For the second episode of The Joke, I caught up with one of my comedy heroes, D.C. Benny about his signature joke, Biscuits.
I first saw D.C. a few years ago while scrolling through YouTube. A video popped up titled, “White Boy Rips it at the Apollo”, I had to click on it.
The white boy was D.C. Benny, and the Apollo is the legendary theater in Harlem; a cathedral to the greatest African American artists, with a notoriously ruthless crowd. There’s another video of the audience there booing a young Lauryn Hill off the stage at a talent show.
True to the video’s title, D.C. rips it. Within seconds of taking the stage, he has the entire audience in stitches as he performs characters with a range of accents and dialects: Chinese, German and Jamaican.
D.C. says his quick delivery and character driven jokes are no accident. His style was shaped by the black comedy circuit, where he broke in as a performer.
Benny grew up in Washington D.C. (hence his stage name) and says he had a diverse group of friends and was comfortable performing in front of black audiences. When he came to New York in the 80’s, he couldn’t get stage time at mainstream comedy clubs downtown, so he started performing at more “urban” rooms in Harlem and the Bronx.
Benny says, “as a white comedian in the black rooms especially starting out, I couldn’t leave any time for the crowd to breathe really, it was just concentrated laughs. There wasn’t time for anyone to doubt that you were funny.”
The uptown clubs were invaluable training grounds for Benny as he performed alongside comedy greats like Bernie Mac, Steve Harvey and Tracy Morgan.
On a walk with his wife one day, D.C. shared a painfully embarrassing story from his high school prom. Sure, we all have cringe-worthy prom stories, but D.C.’s might top them all.
Short version: an intimidating high school drug dealer forced D.C. to go to prom with his sister, an overweight cheerleader after a misunderstanding over some biscuits at the local Popeye’s Chicken…..you’ll have to listen to the episode to see how it plays out.
For years, the story was just a painful memory for D.C., but his wife encouraged him to tell the story on stage. He relives the whole tale with unique and hilarious voices for all the characters-including the drug dealer “no neck” with a lisp.
The joke became of his signature pieces, and people frequently shout, “Biscuits,” when he performs all over the country. But it’s controversial as well.
With lines touching on race, gender and body type, there’s a high potential for people to get offended.
I asked D.C specifically about the complexity and sensitivity of playing black and asian characters. I wanted to know if he ever offends people or gets negative reactions from the crowd. Benny says, “it’s a fine line to walk but, I have this thing they’re not quite sure what my background is so that gives me a little bit of leeway, an extra five percent, and then I try and portray these characters as accurately as possible.”
The joke also completely changed D.C.’s style from doing fast paced characters to delving into more personal and sometimes painful narratives.
Benny says, “This was kind of the turning point for me, it’s really not about characters, it’s about all the awkward stuff that’s happened to me in my life….once I told that story, it was like, ‘Wow, this is where I want to go.’”
Tune in to hear a great joke about a prom gone wrong, and the story of a desperate man trying to escape it.