(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")
SAM SANDERS, HOST:
From NPR, I'm Sam Sanders. IT'S BEEN A MINUTE. Today on the show, D.L. Hughley. He is a comedian and an actor and a radio host and a TV host and an author. Very, very busy man. I'm talking with D.L. this week because he's out with a new book. It is called "How Not To Get Shot: And Other Advice From White People." This book is a very satirical, very hilarious look at race relations today. Probably the most time spent in the book is on police-involved shootings of black people.
You know, but as timely as this story feels now, that topic, those themes about race and policing - it's been a thing that black people have been dealing with and talking about since maybe forever. And even D.L. Hughley himself was talking about this stuff back in the day. I first got to know him as a comic. He was all over BET's "ComicView." And he talked a lot about some of the same things in his book in this comedy special called "Kings Of Comedy." It is legendary. Spike Lee directed it. It's probably the only DVD that I still actually have in my possession. It's called "Kings Of Comedy." You probably want to check that out, too.
Anyways, this chat with D.L. Hughley - we talk about race a lot. We use the N word un-bleeped - just a warning for you all. We also talk about D.L.'s adult children. He has a son who has Asperger's. And he talks about that. And we get into #MeToo. We get into Roseanne. We get into Bill Cosby. It's a lot, but it's good. And we get a little sneak peek of D.L. Hughley's new comedy special, which is going to be out on Netflix very, very soon. All right. Let's get to it. Me and D.L. Hughley in our Culver City studios.
(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")
SANDERS: So I guess my first question to you is, given, that this is going to be an interview that is going to go onto the radio, I've got to point out you're coming here after you just finished your radio show.
D.L. HUGHLEY: Right. I finished my radio show, "The D.L. Hughley Show." It's an afternoon, terrestrial radio show.
HUGHLEY: So it's really kind of all the same thing.
SANDERS: How many hours a day do you do it?
HUGHLEY: Four - four.
SANDERS: Lord, God. How do you do that?
HUGHLEY: Well, it's just the same thing. It's, like, to me, whether you're writing a book or writing a stand-up special or doing a radio show or writing - it's the same source, different uses. Like the water that comes into your house - some you use to take a shower. Some you wash clothes with. Some you cook with. But same source, different uses. So it's all based on my perspective and what's going on. So it's...
SANDERS: Yeah. What'd you talk about today?
HUGHLEY: The young girl Nia Wilson who was killed in Oakland...
SANDERS: Yeah, that was crazy.
HUGHLEY: And then KTVU, Fox - a Fox affiliate...
SANDERS: Mmm hmm.
HUGHLEY: ...Used a picture of her holding a gun holster like, the - you know, like, the kids...
SANDERS: Aw, man.
HUGHLEY: And that was the picture that they used. And they used - they juxtaposed that...
SANDERS: Aw, man.
HUGHLEY: ...With the guy's picture who had - he had done a bit in prison, and he'd just got out. But they used - he looked like he was going to a hostile.
SANDERS: Oh, my goodness.
HUGHLEY: And she looked like she was going to...
SANDERS: To kill somebody.
HUGHLEY: ...Kill somebody.
SANDERS: Yeah, so we should back up and say this is an 18-year-old, young girl...
HUGHLEY: She was an 18-year-old, young girl on a BART.
SANDERS: ...Woman of color on the subway. And randomly, a white guy with a knife...
HUGHLEY: A deranged white guy stabbed...
SANDERS: Slit her throat.
HUGHLEY: Slit her throat and stabbed her sister, calmly wiped his knife off and walked away. And the station chose to use a picture that depicted her as, really, the more - you know, the more malicious...
HUGHLEY: ...And him as - and I think that that is indicative of - it's really kind of one of the reasons - and I've said this often - the most dangerous place for black people is in white people's imagination...
SANDERS: That's in the book.
HUGHLEY: ...Because they make the monsters of us that they feel - like, ever since our introduction to this country, they've been telling us who we were. They made a word up to describe us before they even knew us, like nigger. They couldn't - we couldn't have done all these things. Like, you were - but they have perpetuated an image of us that continues today that lets them kind of be, you know, as brutal as they want to because this is - they're maintaining society, and this is what has to happen.
SANDERS: Do you think it's getting better - - this way that we - that black people live in certain people's white imagination?
HUGHLEY: I don't think so. I think - well, obviously, economically, we've gotten better...
HUGHLEY: ...From a - from a, you know, standpoint. But when you look at...
SANDERS: I see your earrings.
SANDERS: Yeah. I see your earrings, you're doing good.
HUGHLEY: But when you look at the way that a kid can shoot up a school in Santa Fe - in Santa Fe High School in Texas...
HUGHLEY: ...And he can get arrested. But a kid in Sacramento has a phone, and he gets shot. So that means that the dude who has a gun is less dangerous to you than the black dude who you imagine had one.
SANDERS: Well, and - I want to get all of that. But first, we've got to ID and say you talk about these themes all throughout your book.
SANDERS: The book is called - I love this title. "How Not To Get Shot: And Other Advice From White People." It's this satire of race relations kind of in the age of Trump and Black Lives Matter, post-Obama.
HUGHLEY: Sure. Right.
