Luenell delivers rated-R show at Dayton Funny Bone

Photo: Luenell goes for ‘big, big laughs’ at the Dayton Funny Bone May 25-27; photo: Steven Littles

By Gary Spencer

“A lot of people recognize my face but don’t remember my name,” says comedian and actress Luenell. “I’m not quite a household name.”

Chances are most people have already seen or heard the work of Bay Area-based comic Luenell and know her instantly recognizable face. They probably know her from show-stealing performances on TV shows It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Lopez or her appearances in major motion pictures “Borat,” “Think Like a Man,” and “Taken 2,” not to mention her tours with Katt Williams and numerous appearances on cable TV comedy specials. But Luenell says she did not plan to make a career out of comedy until later in life.

“I never really wanted to do stand-up—I wanted to do film, television, theatre, singing, and stuff like that,” she says. “I did a lot of theatre before I ever got into stand-up—it was the last medium for me to go into.”

It was all by chance that she began to consider being an on-stage funny woman.

“It was a fluke—my roommate was dating a comedian who happened to run a club,” Luenell explains. “After hearing me banter around the house, he said he’d give me an opportunity to come to his club and get on stage. After contemplating it, I did my first show.”

With that, Luenell gave her first stand-up performance in Long Beach, California, in 1990. And unlike most first-time stand-ups who tend to bomb in their initial forays, she was an instant hit.

“I was a natural, you could say,” she says. “All I did was just tell a very animated story about something that recently happened to me for about seven minutes. I had a great response. Then I met Robin Harris who gave me another opportunity, so I started going to his club and D.L. Hughley’s. I started following them around and one thing led to another.”

Perhaps part of Luenell’s instant appeal was her ability to take her comedic influences and make them her own.

“I grew up on comedy albums,” she explains. “I’m fond of a great, crazy, manic comic who can remove you from your everyday stress and take you on a ride with them. Some comedians who made a great impression on me were Redd Foxx, Richard Pryor, Joan Rivers, George Carlin, Bill Cosby, Richard Belzer.”

According to Luenell, combining those influences with her natural comedic sensibility, she has no need to write or rehearse her monologues.

“I think that comedians who were born to do it, not those who took classes or whatever just want to get famous or make money, our brains are wired differently than other people,” she explains. “We see the funny in almost everything. I get my material just by waking up and going about my day. I don’t sit down and write like most comics. I’ll put a few bullet points in my phone and just embellish from there. I don’t rehearse—when I practice, I practice in front of a live audience.”

Perhaps another ingredient to Luenell’s success as a stand-up comic is her admittedly rated-R subject matter and ability to use comedy as a means to educate and learn from others while having a good time.

“I don’t go for chuckles—I go for big, big laughs,” Luenell says. “I think that comedy can be a teaching tool—people are more receptive to information if you can make them smile while they’re listening to it. I like to address age-appropriate subject matter—aging, weight gain, relationships, children, education, and lots of sex! I say my stand-up show is like a sexual master class where they can learn some things and be shocked at some things, all in the vein of laughter. It’s a very sexy, very adult show and super fun.”

On a similar note, Luenell believes that stand-up comedy in particular can be a form of therapy for attendees where they can let themselves go and just enjoy the occasion.

“It’s like a religion if you do it right because it can heal and help people through hard times and open the heart back up,” she explains. “I want people to forget about those kids and bills and focus on the moment, be present, listen, learn, and laugh.”

Despite Luenell’s rising number of film and TV projects in the works, she has no plans to leave the world of stand-up.

“I don’t think comedians ever stop doing stand-up—we just die!” Luenell jests. “You can go do film and television, but if you’re a comic and it’s in your DNA, you’ll find a way to do stand-up even if it’s just for the postman! I don’t see a time where I won’t do stand-up—my goodness, what would I do with myself?”

 

Luenell performs Thursday, May 25, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, May 26 and Saturday, May 27, at 7:30 and 10 p.m., at the Dayton Funny Bone, 88 Plum St. at The Greene in Beavercreek. Tickets are $20 in advance. For more information, please visit HeyLuenell.com or DaytonFunnyBone.com.

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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