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The Miseducation of Loni Love

Chelsea Lately regular comes to Horton Plaza

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Comedian Loni Love started her career in comedy on a lark when she entered a contest while attending college at Prairie View A&M University in Texas. Love ended up winning the contest and gradually began performing during her college years to supplement her income while earning her engineering degree. After graduation Love relocated to Los Angeles and worked as an engineer before embarking on a career in show business that lead her to the Star Search stage in 2003. Her appearances at various comedy festivals and VH1’s I Love The ‘80s helped launch her career as a comedian and Love hasn’t looked back since. She’s become a mainstay  and audience favorite on Chelsea Handler’s late night talk show Chelsea Lately, and its spinoff sitcom, After Lately. Her first one-hour special, America’s Sister aired on Comedy Central in May of 2010 and Love is currently working on her next special.

SanDiego.com caught up with Love from her hotel room in Pittsburgh and talked about her early years in comedy and what sort of advice she gives to the comedians who open up her shows.

Do you remember the first time you did stand-up?
Loni Love: Yeah, it as this thing where they were giving away money and I just decided to stand up there and tell a story, and that’s how I started my stand-up career. That was probably my sophomore year of college.

After that first time on stage what was the process for you to develop your act and material?
LL: It was just me doing a story and then I started doing a little stand-up here and there, just to supplement my income from school. But I really didn’t take it seriously. I wasn’t planning on being a comedian, I got my engineering degree. It wasn’t until I went out to LA and I went to a comedy club after work and I saw there weren’t a lot of females. Just like engineering doesn’t have a lot of females I was wondering why stand-up didn’t. That’s when I really started getting back into it doing the engineering and the stand-up until I developed a set. It was like a hobby during college, but once I got to LA I didn’t think I would do it professionally, I was just doing it as a means of release and things like that. I started doing stand-up professionally in 2001 and I never looked back after that.

Why did you move to Los Angeles to pursue a job as an engineer?
LL: I had about eight or nine job offers and I took LA because it was specifically El Segundo, and I liked Fred Sanford from Sanford & Son and he always talked about El Segundo.

Once you left your day job to pursue stand-up full time, how soon were getting road work outside of Los Angeles?
LL: Starting off I was a black comic and we don’t get those types of opportunities. What I was able to do is book shows on what we call the Chitlin’ circuit, and I did that for about two or three years, and then I decided that was going to try and get into the mainstream. So once I became mainstream and got on television I started doing the white clubs.

How long did it take you to get representation?
LL: When I started I knew I needed to get representation. The one thing I encourage all comedians to do is get exposure. The way I got exposure was though different comedy festivals. What I had to do first was get into a mainstream club. After three years of doing the open mic showcase at The Laugh Factory in Hollywood, I looked at Jaime Masada and said, “This is my third year doing this are you gonna let me become a regular or not? I’m not going to keep doing this.” Once I said that he made me regular the next day.

What’s your opinion on crowd work and improvisation?
LL: For me, because of the position I’m in right now, because of all the television work it’s easier for me to talk; people want me to talk to them. But I don’t do that until maybe the end of my act, I maybe do it for five minutes. I have things I want to say I have material that I write. I also encourage my openers and stuff, I tell them, “Hey don’t talk to the audience in the beginning, make them listen to you and develop your set.” I think the mistake a lot of us make is that we instantly start talking to the audience to try and get them to like us. I don’t really encourage doing a lot of crowd work, but I do it at the end, just because it’s my show and I’m headlining and people like to talk to me. So it’s a little extra treat for the audience. The feature spot is the sweet spot. When I was a feature I knew the people aren’t there to see me, so this was a great opportunity for me to build on my act. When you’re an opener you should just concentrate on material, what are you trying to say? Does this work? Does that work? So when you do headline, you know what your point of view is and you know material you’re good at. It’s like a training ground.  I was an emcee for years where I would do 10 minutes and I perfected the 10 minutes and I would change it. A lot of young comics today don’t want to be a feature and they don’t want to be an emcee. They don’t understand, it’s just like a training program. It’s like you do those, you master them and then you move on to the next level. It helps you if you really do it. Unless you get a heckler or somebody like that where you’ve got to address the audience, work on your material. The feature spot to me is the sweet spot. Because by then the opener has opened up the crowd, people have gotten their drinks and there’s no checks. As the headliner I take the hit for the checks, I take the hit when the alcohol comes in.

Have you burned all your material from America’s Sister or is some of that still in your act?
LL: Some of it is still there, but what I do because a lot of my material is current events, it changes anyway, so I throw stuff out and I just talk about new stuff. The stuff that I talk about changes because I talk about current events, I talk about politics. That’s stuff changes constantly. So it always changes it’s not the same.

Does Loni Love have a message for the children?
Loni Love: The message for the children is to stay in school. No matter what you want to do. I don’t care if you want to sell drugs, still stay in school. If you want to be an artist, stay in school. You need the foundation of an education. You have to understand the method of business. You need to learn how to read, you need to learn how to count. I tell the kids just stay in school and learn.

Loni Love performs at The Mad House Comedy Club January 13 & 14