You’ve probably seen Damien Lemon on MTV 2’s Guy Code, or as the cabbie in one of those Spiderman movies or on Comedy Central’s The Half Hour. This month you can find him doing stand-up at The Stand. Lemon first walked onto the stage in 2005, when he performed at Sal’s Comedy Hole, and since then he’s been dishing out laid-back advice and commentary on race, sex and, yes, Uber drivers. Lemon, who also co-hosts a podcast called #InTheConversation and co-anchors MTV 2’s Not Exactly News gave us insight into the comedians he most looks up to, the “two different Brooklyns,” and how he transforms “fucked up” shit into jokes that hit.
The Stand is cool. It’s new, it’s a hip crowd. It’s one of my favorite places to perform in the city. I also like the [Comedy] Cellar a lot because of the lineups there and the people that just drop in. I got bumped by [Dave] Chappelle four times in one week at the Cellar. He’s the fucking comedy big foot. He typically bumps the entire show. With most comics you might get one or two comics bumped for 20 or 30 minutes. Chappelle might do an hour and a half.
How did he deal with all of that at such a young age? Because he was like 22 and he had huge fame. I want to know why he hasn’t returned to the stage. Is he reluctant to return to the stage because he doesn’t have anything to say? I can’t believe that. He was 22 years old and he’s 50 now, older than 50. There’s 30 years of shit he could talk about.
People know who I am. It’s built the audience quite a bit. It helps on the road. There’s two things about comedy. Obviously, in the community of comedians you want to be funny. But to make a living in comedy, you want to be known. It’s like you’re validated as a comedian once you’re on television.
Absolutely not. It’s bullshit. No, I’m joking. I try to be as truthful as possible, if I can. I want to be funny. When I first auditioned for Guy Code, the director Andy Stuckey was like, “Don’t worry about being funny. Just answer the question, however you feel it.” Because most of that show is comedians so the funny is going to be there, it’s just in how we deliver it. If you’re honest then that’s what will resonate – that feels true.
There’s a joke where I say round this time women are wearing less. You gotta remind yourself that you’ve seen women before. Take it easy. Don’t be a creep. Just be cool – you can appreciate certain shit. You can appreciate if a woman has nice tits, you can appreciate that. But don’t let that dictate which subway car you get on. Little shit like that. That’s very New York. And that hits.
I feel like there’s a war on the black population, on a certain level. You’re seeing so many black people, not even just black men, but black children being brutalized, shot and killed by the cops. It’s a tense fucking time racially. That definitely informs the act. It can get heavy at times because it’s uncomfortable. But I try to point it out because that’s what a comic is supposed to do — call attention to shit that’s fucked up and you hopefully bring change to it. Hopefully you bring about some empathy. There was a time when I was in Madison, Wisconsin where there was a young black kid who got shot and killed by cops. I do my show and there’s maybe seven black people amongst 300 people in the crowd, but I’m still going to do my act. You kind of feel people getting tight but I try to call attention to that, too. The goal is always to be funny. The goal is always to kill, to get into the deep issues. But this isn’t a TED talk – we’re not in school. It’s a delicate balance.
There’s two different Brooklyns. It’s like a totally different sensibility. Not totally different, I mean Brownsville is still Brownsville. East New York is still East New York. There are things like that but you saw, you remember certain blocks – you didn’t even fuck with that area. You didn’t even walk through that area even if you knew people on that block. Now you’ll drive through and see it is damn near all white. You’ll see young white women jogging dumb late at a place where shit used to go crazy at 6 pm.
Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, Bed-Stuy – those used to be heavily black. Bed-Stuy used to have the most black homeowners I think in all of New York City and it’s different now. Certain things are cool, but I feel like there’s this schism between the two. I used to see this when I was in college. I went to a college called Clark Atlanta University – a black college, HBCU. Oftentimes black colleges are in the middle of hood. There used to be this division of kids that used to come from wherever – California, New York – they came to this school in Atlanta and weren’t of the community. Then there’s the kids that lived in the projects. It’s two totally different existences. It doesn’t seem like it’s that inclusive. People are being displaced rather than, “Yo, enjoy!”
I used to do this joke about my pops not being in my life – my father leaving. I was like I wish it was like an iPhone app where you can find out who your father was. That was the first time I was ever on television. I was on “Russell Simmons Presents: The Ruckus.” I was like do we need another black kid talking about he ain’t have no father? But that’s me. It inspired this joke that hit so I was like fuck it, I got to do it. Once it becomes a joke you become desensitized to it. Sometimes a joke is deeper than you notice.