DELivering a funny line, telling a humorous story or making someone laugh until milk shoots out is not an easy task (especially the last one). A performer stands before his/her audience hoping what they wrote translates when spoken from a stage. Similarly, a writer hopes readers will be amused by thoughts written. Comedy in Real Time offers some incredibly talented performers (and the so-so me) a chance to explore what we have found funny in real life. Steve Strickland, serves up Mourning Laughs while DEL Harrison (c’mon, with a name like DEL, you knew she was gonna show up here sooner or later!) is both humorous and poignant in Just Another Night in L.A. Fatboy and Me, gives a new writer a chance to display his talents. In, You Can Quote Me, I’ve compiled some quotes from movies and television which had me pressing the << button repeatedly. I had a long-distance chat with the super talented and funny comedian Sunda Croonquist on her family, career and race. The website, Texts from Last Night teaches some valuable lessons about drunk dialing. But first up, a special year-in-review CAF! 2016 was a very eventful year but there were some things that rose to the top (and one notable event which was entrenched in muck). Well, that’s all for now. If you are at all interested in contributing, please don’t hesitate to contact me at DELvemagazine@yahoo.com or however we usually touch base. The spring issue of DELve will be our DESign issue and celebrating our first year together. First year anniversaries are typically celebrated with paper. If you would like to show love, feel free to spend some paper on advertising. Just saying.
Until we meet again (and beyond), be vocal and be vigilant, not just on personal issues but issues that concern your neighbors and make them lose sleep.
— A Seat at the Table by Solange Knowles – This fascinating album causes you to contemplate the family dynamic. Taking nothing away from the Queen B and her ability to produce hits, but A Seat at the Table is as subtle as her sibling’s music is audacious. The much-used music/vignette has not been utilized this well since The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. You walk away from this ethereal album on a cloud of WOW!
— There are many reasons to be watching the breakout hit Atlanta on FX, starring its creator, Donald Glover, and chief among them Brian Tyree Henry who plays drug dealer/rapper Paper Boi. His nonchalant attitude to the craziness swirling around him causes him to steal his every scene. Henry is someone to watch for in the future.
— Who doesn’t love a good underdog story? And in 2016, both the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Cavaliers typified this story. The first couple of games against rivals, the Golden State Warriors looked like it was going to be a repeat of the previous year but the Cavs weren’t going to be dismissed that easily. In real-life storybook fashion, the team, lead by LeBron James, came from behind, tied and finally won its (along with the city of Cleveland) first championship ever. Clevelanders, still reeling from the Cavs victory, found themselves screaming with excitement when their beloved Indians found themselves in the World Series. And who were they pitted against? The equally-unlikely-to-make-the-post-season Chicago Cubs. Both teams went into the competition with two World Series wins. The Cubs, lead by Ben Zobrist, came from behind, tied [this sounds familiar]… goes ahead to nearly win it all in six games, but the Indians weren’t going to be dismissed that easily [really, really familiar]. The Indians forced a game seven, but the cheering faded in Cleveland as the Cubbies win their first World Series in over 100 years. Gotta love it.
— To the non-watcher, This Is Us sounds just too hokey to be any good. The show, which teleports from past to present, tells the story of a typical family of a father, mother and their triplets (one of which is Black – so maybe not triplets, but the children were all born on the same day). The writers are the stars here, each week they come up with compelling stories and deliver complex characters which makes you want to come back for more. I so didn’t want to buy into it. Damn them, they sold me.
— Dave Chappelle, Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon made Saturday Night Live great again. Chappelle returned to television to prove how much we missed him. He tore… it… up in a blistering monologue which touched on race, mass shootings, Black wealth and implored we give the then president-elect a chance and that, in turn, he should also give the “historically disenfranchised” a chance too. Chappelle on SNL was just one show. In order to fully understand why the entire show was relevant last year, you have to look at its take on the 2016 presidential election. Baldwin as our new president and McKinnon as the perennial presidential bridesmaid, Hillary Clinton had us searching online for every unbelievably funny and accurate spin on the election (no matter what anyone may Tweet).
