D.L. Hughley On 'How Not To Get Shot' : It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders'And Other Advice From White People.' That's his new book. D.L. also talks to Sam about infidelity, losing his father, the MeToo movement, and comedy in the era of Netflix.
At 55, D.L. Hughley has a lot going on. He's got a new book out, a satirical collection of advice for black people from white people called How Not To Get Shot. He hosts a daily commercial radio show. Soon he'll be out with a new stand-up special on Netflix.
"It has been such a creative space, and I've never felt clearer — which is the closest approximation as I can come to happiness," he told Sam.
Hughley is also meeting a moment. Since the days of his starring role in Spike Lee's The Original Kings of Comedy, which also featured Steve Harvey, Bernie Mac, and Cedric the Entertainer, Hughley has talked about race, policing, and social justice.
Now, he says, audiences are "more inclined to at least pretend like they care" about those topics.
"You have social media movements, and everything's a hashtag, and people are 'woke'," he says. "They're more tuned to that frequency."
But time doesn't discriminate. When Sam and Hughley spoke, barely two weeks had passed since Hughley lost his father to lung cancer.
My father has passed! He was there and held me when I took my first breath, I was there and held him when he took his last! I’ve never known a stronger man! Love u old man!
On Twitter he sounded happy to have been there, yet he told Sam that he regretted going, seeing his father struggle through his last breaths. He didn't want to, but his wife and sisters had urged him along. He was still having nightmares about it.
"I wish I'd listened to me instead of them," he said. "That wasn't worth it to me."
That study in contrasts — and Hughley's inability to be anything but publicly honest about them — was a theme in his conversation with Sam. Hughley said he supports the MeToo movement, but that accusers should not remain anonymous. He said Roseanne Barr is racist, but that ABC should not have fired her. He said he loves his wife of 32 years, but that he "never felt guilty about having other women."
"I'm a flawed individual," he said, adding he's always given his wife and daughters "the courtesy of not pretending to be something I'm not."
Hughley has spoken about all these subjects and more before. He is clearly not afraid to do so. But to hear him and Sam really unspool these contradictions, turn them over, examine them — and to hear Hughley's comfort with the shape of each of them in his life — it's hard not to come away feeling a bit contradicted, yourself.
— Producer Brent Baughman
On his first interaction with police, when he was eight, with his father in Los Angeles
So we're coming from getting some free lunch — you know, because in the summer they would give you free lunch — sheriffs screech up. They tell us to come here, to put our hands on the car. And they ask about this older cat in our neighborhood — 'Where is he? We're looking for him.'
We're like, 'I don't know, I don't know, we're just coming from lunch, I don't know.'
And [the police officer] said, 'Keep your hands on the hood.'
I said, 'Officer, this is hot.'
He said, 'Nigger, if you take your hands off this car, I'm gonna blow your head off.'
And I remember going home and talking to my mother and telling her what happened, and she called down to the station or whatever. But there was a look that she had that I think a lot of people of color have had with their interactions with their children. Which is to say: I hoped I could protect you. But I couldn't.
On advice for white people who want to be on the right side of the fight for racial equality
We seem to be on the wrong side of history every fifteen years. You ever notice that? I think it's a simple equation. The very accountability that they laud and say we should have in our communities? We should hold our apparatuses to.
Here's the thing that's interesting and plays out all the time. If I commit a crime and it's caught on video, all that D.A. will do — or prosecutor will do — is play that video, turn to the jury, and go, 'right here.'
If the same exact thing happens when somebody has a uniform on and they're in a position of authority, they'll go, 'We don't know what happened before this. We don't know [the officer's] frame of mind. We don't know the state he was in.'
So I think accountability is a great word if it works both ways. [White people] have to hold people accountable. They're going to sit on juries. They're going to be on social media. They're going to be a part of a community. So it's just not enough to want to do better.
On the advice he gave to is adult son, who has Asperger's, about interacting with police
I was very careful — one, because one of the things you've got to do with somebody who has Asperger's is repeat things, over and over again.
