Comedian Damien Lemon is one of the most skilled stand-up comedians to have come out the New York City circuit. Not only is Damien skilled at stand up, but he’s made us laugh on screen with a slew of TV appearances. Now, Damien is back hosting truTV’s new show, “Comedy Knockout”. We caught up with Damien Lemon so he could tell us all about his new show and many other things.
By Corey Tate
CH: You’re the host of TruTV’s new show, “Comedy Knockout”. We’ve never seen a show like this. What inspired the show?
DL: Well, comedian Mo Mandel is the creator of Comedy Knockout. I’m not sure what inspired Mo to create the show, but I’m glad that I was brought on to host, because it’s a really fun show to do.
CH: Usually, there’s one show that sets precedent for all other shows to exist and provides a model for them to follow. How does it feel to know that you’re being an innovator of comedy shows like “Comedy Knockout”?
DL: It’s always exciting to be viewed in the space of forward thinking. I like to be on the cusp of what’s next. So, if people view “Comedy Knockout” as an innovative show and it resonates as a fresh idea, I’m all for it.
CH: You do stand-up comedy and host TV shows. Do you think being a stand up comic has prepared you to be a good TV host?
DL: I believe doing stand up comedy has absolutely helped me. Stand up comedy provides you with a skillset like nothing else. Like learning how to read the energy of room, learning how to command an audience and learning how to be quick and nimble when delivering material. Stand up comedy has helped me improve all of these skills, which in return has helped me become a good TV host.
CH: Your Comedy Central Half Hour was well-received. Are there plans for you to release a full hour special?
DL: A full hour special is definitely in the works. I’m currently on the road working out some material and once it becomes solid, the full hour is on the way.
CH: As a stand-up comic, you have the freedom to talk about anything. That’s what makes stand-up comedy so great and so appealing. With this freedom, what’s your favorite thing to talk about?
DL: I’m always talking about death in some capacity [Laughs]. There’s a weird thing that I have about death. Also, I’ve been talking a lot about relationships. And of course politics, because it’s around that time and you can’t really avoid it. Especially with Trump running for president, it’s becoming a bit of a concern. It’s still mind -boggling to know that he’s gotten as far as he has. So, I have to talk about it.
CH: You’re from New York and that’s where you got your comedy chops. Comedians who build their skills in New York are much more fierce and fearless than a lot of other places. Why is that?
DL: New York in itself is just such a gritty city. It builds aggression. Just to survive, you have to be a little more aggressive than anywhere else. You get challenged everyday and it builds this aggressive manner. And when you’re doing stand up in front of people who have this outlook, you can’t come up short. These are people who take the subway train to jobs they don’t like, don’t make enough money and live in small apartments. They came out to laugh. The pressure is on and you better be funny. And one last thing is, New York has so many great comedians and you don’t want to be average among such greatness.
CH: You’re a well-know sneakerhead. Sneakers are somewhat important when it comes to performing in any form of entertainment. Do you have a favorite sneakers to perform in?
DL: There’s certain pairs of sneakers that are just special. For example, the White and Cement Jordan IV. The feeling I had when I bought those, made me want to perform that night, just because I wanted people to see me in them. And when I got on stage that night, I told them, “I’m really here just so y’all could see these on my feet.” [Laughs]. When you have clean sneakers, you definitely want to be in front of people. But also, I want to say this, comedians Nore Davis and Derek Gaines had a skit on their podcast that’s really funny because it’s true. The skit was about how your sneakers should never outshine your act. Let your sneakers be good, but make sure your act is better.
CH: You’re no stranger to hosting your own shows. You had a successful series called, “D. Lemon In The Morning”. Was it just gradually time to move on from “D. Lemon In The Morning” and do other things in your career?
DL: For sure. The goal is to always keep moving. I tried to get “D. Lemon In The Morning” on television, but it didn’t workout. There were talks to do another season for the web, but I doubt that it’s going to happen. But I still think the show can be appreciated for what it was. Also, “D. Lemon In The Morning” was a challenge to myself, to take something from being just an idea to executed product. And I’m happy that it all worked out.
CH: Since you’re doing the “Comedy Knockout” show, let’s jump into boxing. Who was the better fighter, Muhammad Ali in his prime or Mike Tyson in his prime?
DL: I’m going to go with Tyson. Tyson was just more devastating. Also, I picked Mike because I wasn’t around to see Ali in his prime. When I watch clips of Ali, I can appreciate it though. He was super elusive, he was king of the rope-a-dope style and his shit-talking game was A-1. But it’s something about being a kid and watching Mike Tyson fight. Mike would knock people out in 90 seconds and it was exciting. Mike Tyson was the hip-hop of boxing. His prime felt like Public Enemy sounded; explosive and dangerous.
CH: The grind of a stand-up comedian is a roller coaster ride. If you were to use one word to define your comedy career so far, what would it be and why?
DL: Journey. More so, it’s been a surreal journey. Because there are times when you find yourself in places that make you say, “Wow, comedy got me here.” I’ve gotten myself into positions, strictly based on being funny and doing stand up. It’s surreal, as a New Yorker, to see your face on show advertisements on the New York City subway trains. So it’s been a journey. A surreal journey.
CH: The theme of your new show, “Comedy Knockout” is to put comedians against each other and see who’s the funniest. So, we want to play a game of comedic heavyweights and see who’s getting knocked. First, 2000’s Dave Chappelle vs Martin Lawrence in the 90’s?
Wow! Both of those guys are great, but also that’s 2 different styles. Martin in the 90’s was so dynamic. He was so in your face and the energy he brought to the stage was insane. But Dave Chappelle is like a jazz musician. He’s cool and laid back but you better believe that he’s on stage dropping gems. But I’m gonna go with 90’s Martin Lawrence, for the same reason I chose Mike Tyson over Muhammad Ali; it’s electrifying. I remember going to a taping of Def Comedy Jam and the energy in the room was insane, even before Martin touched the stage. The anticipation was ridiculous.
CH: Richard Pryor in the 70’s vs Eddie Murphy in the 80’s?
DL: I grew up on Eddie Murphy. Eddie was who inspired me. Again, it goes back comedy shows being an event and Eddie’s shows were an event. But also, Richard Pryor was a beast. I didn’t truly appreciate Richard Pryor until I started doing comedy myself. What I love about Richard Pryor was how vulnerable he was. And since then, I don’t think there’s been too many comedians that have been able to tap into that level of vulnerability and be so naked on stage. I think I’m going to have to make this a tie. Richard inspired Eddie and Eddie inspired me. I love them both.
CH: And finally, modern day Damien Lemon vs modern day Don Lemon?
DL: Damien Lemon is definitely going to win that one. We do two different things and I think one of us is funny on purpose.
You can catch Damien Lemon hosting Comedy Knockout on TruTV, Thursdays at 10:30/9:30c.
By Corey Tate
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