— And, speaking of our new president, we have to give the devil his due. No matter if you like him or really, really hate him, Trump (or, more specifically the Trump campaign) was one of the most amazing things to witness but not in a good way. While Clinton pandered, Trump was able to build momentum based on boorish behavior, racism, cronyism and, am I forgetting anything… oh, yeah, taped sexually offensive conversations. The more virulent his attacks, the more his “Make American Great Again” took root. It became a game of the enthralled vs the appalled. President Barnum (I mean Trump) somehow convinced the electorate that his bluster was more appropriate to run the country rather than level-headed diplomacy.
— Between This Is Us and SNL, NBC might be recapturing its “Must See TV” moniker. Last summer proved this point, not for an entire show but for one brief segment of the Today show. During the Olympics, swimmer Ryan Lochte falsely reported to Brazilian police that he and teammates were robbed at gunpoint during a night out on the town. Lochte even went on to detail the alleged events with Billy Bush. But this is not the good part. After it was found out that he was lying about what transpired, Al Roker (of all people) was justifiably outraged… Bush, not so much. On air battle between Roker and Bush was un-missable. Looking like they were twinning in nearly identical plaid shirts, the two men sparred about the ethics of it all. Bush contended that it was just immaturity on the part of Lochte but Roker wasn’t having any of it. “He lied to you, he lied to Matt Lauer, lied to his mom. Left his teammates hanging while he skidaddled,” said Roker. The gif-worthy moment was only enhanced each time Roker stirred his drink. If we only could read your mind Al, if only!
— 2016 was clearly Mahershala Ali’s year. He was the conflicted political operative Remy Danton in House of Cards, a villainous Cottonmouth in Luke Cage and, along with Denzel Washington in Fences, was one of the most complex characters on screen last year. As Juan, the empathetic father figure to the character Little in Moonlight, his character was calm and loving, which was in contrast with the character’s occupation as a mid-level drug dealer. When it might have been more expected to be tough and aggressive, Ali’s performance (like the film itself) was subtle. A beautiful and powerful piece of acting.
— While I didn’t love Moonlight (particularly the stereotypically negligent, drug-addicted, Black mother Paula, played by Naomie Harris… YAWN!!) I really enjoyed two things. In addition to Ali’s performance I thought the Moonlight poster (or one sheet as they call it in the industry) was seriously cool AF! In case you are unaware, Moonlight is the story of three stages in a young man’s life told in three parts by a different actor in each act. The young man’s names (and the names of the acts) are Little, Chiron and Black. The poster, at first, looks like a close up of a young man colored in muted shades of blue and purple. Further inspection leads you to realize it is a composite of the three actors faces.
— Barack and Michelle Obama, we miss you already. With our country moving in a more exclusionary direction under new leadership, we have no choice but to go “high” while our leader and his minions go ever increasingly “low.” Thank you both for eight, great years of inclusion and respect.
YOU CAN QUOTE ME
— Chief Deputy Art Mullen: Someone in Harlan is going into the meth business in a big way.
Raylan Givens: Or the folks in Harlan are really, really congested.
— Florida, the penis of America.
Tracy Jordan, 30 Rock
— Jesus, it smells like old socks and pussy in here.
Gemma Teller, Sons of Anarchy
— You want to manage a rapper but you can’t do business high?
— Hedley Lamarr: My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.
Taggart: God darnit, Mr. Lamarr, you use your tongue prettier than a $20 whore.
— Playing with my money is like playing with my emotions, Smokey.
Big Worm, Friday
— Mike Lowery: Hello?
Marcus Burnett: We’re your new neighbors.
Mike Lowrey: Don’t be alarmed, we’re negros.
Marcus Burnett: Naw man, naw. There’s too much bass in your voice. That scares white folks
Reggie: You got a lady, Cates?
Reggie: You know, the generosity of women never ceases to amaze me.
Comedy in Real Time
By Steve Strickland
I went to a funeral, not too long ago, for a dear friend’s husband. Of course, I can’t name any names, but he was well known and loved. I get there a l’il late and as I walk to the front to hug my dear friend (who’s like a sister to me), she says….”Brother, don’t u start crying ’cause I’ll start crying.” I said, “Ok, ain’t nobody crying. I just came up here to see if y’all needed anything in the VIP section. If u need some Na’laters [Now and Later candy], I’ll be sitting in the back.” She laughed and smiled, my job was done. Now here’s where it gets interesting. As people have taken their seats, a blind man walked in with sunglasses, blind cane…. the whole nine yards. He sits in my row for a few moments and then I hear him say to the woman next to him, “I wanna go view the body.” I’m thinking to myself, “I know I didn’t just hear this blind man say what I think he just said?” As soon as I have that thought, he gets escorted to the casket. While he’s up there I text the widow: “Why did the blind man just say he wanted to view the body?” She texted back: Brother, you so stupid. He’s partially blind.” I replied: “Ooooooh. So, what PART of the body did he see?”
