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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS | LUENELL: ‘A place you can call home’

October 19, 2023 by  
Filed under Cover Story, Feature

Luenell Comedy Special. Luenell at Yoshi’s in Oakland. Cr. Mathieu Bitton/Netflix © 2023

How Luenell conquered Las Vegas on the way to a Netflix special and global fame as a queen of comedy.

Luenell is one of the most sought-after and in-demand comics on the scene. She’s currently headlining her own tour, “The Fresh Out of Favors Comedy Tour,” as well as being the only Black woman headlining her own residency in Las Vegas, at Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club at the LINQ Promenade on the Strip. 

Born in Tollette, Arkansas and raised in Oakland, Calif., Luenell has been thrilling audiences with her brand of comedy for more than 30 years. Netflix will soon feature Luenell’s own comedy special, executive-produced by Dave Chappelle. 

Las Vegas Black Image Magazine had the pleasure of an exclusive interview with the comedy queen, who has been seen in films such as “Coming 2 America,” “Dolemite is My Name,” “A Star is Born,” and “Think Like a Man Too.”

How did your Netflix special come to be? 

It was really the idea of Dave Chappelle. Dave produced my Netflix special. He did four of them and I am one of the four specials. I am proud to be the only female comic. He initially told my daughter that he was going to do it before he told me — she is the one that told me. Dave brought me to Yellow Springs to perform in his cornfield theater that he built during the coronavirus shutdown. While I was on stage performing, he sat down next to my daughter and he told her, “I’m going to get your mother a Netflix special. I’m going to get her a large sum of money.”

Is it still an aspiration of yours to be a late night talk show host? 

Yes, I want to be the next late night talk show host. I wanted to be a regular on a network, just like Johnny Carson and the others. Due to the content of my show — the show I needed to do — we understood I probably won’t be on a regular TV network. It will probably be on cable or a streaming service; there will be a little more freedom.

Luenell Comedy Special. Luenell at Yoshi’s in Oakland. Cr. Mathieu Bitton/Netflix © 2023

How do you like performing in Vegas at Jimmy Kimmel Comedy Club? 

It’s always great to have a home, and of course a place you can call home. I do feel that way about Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club. I do a lot of interviews there, and you don’t have to beg people to come to Las Vegas. You just let them know where you are, and they come. Be it that I’m at a permanent place — I’m the only Black female with a comedy residency in Las Vegas currently. I am very happy to be there. I’ve been there for a few years now.

Are you currently a resident of Las Vegas? 

Yes, I have a home here now.

You almost broke the internet with your OnlyFans account. 

Well, that’s a long story. It all started by me ending up with having a lot of lingerie photos left over after being a lingerie ambassador for Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty [brand]. I thought the photos were good, and we created an OnlyFans account with sexy burlesque photos.

How did you become an ambassador for Rihanna’s lingerie brand? 

Rihanna and I have a mutual friend; a tour bus driver who used to drive the tour bus that I was on during the Katt Williams Comedy Tour, and we remain friends to this day. So, I met Rihanna when my friend Facetimed me while driving her tour bus. He said, “We are on a bus tour.” I asked him, “Who is we?” He replied, “My client.” I asked him while still on Facetime, “Who is your client?” Then Rihanna popped up on the phone and she let me know that she was a big fan and she loved comedy. I almost had a stroke. We spoke for a few minutes, and I told her my daughter was a big fan of her lingerie. I said, “I just wish you made your lingerie in bigger sizes.” She said, “I do.” I said, “You do?” She replied, “Yeah.” I said, “Shoot, I want to be a model for your brand.” She said, “Let’s do it.” We then started talking some more and then we got off the phone. I thought that was the end of it, but two days later I received a message in my DMs from her asking for my email address. The contract came through and then her catalog. That’s how it all started.

How is the response going at the Jimmy Kimmel Comedy Club? 

I am there every Sunday and Monday at 9:30 p.m. It’s an ongoing residency and the house has been very full. I initially thought Sunday and Monday would be hard to sell, but not in Las Vegas.

What are your thoughts about a line being drawn and censorship in comedy? 

Well, I have never done what people want me to do. I do what I do. You must choose to come and see me, or get up and walk out. I don’t have many walkouts. Comedians such as Paul Mooney lived his life that way, Dick Gregory lived his life that way, and George Carlin lived his life that way. I am not really into censorship, but I do have good common sense and a degree in English literature. I try not to offend anybody, but I’m going to say what needs to be said. I’m not going to tiptoe around subjects like the submarine, or how we feel about Donald Trump. I will say what I have to say. I don’t live in any fear of cancellation, because I’m of a certain age where a lot of the people who come to see me are like-minded as well, and they feel what I feel. I think people know me and even people who don’t know me, they know I mean no malice in my comedy or in my heart.

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