Throughout her career as a comedian, Loni Love has been around everyone from Chelsea Handler to D.L. Hughley — even to President Barack Obama.
Now Love will appear by herself for a four-day string of shows at the Tampa Improv from July 12 to 15.
The comedian, perhaps best known for her appearances on Chelsea Lately, also released the standup special America’s Sister, which touches on topics ranging from vegetarians at barbecues to Obama. Love comes from a position of knowledge on the second topic, covering the president’s inauguration for the CNN show D.L. Hughley Breaks the News.
In a CL interview, Love discusses the switch from an engineering career to standup, Adam Carolla’s comments on women and comedy and her meeting with Justin Bieber.
What was the transition like from your initial career as an electrical engineer to standup?
I was doing engineering and I started doing standup in college, and I was doing it on the side. But I decided to go ahead and finish out my degree, and when I moved to Los Angeles, I ending up getting a job there in El Segundo. Then one night I went to a comedy club and I saw that there were a lot of guys doing standup, but there was only like one female. That kind of got to me because they never had females doing standup and that’s initially what got me back into doing standup.
So I just started doing it at night and then one day, I ended up going to an open call for Star Search — they had brought Star Search back with Arsenio Hall. I went down and did a spot where I was one of 12 people picked. So when I got that, that kind of helped surge me into doing standup. Then we had a layoff one day at my engineering job, so I went to my boss and said, “Save somebody’s job and lay me off.” That was in 2003, and I didn’t look back.
What was the process like developing the material for your first hour-long standup special America’s Sister?
Between that time, I was actually working on different types of material and trying to decide what I want to do. The process with the Comedy Central special was that they give you six minutes first. At the time, there was a show called Premium Blend and I did that six minutes and then they liked that, so they offered me a 30-minute special. So from that, I did the 30-minute special, so that took like a year to come up with that material. About a year and a half after that, I came up with the hour special. So it was a set of steps of doing a bunch of six-minute spots on Jay Leno and Comedy Central, then you move up to the half-hour, then finally they offered me the hour. By that time, I had the material, I had been traveling, I had been featuring for just about everybody that was a standup from D.L. to Weird Al Yankovic. They approved the special, we shot it and it was done.
President Obama was just down here in Tampa for a speech, and you’ve had the opportunity to cover his inauguration for CNN. What was your Obama experience like?
That was great. I was really fortunate because at the time, D.L. had the show on CNN and they needed a correspondent. So I ended up getting the position and CNN wanted to do something that was funny because it was so historic to have the first African-American [president]. We did a feature where I wanted to see the first African-American inaugurated, but I couldn’t find a hotel room. So they had going all around Washington D.C. looking for a hotel room and it ended up at the time that I met up with Larry King. And this is funny because of CNN, but I had to give to props to CNN because it really came out as a funny piece. It came out as if I had found Larry King and Larry King gave me a place to stay.
But also doing that piece allowed me to be in Washington to actually witness the historic event, and that’s something that would have never happened if I hadn’t taken the chance of stepping out on my own — if I just would’ve stayed at my regular job. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go and witness something like that — it would’ve never crossed my mind. So that’s one of the things I’m really thankful for with comedy, is that I get to do things I never would’ve imagined.
You mentioned becoming interested in standup again after seeing more men performing than women. What’s your response to Adam Carolla’s claim that women aren’t as funny as men?
The thing is that a lot of times people do things for attention. If you look at it right now, I think there a lot of males that are intimidated by all the females that are getting shows and getting attention because of standup. But it’s about time. There are always going to be people who have opinions about certain types of comedy or who’s doing comedy. But obviously he can’t deny the fact that you have women like Chelsea Handler, Whitney Cummings, Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer that have shows. You have Rachel Feinstein. You got myself — I’m making my own waves in comedy.
So his comment is just an opinion, but I think the opinion comes because he’s seeing all these females that are making headways in comedy now that you’ve never seen before. The last major female — it was always like one female every three years. It was like Roseanne, and before that it was Whoopi. Before that, it was Elayne Boosler. Before that, it was Joan Rivers. So it’s always been like one female and there’s never been so any. So I think he was just reacting to that and it’s just intimidation. He’s been in it for a while, and all he has is his podcast right now. I think that’s where it’s coming from, but if you look at his opinion, it’s just wrong.
How did you initially meet up with Chelsea Handler and start appearing on Chelsea Lately?
Chelsea and I know each other through standup, and we’ve always known each other through standup. Then when she was on the show Girls Behaving Badly and coincidentally I did work on that show as well. So when she ended up having the Chelsea Lately show, she developed that, she asked me to come in and be a part of it and I’ve been on there since it first started. When we first started that show, we couldn’t get anybody on the show — it was just her, the writers, a couple of comedians. It’s just nice to help another female and support a show like hers because she’s grown. If no one was watching the show, she wouldn’t be where she is today. She works really, really hard in comedy and entertaining people and I’m just happy to be part of it. So she’s always been loyal and she’s let me become a regular. If I ever need to go on the show, she’s there and I’m just happy to be part of that movement.
Have you since become friends with Jen Kirkman and the other comedians that perform on Chelsea Lately?
Yeah, we’re all really close now because we’ve toured together, Jen and Sarah and Heather. Heather and I just did a gig up in San Francisco. We all work together and we’re doing individual projects. You really have to give Chelsea’s show the credit of helping to kind of bring resurgence to standup comedy. For a while, I could do Jay Leno maybe once every year, once every two years, and for a while there, nobody was coming out to the clubs. It was kind of like a lull. But now because of her show, they’re rediscovering standup and also the younger people are discovering what a standup comedy show is and they’re coming out to the clubs.
So you’ve really got to give that to someone like Chelsea. She shares the stage by allowing us to be on her show every night, whereas with most comics, they just want to be the only person on their show, which is fine. But because of the way she developed her show, she’s helping a whole network of comedians — not just those on her show, but clubs in general.
Your career has allowed you to be in the periphery of a large array of people, from Chelsea to Weird Al to Obama. What person that you’ve met has maybe made the biggest impression on you?
Just recently, I would say— and it sounds like I’m doing a thing because I was just there — but it’s actually true. I’m on this new Bethenny [Frankel] show, she’s doing a trial talk show, and just a couple of days ago I met Justin Bieber. I’m very impressed by his work ethic, I like that he stays out of trouble, but when you meet him, he has this charisma that you’re like, “Okay, I see why this young man is making it.” It’s funny because we were backstage and they set it up so there were some young fans backstage, 14-, 15-year-old girls all backstage. I’m telling them, “Hey, calm down, girls. When you see Justin, don’t lose it. He’s going to come out, whatever.” So he comes out and I’m screaming more than the girls are.
That’s just an example of someone I’ve been able to meet because of comedy but also that you kind of admire and not someone to look at and go, “They’re really that not nice.” No, he’s a nice young man and he’s working really hard and you kind of root for them. So I’m happy to meet them that way.