Born and raised in Newark, NJ, Steven Strickland is an actor, director, and host. He has performed in numerous theatrical productions and films. His latest projects, 15L Productions’ The Rhythm In Blue and Boxed Out Productions’ Mars & Venus: Operation Equilibrium are both set to be released in 2017.
Strickland has directed five short plays, two short films, one web series, two fashion photo shoots, and co-directed an Off-Broadway play. In spring/summer 2017, he will be directing and co-directing another web series and film respectively. Strickland will soon be co-teaching an eight-week course “The Psychology of the Character” as an expansion of www.shiekstudio.com. His motto is: “DO WHAT YOU LOVE. LOVE WHAT YOU DO!”
FATBOY AND ME
By Steve Holmes
I have multiple personalities and am ruled by them. Please, don’t think I’m crazy, because I realize their existence. This is how the conversation went this afternoon:
ME: I’m hungry
FATBOY: Me too!
ME: Damn I didn’t bring lunch!
FB: Let’s go to KFC
ME: I could go for a two piece of grilled
FB: And by two piece grilled, you mean a three piece crispy?
ME: I said what I meant, but I am hungry. I’ll get the 3 piece but two pieces will be grilled and one piece will be crispy.
FB: Okay, but the breast better be crispy.
So I placed my order only to find out there is no grilled chicken. I’m back to the decision of whether to have two pieces or three pieces and should I get sides.
Driving back to my favorite lunch spot (the parking lot at work, in my car, under a tree with windows open). I open the box of my crispy three piece with sides… and a Pepsi and begin to devour the food. At one point, gravy from the mashed potatoes was dripping down my arm and I think I licked it, everything is a little foggy right now. A colleague was heading for his car, saw me and looked frightened. I saw myself in the mirror and realized I looked like a zombie over a fresh kill.
ME: Hell, I won’t eat the biscuit. I don’t like ‘em way!
Fatboy was oddly quiet, when I heard another voice chime in, “Oh, you’ll eat that biscuit, you paid for it!” It was Bargain Bill, my inner cheapskate.
Jym Ratt has informed me we will be going all in at the gym this afternoon.
JUST ANOTHER NIGHT IN L.A.
By Del Harrison
On a late-night stroll to walk my dogs to the 7-11, a lady pops in with the friendliest smile, “hey everybody!” “She’s awfully friendly for 12:38 a.m.,” I thought. Nonetheless, the rest of the patrons and I ignore her as we routinely do to anyone who seems as if they’ll be asking for change shortly after that kind of fantastic greeting. To my surprise, she was not outside the store when I left.
As I’m crossing the street to head back home, I noticed the back of a heavyset, chocolate-complexioned woman standing on the corner in booty shorts and spaghetti-strapped tank that severely showcased her muffin top. Sporting a sailor-looking hat and rope belt to match, she peered out into traffic in between finding the right songs on her iPhone. Her left arm was in the air as if she’s about to wave it like she didn’t care. As she was waving it, I could see almost a full butt-cheek sporadically dropping out of her shorts. It seemed she was soliciting her body to passersby. I didn’t want to think this, but why else could she be passing up several opportunities to cross the street when the light gave the pedestrians the right of way? What caught my eye though, was that this was taking place about 30 feet from a policeman sitting in his cruiser. I thought to myself, “That’s weird, the LAPD not using a free ‘take-a-black-to-jail’ card this time of night.” Having black skin, myself, I kept it moving — even more swiftly, since Donald Trump had been elected.
Passing the woman, I noticed she’s the same woman from the 7-11. She had on headphones and it looked like her song was on. I wondered about this peculiar, underdressed woman? Maybe she was one those “stay turnt up” 46-year-old mamas from the hood, or a ”stay turnt up mini-Precious-looking daughters from the hood, that’s only 27 but looks 46 cause she’s been having kids since she was 14; or, maybe she was one of those new-aged plus-sized crackheads everybody keeps talking about and her last client dropped her off in the area? That last one was probably it. Whichever, she was clearly on the corner and destination-free.
