Deon Cole gives audiences a glimpse into what it takes to create material for a comedy special — even when the jokes don't work

By Nina Metz, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

Every time I go work out material, I bomb more than I do good. So I'm showing you all the nights that it doesn't work. And I have to go through that process in order to chip away at it. One night I'll go, "Oh this is funny and I'll keep that," and it might only be three minutes out of an hourlong set. I'll go the next week and get another five minutes that work. And it keeps adding up until I have an hour that I'm ready to tour with and then tape a special.

Q: How did this end up on Netflix's YouTube channel?

A: Netflix asked me about using a clip I had posted online and I was like, "Sure, you guys can use it, I'm doing nothing with it anyway." And then I started thinking, what other stuff do I have that I just haven't done anything with?

So I went and looked at all this stuff I shot when I was preparing to tour. And I thought, I have my set ready for the tour, I don't want to give away that material. But I have all this other material that I should package up and give it to the people because it's still funny. And I can also give you some insights into how it goes, as far as putting a special together. When you watch a comedy special, you see the glitz and glamour. But what you don't see is when it doesn't work and I'm getting heckled and all of that. So I was like, yeah, let me do that!

So I called up Netflix and told them about it and they were like, "Hell, yeah." And I said, "Let's not do it on the streaming site, let's keep it light and put it on YouTube and see what happens" because I didn't want people going into it like, "Check out this comedy special," I wanted people to understand what they were watching — and they actually did. And man, a week after it went up I think it had 420,000 views.

Q: One night you're wearing a wool beanie and sweater with black-and-white horizontal stripes. I'm wondering if anyone's mentioned that you sort of look like ...


A: ... I already know where you're going with that! All of my DM's have been like, "Where's Waldo?" I get it all day! The hat was in my car and it got chilly outside that night, so I was like, man, I don't have a jacket, let me put this hat on. I didn't even realize I looked like "Where's Waldo" until after this went up on YouTube.

Q: You also talk about your beef with Stevie Wonder. You took a date to a concert and then went backstage after and she was invited to meet him — alone. You were left standing there for an hour and when she emerged, it was only to hand you money for car fare home, because she was staying.

A: True story. This happened maybe 10 years ago and I would tell people this story — not even on stage, I would just tell people this story. So when I was working on stuff at the Improv, my friend was like, "You gotta try to work on that Stevie Wonder story." So I did it and it's funny but I didn't put in my repertoire to tour with. People have really loved it, I should have kept it!

The woman from the story who was my date, she saw that part. I hadn't heard from her in years and she reached out to me and she actually texted — and I'm quoting — "I did not know you were going to tell the whole story!" I mean, you did this to me though! You know what I mean? You gave me $100 to leave, what'd you think I was going to do? I'm going to talk about it!


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