D.L. Hughley Headlines a New Political Comedy Show on CNN

by Latoya Peterson

Please Note: This is NOT a D.L. Hughley fansite. You cannot contact him directly through this site, or leave feedback about his show.

Before I sat down to watch D. L. Hughley Breaks the News, I was skeptical of the whole project. D.L. Hughley doesn’t immediately come to mind when I think of a comedian that is well versed in politics and current events. The author of the NY Times article seems to concur, noting:

For the last week Mr. Hughley, 45, has had to arrive every morning at his office at CNN in Manhattan at the ungodly (for a comedian) hour of 11 a.m. to digest reams of information from newspapers, Web sites, television and talk radio. He has no time to goof off during the 8-to-12-hour days; only the occasional moment to glance at his new profile in the CNN company directory that lists him as an anchor.

“I’m like, ‘Come on, man,’ ” an incredulous Mr. Hughley said in a recent interview. “I barely even know how to read. I’ve got a G.E.D.”

Just 10 days ago CNN announced that Mr. Hughley would be the host of a new comedy-news show, “D. L. Hughley Breaks the News,” which has its premiere Saturday at 10 p.m. Eastern time.

AverageBro already laid down his thoughts on the show, writing:

I’m not saying Hughley isn’t funny. His early days of Comic View were classic. And for the record, his standup career is far more successful than anything Stewart did pre-Daily Show.

But DL just doesn’t seem to have the gravitas to pull this off. His shortlived Comedy Central talk show, Weekends At The DL, was atrocious. His appearances on shows like Real Time With Bill Maher and The Glenn Beck Show don’t give me the impression that this cat is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to politricks.

He also brings up another large elephant in the room when it comes to D.L. Hughley’s idea of comedy:

Is it wrong for me to still be upset about that “nappy headed hoes” comment more than a year after the fact? Prolly not, but I’m sorry, I just cannot get over that. That sh*t was a straight up James T. Harris b*tch move in my book.

I wonder how dude could go home and look his wife and daughter in the eyes after that bullsh*t.

I prolly won’t watch this show, so I guess I shouldn’t bash it. Could it possibly be any worse than Chocolate News or The Tony Rock Project? Even though I wished CNN’s affirmative action hire had been Roland Martin instead, I guess I should just be happy to see black men working, no matter how mediocre the product.

Nah. Bump that.

If you wanna support a black man on TeeVee, peep BET’s slept on Somebodies. Now that’s comedy.

Screw DL Hughley. A true Nappy Headed Hoe!

Melissa Harris Lacewell was also enraged, but for a different reason:

I don’t have words to express my irritation with this development. CNN has been nearly lily white. Black commentators, guests, and hosts have been the rare exception rather than the rule. This is a network that responded to Hurricane Katrina, the most visible class and race disaster of our age, by promoting the blond, blue-eyed, Vanderbilt heir Anderson Cooper to a two-hour nightly show. They have now decided that the appropriate response to a likely Obama administration is to have a black comedian host a farcical news show. Hmmm. [...]

CNN is purportedly the most respected source for news. We are sliding into an economic recession rivaling the Great Depression. We are fighting wars on multiple fronts. Trust in our political system is at an all time low. This is not really a funny moment. In today’s NYTimes, recent Nobel winner Paul Krugman even opined that American support for Barack Obama represented our nation “desperately seeking seriousness.” So why does CNN think that black people have to serve as the court jesters just as we are moving into the White House?

It feels to me like the reassertion of racist notions of black people and our proper place in the world. Sometimes popular culture and media operate as forces of regressive and reactionary sentiments even as the political system is changing. It happened during the feminist movement. As white women were gaining control over their fertility, asserting their independence, and moving into the workforce, popular culture developed a new feminine aesthetic saying that women must be rail thin in order to be beautiful and desirable. Whew! Don’t worry about women competing for power if they are so worried about the size of their thighs that they starve themselves and stay at the gym all day.

Same deal here. No worries about black people as serious contenders for political leadership on the world stage if we can be safely constrained to our stereotypical role as the comedic relief.

Both Melissa Harris-Lacewell and AverageBro raise good points that should not be overlooked. It is important to understand the personal context (as expressed in AverageBro’s post) and the political context (as expressed in Harris-Lacewell’s post) as to why there might be opposition to the show.

However, after watching the show, it appears to hold some promise.

I am still not convinced that D.L. Hughley is right for the anchor position on the show – and from what I saw, it doesn’t appear that he is convinced either. He was visibly nervous on camera and stumbled over multiple jokes. He also didn’t seem very comfortable onstage, in stark contrast to many of his stand up performances. But I can respect that – it is difficult to try something that is kind of out of your league, and there are so many ways political comedy can go wrong.

And indeed, some of the sketches felt extremely stale – the issue of Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac was recast with Donnell Rawlings as Freddie Mack, with all the predictable “government and politicians as pimps” jokes. There was a fake attack ad from the RNC, which is fairly unmemorable save for the last few lines – “You know he’s black, don’t you?” and “Paid for by the Committee for Irresponsible Racism.” Often times Hughley talked over guests and the editing was kind of strange.

Yet, there were parts of the show I found quite compelling. I enjoyed the CNN Fact Checkers breaking in on DL’s opening monolouge (though most write ups hated that part), and the sketch where DL Hughley actually attends a Palin rally and tries to get them to vote for a Palin/Hughley ticket in 2012. The responses to his questions were classic.

What I most enjoyed were the frequent format changes and his discussions with the experts. His segment with Neil deGrasse Tyson was my favorite, but I’m biased toward people who like to talk about astrophysics. (It’s a total brain crush, for those of y’all who can read between the lines.) Hughley’s other notable segment was where he compared the rise of Barack Obama to the trajectory of black presidents in films. Illustrating his point beautifully was a 1933 film called “Rufus Jones for President” with a young Sammy Davis Jr. declaring that pork chops would be free once he was sworn in as President. It’s Minstrel-icious. You can see the film reels and Tyson’s segment in the video below:


I hope that this show turns out well. And it probably will if it can zero in on how to produce a smart, factual comedy show. I’d love to see more experts, more intelligent discussion, and please, producers, let D.L. be who he is – the asshole who cracks jokes both on and with the smart folks. I’ll check it out next week and report back on how it progresses.

That is, if my brain doesn’t rot from watching Chocolate News.