What tickled my funny bone about the whole situation was, the police never got out to investigate this woman, who I had never seen in the neighborhood before. He was wide awake in the car watching her stand on the corner, with her hands up in a position that looked like she was secretly flagging clients down: meanwhile, her titties signaled all the senior Mexican johns and that one-ass cheek falling out her shorts with every dance move indicating “it’s all good” to any potential white and black male truck-stop drivers in need of her “late-night services.”
“Police! Police! You see this?”, I yelled (in my mind). Yet, the hilariousness continued uninterrupted. What was the police doing? Maybe he was glad she wasn’t a protestor of the Trump fiasco or maybe he got a good hard-look her appearance and was like, “poor girl, she’s probably not gonna get any clients anyway.”
Now I know what that greeting in the 7-11 was about. When I think back on the patrons that were in line ahead of me, they were all her potential customers! An old Mexican looking Chinese man, a burly-bearded fleece wearing white man, and a black man that looked like he was finally off crack for the last time but still working the graveyard shift. That “hey everybody” was probably code for “if anyone needs a little va-jay-jay for 40 dollars or so, I’ll be right outside… in my usual spot.” I didn’t understand it at the time, but they knew.
DEL HARRISON created Another Sketch Comedy Show online and kicked it off by spoofing The Mo’nique Show (BET). The sketch was so hilarious that Mo’Nique personally called DEL and invited her to be on the show. Since then, Del has been featured on FOX’s Laughs (Season 1 & 2), TruTV’s Friends of the People, Wendy Williams and has starred alongside Peter Gunz, Angie Stone, Kelly Price and Al B. Sure in two live stage plays. We can go on about Del but Paul Mooney said it best,”This young lady has the IT factor.” Check her out at YouTube.com/DelHarrison and @iamdelharrison on social media.
COMEDY POWERHOUSE SUNDA CROONQUIST:
Conquering Color, Conflict and Cooking
By Stephen Holmes
Comedian Sunda Croonquist speaks so rapidly, hopping from one topic to the next, you begin to feel like you’re with Dorothy Gale on her trip from Kansas to Oz. As you try to comprehend what’s going on and which way is up, Croonquist has already landed and off on the yellow brick road headed for the Emerald City. You are forever trying to play catchup. This is why micro recorders are essential in interviewing. During our recent phone conversation, we covered a lot of topics including her husband and two daughters (who she refers to as Satan and Lucifer on stage), THE law suit, THE arrest, influences and other comedians.
DELve: How did you get your start?
SUNDA CROONQUIST: I got started by a chance meeting with Jackie Mason at a party. People kept telling him how great he was and I started cracking on the people that were talking to him. “If you were so great, your TV show would still be on the air.” He thought I was a standup.
D: What was your profession at the time?
SC: After graduating Seton Hall I worked on probation and parole review, some undercover PI work and I was hired to go to parties… a model to go to parties. That’s where I met him (Jackie Mason). I met him for lunch and he said I should consider going into comedy seriously. He said, ‘You have it!’ My husband, who was my boyfriend at the time said, “If Jackie Mason says you’re funny… you’re funny.”
D: Where was you’re first gig?
SC: I did it with the American Comedy Institute, a workshop which was done with Stephen Rosenfield. My first show was at Don’t Tell Mama’s on Restaurant Row [in New York] and my first paid booking a few weeks after that. I’ve been working ever since.
D: How come female comics don’t get no respect?
SC: I wouldn’t say ”no” respect, they get less respect than their male cohorts. Because it’s a boy’s club, that’s the way it started out. You have to be a strong personality to be able to take it. People have compared me to Carol Burnet and Whoopi Goldberg with the characters; Lucille Ball with the things that happen to me and Joan Rivers because I feel it’s nice for a woman to dress up. A lot of female comedians don’t dress for work. Hoodies and jeans on stage, I just see these things differently. I see that people paid money to come see a show and they get dressed up. That’s why I think I should get dressed up a little bit. Not many people agree with that.
