When it comes to discussing the climate regarding comedy and public opinion, the cast of Dolemite Is My Name has a lot to say.
Dolemite Is My Name, which dramatizes the story of comedian Rudy Ray Moore's rise to fame as the blaxploitation spoof character Dolemite, features a diverse group of characters. Such characters include Lady Reed, Moore's protégée who went on to star in several of Moore's films, including Dolemite. Reed, played by Da'Vine Joy Randolph, is just as much a central player as the men. Tituss Burgess, an openly gay actor, plays Theodore Toney, who served as one of Dolemite's film producers. Shadow And Act's Brooke Obie sat with the cast to ask them about the relationship between Dolemite Is My Name, and making funny, yet woke, comedy. In other words, what is the process of making comedy that's actually funny without relying on stereotypes and can still appeal to a more sophisticated, socially aware audience?
"I think [the film is] going to advance comedy because it's going to force people to talk about other things and broaden their horizons," said Craig Robinson, who plays musician and Moore's friend Ben Taylor. "...This is real. His [Rudy Ray Moore] crew was eclectic. To show that now... how he was back then, it's apropos."
Mike Epps, who plays one of Moore's film stars Jimmy Lynch, equated comedy as a buffet where everyone can find something to suit their tastes.
"I might not want chili today, I might want to go over there and get me a turkey salad or something," he said. "That's what I like about comedy. [There are] so many different styles, so many different people talking about so many different things. You can pick and choose what you like."
"I don't see why the two would have to be mutually exclusive," Burgess said when responding to the question about woke comedy versus more traditional modes of comedy. "I think hilarious and woke has always been hilarious and woke, provided that you were hilarious and woke. His [Eddie Murphy] comedy--it was always commenting on the times, Chris Rock was always commenting on the times. I think they inform one another."
"I think at the same time we have to continue the narrative and continue the storytelling and not be afraid to just tell stories, added Randolph. "Something that's great that Eddie does is that he doesn't comment [on stereotypes]. Even with the Klumps, every character that he's played, none of them are stereotypes. As iconic as they are, and that really tells you something."
"A lot of times people think that we need archetypes to know who this person is," she continued,"...And every one of his movies, especially just as an example The Nutty Professor and [Nutty Professor II: The Klumps], they each have a very distinct personality. Yet, it...represents our culture, we know that person is in our family or in our community, [and] at the same time it's no stereotype."
When speaking about his own journey with comedy to this point, Murphy, who plays Moore himself, said he is just being himself.
"I'm just being Eddie. I'm just being me," he said. "This is where I'm at in my life right now, and it's a good place."
You can watch the video below:
Photo credit: Netflix
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