David Alan Grier | Interview
David Alan Grier has a laugh at…pretty much whatever.
When we ask David Alan Grier if he ever revives Antoine Merriweather—the finger-snapping gay film critic on In Living Color—the Detroit native takes no serious-artist offense. (The answer: yes, on occasion.) Grier brings the same good humor to his latest venture, Comedy Central’s Chocolate News. Premiering last fall as the lead-in to The Daily Show, Chocolate News features Stewart-like commentary from a black perspective plus sketches with an ever-morphing Grier. We called the comedian in advance of his stand-up show.
Time Out Chicago: Your angry-black-man persona on Chocolate News—the age of Obama makes that entirely anachronistic, right? Everything’s all good now.
David Alan Grier: [Laughs] It depends who you talk to. Some black people say, “It’s a setup.” Like, what’s a setup? “Well, Barack Obama was allowed to win ’cause the country’s in such bad shape, so when he fucks up, then the white people will take back over.” I’m like, Really, wow, okay. Does this one event kill every racist belief? Of course not. Have we made huge steps that I really didn’t know the country was ready for just a few months ago? Absolutely.
TOC: Obama allowed to win? That’s quite a well-developed conspiracy theory.
David Alan Grier: Dude, I am not making that up. While you’re looking that up on the Internet, look up the Dave Chappelle conspiracy.
TOC: Who recently has made you ask the Chocolate News catchphrase, “Have you lost your damn mind?”
David Alan Grier: Most recently, O.J. Simpson. He got away with double murder, and, yes, he’s now serving life for stealing his own football.
TOC: You’ve come to parenthood later in life—you’re 53 now?
David Alan Grier: Much later. 52. 52. The discrepancy of my age is that there is a white David Alan Grier who’s from Detroit who’s a computer scientist born on my same day. His father had the same name my father has. They had offices across the street from each other, but they didn’t know each other. Our birthdays are one year apart. Google it. He’s a professor.
TOC: Actually, Google did bring up someone with your name who’d written about computers.
David Alan Grier: He came when I did The Wiz, which I thought was an apt, wonderful meeting: I was the Wiz, and he was really the whiz.
TOC: You got your start in theater and dramatic film, like Robert Altman’s Streamers. When you’re in movies like Boomerang and Jumanji, do you ever think, I went to Yale School of Drama for this?
David Alan Grier: Oh, I got a better one: I’m in the new Wayans brothers’ movie [Dance Flick], and I play a thousand-pound evil dance-flick guy. I really act. [Laughs] I mean, you could think of it like that, or you could think of it, like, I could be doing iambic pentameter at the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival. Is that my life? No. My life is a varied artistic endeavor. Much like the country, I’m evolving and constantly changing. [Laughs] Hope. Hope and change.
TOC: So: musical theater and Louis Farrakhan.
David Alan Grier: Okay, I don’t know how that got into Wikipedia, but of course I’m not working on a Louis Farrakhan musical. Maybe I was joking during an interview, but no, as far as I know, there is no grand Louis Farrakhan musical plan.
TOC: Everybody’s asking you when the Farrakhan musical is coming out?
David Alan Grier: [Laughs] There’s that, and then for a while there was a Gilligan’s Island movie, and again we know there are no black people on Gilligan’s Island, for one. And there is no movie. [Laughs] God bless Wikipedia and IMDb.
TOC: You never did answer my question about parenting: How’s that going?
David Alan Grier: Oh, it’s awesome. My daughter just celebrated her one-year birthday. But when you have a kid, everybody gives you coded advice. When she was born, you get: “You’re not sleeping, huh?” “Hey, how much sleep are you getting?” “You’re probably up all night.” And now it’s, like, “Ohh, if only you could keep her at this age—but you can’t. And that’s the really sad thing.” And you’re like, What? That’s—what are you—that’s not—what am I, what am I in for?
TOC: What’s that about, do you think?
David Alan Grier: It’s like when I used to do drugs, like, when you take Ecstasy: “Uh-oh.” “You’re gonna have fun.” “Look out!” “Drink a lot of water!” They just want to be all fiddling with your business.
TOC: You did a lot of drugs at one point?
David Alan Grier: No, I experimented like any intelligent—this is a trap! You are trying to nail me. Just for perhaps less than six months and then I went on to my studies—at Yale. I didn’t know anything about that Ecstasy.
David Alan Grier plays the Venue at Horseshoe Casino February 12 at 8pm.