D: It takes bravery to get on stage, even more so trying to get people to laugh. Other than Jackie Mason, what made you think, “I can do that!”?
SC: I’ve been in trouble since kindergarten, I’ve been class clown all my life. I couldn’t take the boredom [of going to Catholic school].
D: Why did you decide to go to Seton Hall if you had been in parochial schools from the start?
SC: I think I was just used to it. And I’m glad I landed there because that’s where I decided to become a Jew.
I had questions about Catholicism and you’re not allowed to ask questions. It use to frustrate me because I lived a different life than most of my classmates. I was the only Black kid, for the most part, in grammar school and I had questions about the Virgin Mary.
I had a cousin whose girlfriend was pregnant and that got the ball rolling with me getting in trouble. I thought that maybe this is a virgin birth and we don’t know about it and we’re all saying the baby was his. It was just my reality. I was in the first grade. I got busted over the head with a pointer stick… the stick broke. I thank God for those Catholic school years because those formative years were very important.
D: What was your home life like?
SC: It was very convoluted. My parents were divorced when I was very young. My mom was Black and my father was a Swedish Jew. I had an Italian step dad.
At this point the topic turns to race. I comment about how incredibly diverse that background is and Croonquist says it’s only Black and White to her. “I am not ‘high yellow’” [a term used for light skinned African Americans].
SC: Most “yellow” people have a yellow father, yellow everybody. I have two completely different sets of parents
D: I’m glad we’re getting away from those terms…
SC: You think so? Well think again. You are very wrong and I’ll tell you where I hear it.
Croonquist tells a story of how she took her daughter to a dance studio run by a famous African-American dancer. It was there where she was reintroduced to the antiquated term when people at the studio used it to refer to her daughter.
D: Discrimination amongst ourselves is difficult to understand.
SC: That’s one of the reasons I don’t work the Black rooms [venues which cater to Black audiences]. I would love to do them, I started out in Black comedy. They [booking agents] don’t see that, they should see where I was born and they might think again. I’ve tried, but I’m not going to fight that battle. I’m not going to be told, “This is a rough crowd, you got to be able to roll with this crowd,” I came from Paterson… I got this.
D: You’re a very beautiful woman. Do you think this might not be a skin thing as much as they perceive you as something else?
SC: Maybe, but they don’t know me. I’ll give ‘em a one-two punch. I am not backing off.
D: You are bi-racial, former Catholic who…
SC: I am a Swedish and Black, redneck Jew!
D: Do you think all these things were preparing you for your career?
SC: Having all those experiences and all those relatives can’t help you but be prepared. You know when they don’t like you, cause you know how they act. I want to know how to say ‘nigger’ in every language just to be on the safe side.
D: Who’s meaner, a parochial school nun or a Jewish mother-in-law?
SC: Funny! I think that’s a funny joke. I think it would be the mother-in-law and I loved my mother-in-law. It’s too bad that happened.
D: She sued you, what the hell did you say?
SC: The same thing I said after I won that case, “They weren’t nice to me,” and sometimes you shouldn’t mess with comedians like that because you never know when you’re going to be in the act. Now, if she called me and said, ‘please, take me out of the act,’ I would have done so. But I don’t blame my mother-in-law nor do I talk ill of the dead. Some claimed it was a publicity stunt and far from it… it was real! I couldn’t sleep.
D: How did your husband handle it?
SC: It was rough, he had to represent me.
SC: He’s a great man.
D: You’ve been arrested too.
SC: I was taking a picture of a drunk girl lying on the street and the reason I took the picture was because she vomited but not on her Louis Vuitton, which you know I love. It was just an Instagram moment. Cop approached me, and it was a Black cop, and he hit me in my chest and said, ‘Get outta here!’ Me, having a background in criminal justice, I said, ‘You don’t put your hands on my person. Where is your supervisor?’ My husband, once again, advised me to walk away. Being from Paterson and having a degree in Criminal Justice gave me false courage. They kicked my ass to the ground. The White supervisor came and said, ‘Cuff her.’ They took me to the Tombs [common name for the Manhattan Detention Complex]. They beat and kicked me in front of my children.
The picture I had taken, and didn’t realize I had taken, showed them [the cops] all on their cell phones just standing over the girl, who was an under-aged drinker. I wasn’t taking a picture of that.
