‘Daily Show’ Correspondent Dulcé Sloan on How the Pandemic Strengthened Her Connection to Trevor Noah
On this week’s episode of “The Last Laugh” podcast, comedian Dulcé Sloan talks taping “The Daily Show” from home and her new podcast “That Blackass Show.”
Atlanta native Dulcé Sloan opened her 2019 Comedy Central half-hour special by joking that she was “forced to move to New York because of success.” More than four months into the coronavirus pandemic shutdown, she’s still there.
Since March, Sloan has been filming her Daily Show bits from home. But unlike some of her fellow correspondents, she hasn’t been able to escape the city.
“I couldn’t go home because my mother would have made me quarantine for 14 days before she let me in the house,” she says. So she’s had no choice but to remain in her New York City apartment. “Yes, I hate it dearly, this trash-ass city!” she sings into her webcam during our taping for this week’s episode of The Last Laugh podcast.
Plus, she’s been busier than ever. Besides taping segments for The Daily Show, which she joined in September 2017, Sloan has also been doing voiceover for the upcoming Fox animated show The Great North and recording episodes of her new podcast That Blackass Show, all from home.
On her podcast, Sloan talks to fellow comedians like Roy Wood Jr., Ron Funches and W. Kamau Bell about a different Black-centered TV show or movie each week. Inevitably, there is plenty of nostalgia for an earlier era.
“There were definitely more Black shows on in the late to mid-’90s and early 2000s than are on right now, when there were way less channels,” Sloan says. “We’re still having that conversation for Black and brown people, and people of color in general, to be included in American mass media.”
And it’s a conversation that has exploded on late-night television following the massive protests against police brutality and systemic racism. While hosts like Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel apologized for past transgressions and reckoned with their white privilege, Trevor Noah and his diverse crew of correspondents were more than ready to meet the moment.
“When the protests started for George Floyd, we were dark,” Sloan says. “So when we came back, we came back to everything going on in the conversation that has shifted. Our first two episodes back weren’t particularly joke-heavy, because we were all still processing the information.” She says it’s “always been hard” to find comedy in these tragic moments.
And because they were filming their conversations from home, without a studio audience, they were inherently more nuanced and less performative. It’s a change that Sloan expects to persist if and when the show finally returns to its studio.
“I don’t know how soon it will be where they allow an audience to come in,” she says. “You have to work so much harder because there’s not an audience.” But after three years working closely with Noah, Sloan says, “We know where we know where the beats are, we know where the punchlines are.” They trust that the laughs are there, which allows them to be more real with each other.
When I ask Sloan if she has any idea when things might return to some version of normal for The Daily Show, she replies, “That’s all above my pay grade. I just come when they tell me to come. I sit down where they tell me to sit down. Those are decisions by people who have a completely different job than your girl.”
Highlights from our conversation are below and you can listen to the whole thing right now by subscribing to The Last Laugh on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.
How ‘The Daily Show’ has changed with everyone taping from home
“The process is still the same. The way we tape it is different. Now it’s not performing in front of a studio audience. Before, when I would do desk pieces, I’m talking to the audience and Trevor’s to my right. Now I’m talking straight to him, into a screen. There’s no audience. So I don’t get to feel the ups and downs. You don’t feel the laughs. But I like it because it is one-on-one with me and him. It’s more interaction with him. And I like that. Because he thinks like a comic and he thinks like a director and it’s helped me see his vision for the show more. It’s helped me see how I want to do it more. So it’s been really good.”
On her late-night stand-up debut on ‘Conan’
“I remember that I wasn’t nervous until after I did it. Because I wouldn’t let myself be nervous beforehand. I also wouldn’t let myself be excited beforehand, because I knew that if I got too excited then it would make me too nervous. And afterwards, Conan, who is—I’m 5-foot-4, he’s 37 feet tall—he comes up to me and he goes, ‘You’re really funny.’ Conan doesn’t watch any of the comics’ sets before they come on. So the first time he saw me was the first time he saw me. And to hear him and Andy [Richter] laughing was just like, ‘OK, I’m doing a good job.’”
Why she brings her purse on stage during stand-up gigs
“My mother always told me, don’t leave your purse anywhere. So it’s just all practicality. Aretha Franklin, apparently she did the same thing. But this is not an ode to Aretha Franklin. White people steal too. So that’s the reason that I’m doing this, is that I don’t trust anybody. There’s always people in the back, you don’t know who they are. It all comes down to, I don’t know y’all. As I said at a show one time, I came in this bitch with $37.45 in my purse and I’m going to leave out of here with $37.45 in my purse.”
On the importance of Black actors voicing Black cartoon characters
“For my show [The Great North], I play a Black character. And I actually got to have input on her character design. And I think being able to have a person of color being a part of the creation process of a character of color is helpful to the show and is helpful to society as a whole. They asked me for my input: What do you think about how she looks? And that felt significant to me because it was white people asking a Black woman how a Black woman should look. What about her hair? What about her body? What can we change to make her more authentic? The question is, how many people of color voice white characters? That’s all I’ll say.”