It was part that. But part of it — I said, 'I know you don't understand everything they're saying to you. So what I know to be true — I've never seen anything good about a black man talking to the police too much. So at a certain point, you answer the questions you can, and then say, "I don't want to be disrespectful, I'm not going to be speak anymore, call my parents and they'll bring a lawyer down here".'
On witnessing the death of his father from lung cancer several weeks ago, and wishing he hadn't
I lost my old man last Saturday. And everybody was telling me, 'You gotta be there.' My wife, my sisters: 'You gotta be there, he'll know you're there, he wants you there.'
So I got home from a gig — from the road — on Saturday and my old lady calls, and she goes, 'Your sister just called. Your father's death is imminent. You need to go.'
So I go.
I see this man who's my hero — fighting for breath. And that cough. And I remember at one point I said, 'Hey old man, I'm here, open your eyes, open your eyes.' And I was angry with him — because he was such a formidable — I just didn't believe that he couldn't summon the will up [to open his eyes].
Here was a wonderful human being who died of a horrible disease, who would be angry if he knew I saw it.
So my mother says, 'He's going.' We all rush in, and I'm holding his hand. And he takes this deep breath and never lets it out and his pulse just flutters and stops.
My wife and sisters went, 'This is beautiful.'
And I went, 'This is the most horrible thing I've ever seen in my life, and I wish I'd listened to me instead of them.'
I have nightmares about it. I know it's just been a week and a half, but I have nightmares about it. And I talked to a really great comic over the weekend, and he said that he'd gone through the same thing, and he still has those nightmares. And I'm like — that wasn't worth it to me. It wasn't.
On being open about infidelity with his wife of 32 years
I never felt guilty about having other women. I just didn't. There was an old line in a movie called Carlito's Way:'I didn't rehabilitate, I just ran out of wind.'
I feel bad about the things that I left in my wake. Like both my daughters have said, 'I want a man who's just like you and nothing like you at the same time.'
But I don't feel as if that is all I am, and I don't let myself off the hook for it. I understand I've caused pain. But I know that I love my woman and I love my family. And I'm a flawed individual who at least gives them the courtesy of not pretending to be something I'm not.
On the MeToo movement and his own actions toward women in the past
Here's what I'll tell you. I am not unaware of who I've been and the things I've done. I would like to believe that nothing I've done would border on illegality.
But I'll say this. I feel if somebody committed a murder in front of you, you would — as the only witness — have to take the stand. And say, 'Even though this horrible human being did this in front [of me] and is bringing up these horrible memories, I've got to face my accuser and say I did this.'
I think the standard is different. You shouldn't be able to make an allegation unless you're willing to take the other step and say those allegations out loud — which is what I definitely commend [Bill Cosby's accusers for doing], whether people like that or not.
But I do think at a certain level you have to have clarity. There are gradations of murder. They're lumping them all together now.
On whether he's changed his behavior in light of the MeToo movement
I have not. I can't think of a way I act now that I wouldn't have before.
Before there was a MeToo, there was a me. I'm a man, and there are certain things I wouldn't allow men to do around me. And anybody who knows me — any woman who's been in my presence — knows there are a lot of things you ain't going to be able to do around me.
I don't think I never needed a movement. I don't act any differently because I believe the way I've done things is at least honorable enough to hold my head up. I'm not saying I should have a statue, but I ain't got to hang my head in shame for a lot of the things I've done.
On supporting artists like R. Kelly or Kanye West
I talk about this all the time. If you make an album that's good enough, black people will make excuses for you.
Like I'll never buy Kanye West's music again, I don't care what he says. I'll never do it. But if you make an an album good enough, black people will be like, 'You know he ain't been the same since his mamma died.'
I think that black people, in my experience, have made a lot of excuses for people just cause — if you make us feel, evoke some emotion in us — like Michael Jackson, O.J. Simpson, Bill Cosby — that's how bad we need to feel good.
Brent Baughman produced and edited this interview for broadcast and adapted it for the Web.