D: They threw your mother-in-law’s case out of court. What about the arrest?
SC: They threw that out of court. They [the police] called me a dirty spic, by the way.
D: That sounds painful.
SC: I sued and won for an undisclosed amount.
D: Going back to comedians, who do you think is underrated?
SC: I liked Richard Jeni but he committed suicide. It’s very sad when a comedian dies [by suicide] because they brought laughter to your life, they made you happy. Whether it was Mrs. Doubtfire or Good Morning Vietnam, Robin Williams was a very special comedian.
Croonquist, contemplates whether Jeni might have still been reeling from a disastrous standup a week prior to his suicide. According to the website Smoking Gun, Jeni was involuntarily hospitalized three months prior to shooting himself and was diagnosed at the time with “suicidality, homicidality [sic], and depression” and “placed on 51/50 hold,” which allows medical officials to confine a patient for up to 72 hours.
SC: He had a fantastic set a week later and killed himself the next morning.
D: Switching gears. Who do you think is overrated?
Croonquist tells of one comedian who she likes, “but not for an hour.” She takes exception with White comedians using the word “nigger.”
SC: The shock value is gone from using the “n-word.” At the Laugh Factory, Jamie Masada doesn’t allow the n-word to be said. That’s because of… what’s that fool’s name… Michael Richards.
D: What was it like working with Jerry Lewis… two kids from Jersey!
SC: It was tremendous! I remember my family thinking I made it because I was working with Jerry Lewis and other comedians thinking I was dead because I was working with him. He hates female comics but he loves me! The Daily News said, “the only woman to make Jerry Lewis laugh…” I’ll take that! He taught me something. I was worried about the credits and he said, “Never mind about your credits, know your act.” When I’m hosting and comedians stress out about their credits, I think “I hope you’re funny, cause I can build you up but you got to stand up to that.”
D: You run L.A. School of Comedy
SC: I like to see people do well and I like having a hand in that without being meddlesome. Sometimes I meet people who are funny and I know they want to do comedy and they just can’t do it. They are so happy they met me because if I encourage them to get on that stage, they’re gone. Raphael Saviere is one guy who has taken off very nicely. Michael Ralph [actress Sheryl Lee Ralph’s brother] is doing well in comedy.
D: Not everyone is funny enough to appear on stage.
SC: That’s not the point. I think it’s, you can be funny in the living room but you have to have your set in order. If you want to go on stage, you have to know how to handle the mic… it’s technical. I teach stage presence, character, how to personify, how to tighten your act… how to get to the joke, brevity. Brevity is the key to comedy.
D: You also co-authored a cookbook, “Kosher Soul Food”
SC: Dedicated to my mother-in-law, she taught me that everybody can eat kosher but not everybody can eat non-kosher. I had never thought of it that way.
D: What made you decide to write a cookbook?
SC: I wanted everyone to have a good time at my house during high holy days and I wanted to invite whomever I pleased. If my family is there, why shouldn’t they have collard greens? You don’t have to use ham hock but you can use pastrami. I have collards in my matzah balls. People get afraid of food.
D: Who are your biggest influences?
SC: Phyllis Diller, Joan Rivers. Phyllis got sued. Her case was the case that saved my ass. You know who sued her? Fang!
D: Fang, her husband?
SC: Yes. That was the precedence. I used my jokes to take away from the pain of being shunned by the family. Racism is painful in any way, shape or form, no matter if it comes from White people, Black people, Jewish people. When you’re turned away because of the color of your skin or you’re rejected or treated differently or a woman puts her purse away when you come in, if you don’t make light of it, you’re going to get sick because one thing Sunda does is try to find a silver lining. That’s the beauty of comedy.
D: Tell me a joke
SC: A guy walks into a store and asks the pharmacist, “Can you help me, do you have cotton balls?
Pharmacist says, “What do I look like, a teddy bear?”
Texts from Last Night
— I hear jingle bells and I can’t tell if it’s bc I’m feeling festive or just REALLY high
— You’re a hot mess, you know that?
At least I’m a FUN hot mess. Like a train crash full of pizza, fireworks and glitter.
— Walked into the bathroom and saw a Minion eating out Harley Quinn so this Halloween will be hard to top
— I’m cooling my balls with a beer because I’m too cheap to turn on the AC