on endangered species, a preacher… we talked to a gay couple that adopted Black children, young gangbangers, a Wall Street expert who works with the prison industrial complex… It’s sadly very funny. Very ironic. Sad and funny and ironic at the same time.
EBONY: I know this is a painful subject, but I have to ask about DJ Daniels [the 23-year-old, who played Hughley's son on The Hughleys, was recently arrested for murder].
DH: I love him like he is my son. You cant spend that much time with someone, particularly during their [childhood] years and not feel a kinship with them….[Daniels] has great parents, I watched them discipline him and I watched them correct him…I certainly don’t think he has done, based on what I talked to his family and lawyers about. [But] I feel like I’m a father who failed his son. I failed. A father who hasn’t done right by his son.
I wrote this letter to Trayvon Martin, it was really kind of all about how young and goofy you are when you grow up the way a lot of us do and the things you do at that age. And the world is so much meaner now. It was already mean before, but we knew the rules. But the bad thing about it is that these young kids don’t. It’s almost like these young cats have been raised in captivity and turned out into the wild and they have no coping mechanisms. I was talking to these young cats on the street and I asked them if they ever hurt a Black man and they said 'yeah,' and I asked them if they have ever been hurt by one and they said 'yeah'. I asked how it felt to [see our people] killed by Black people and they said 'that’s the way it goes.' It hurts…The cycle hasn’t been broken. Through all we have done and with all the accomplishments made, we haven’t found a way to elevate or boys who will become men. We haven’t found a way to lift them up.