SANDERS: But it is - the frame is that you write it for black people, breaking down advice that white people have previously given to black people. Hilarity in a sense...
HUGHLEY: About being black (laughter).
HUGHLEY: (Laughter) About what they would do if they were black.
SANDERS: Exactly. And - so, like, you have it all throughout here...
SANDERS: ...Some absurd advice that white people would give to black people on, you know, how to, you know, not get shot. What was the most absurd bit of advice that you can quote?
HUGHLEY: The most absurd - well, I guess an actual argument I had was with Geraldo Rivera. And he talked about Trayvon Martin. And he said, well, if you dress like a thug, you'll get treated like a thug, which in essence is the nation basically saying that this stereotype is OK.
HUGHLEY: And I think you look at - when you look at this rash of people that are calling the police on black people for innocuous reasons. The idea - the very same people who are doing that - it's really no different than when any white guy could walk up to a free black man and ask him for his papers. It's the same thing, asking if you belong here. Like, I had a white guy - I lived in Calabasas, you know, 18 years. My house is paid for. I lived in Calabasas.
HUGHLEY: I own my...
SANDERS: This is Kardashian country...
HUGHLEY: ...House. Right.
HUGHLEY: A guy - I've never seen you before. Well, I've never seen you before either, but my edict isn't to call the police on you.
SANDERS: (Laughter) Yeah.
HUGHLEY: Like I don't greet you with suspicion because I don't know you.
SANDERS: I'm just like, oh, it's a guy.
HUGHLEY: It's a guy. I don't go, well, because I don't know him, he is suspicious. Like, Tim Scott who, you know - he's a U.S. senator...
SANDERS: Republican congressman, yeah - senator.
HUGHLEY: Senator. He's gotten the police - he talked about how he got the police - his first year as a Senator, he had the police pull him over six times in one year.
HUGHLEY: And what does he have, a United States congress - senator...
HUGHLEY: What would he have that would be so outwardly suspicious that six people needed to pull him over?
SANDERS: Even besides that, being pulled over. There were times when he was at the Capitol. And they were like, are you sure you've got to go in here?
HUGHLEY: Right. Right.
SANDERS: It's - when did you first have that moment where someone was, like, you fit a description, and you shouldn't be here? I remember when it happened to me first. I was, like, a kid.
HUGHLEY: When did it happen to you first?
SANDERS: I was a band nerd all throughout school. And I was in marching band in high school. And it was either my freshman or sophomore year. My dad had dropped me off at band practice, but I forgot my saxophone. So I said, Dad, swing around. Go back and get it for me, please. And I'll be waiting by the back door because you can drop it off quicker. While I'm waiting outside of the band hall at my high school, these cops roll up. And they were, like, hey, what are you doing here? And I was like, oh, I'm just waiting, you know, for my dad to bring my saxophone. And they were like, well, there's some kids that fit the description that were trying to steal some stuff from the band thing and whatever. And I didn't think anything of it. I was young. But I said, no, I - I'm here. But about a day or two later, I was like, oh, it happened.
SANDERS: And then, of course, there's many other times that it's been happening since.
HUGHLEY: Right. Right.
SANDERS: And you find certain ways to deal with it, right?
SANDERS: Like, you - in certain situations, you're going to have your hands where people can see. Or if I'm in a grocery store, I want a bag for my groceries.
SANDERS: You know, I want the receipt. Those little things. Anyways, when was your first time?
HUGHLEY: When I - you know, to your point, when I - if I'm in a gym at a hotel working out, and little white kids come in, I leave.
HUGHLEY: Because I'm, like, I'm not about to have nobody say nothing. I mean, I'm...
SANDERS: (Laughter) Yeah.
HUGHLEY: Or if - if you find yourself trying to make an excuse for you being who you are or to signal to them that you're not - I'm not the guy that...
SANDERS: I'm not the bad guy...
HUGHLEY: Yeah, right.
SANDERS: It happens with me a lot when I, like, see a cute little infant, a little baby.
SANDERS: I'm like, that's a cute baby.
HUGHLEY: Right. Right.
SANDERS: And then some folks are like, who is this black man looking at my baby?
HUGHLEY: Right. Right.
SANDERS: And you see it in their eyes.
HUGHLEY: But the first time, I was - I grew up, here, Los Angeles, 135th and Avalon.
SANDERS: Mmm hmm.
HUGHLEY: And, you know, I grew up like a regular kid, to the extent that you know what regular is.
SANDERS: Now, what neighborhood would that be?
HUGHLEY: It would be the - it was 135th and Avalon - so it would be - the neighborhood was - there were Bloods, and it was...
HUGHLEY: It was a - I loved this neighborhood. I mean, my old man just passed. And we were all over - and I remembered how much it had given me.
HUGHLEY: But - so we're coming from - getting some free lunch, you know, because in the summer, they would give you free lunch. And sort of...
HUGHLEY: ...Sheriffs screech up. They tell us to come here, to put our hands on the car. And they ask about this older kid in our neighborhood, and where is he? We're looking for him. Like, I don't - we don't - I don't - we're just coming from lunch. I don't know.
SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah.
HUGHLEY: So he said, keep your hands on the hood. I said, officer, it's hot.
SANDERS: How old were you?
HUGHLEY: I was 8.
SANDERS: You were 8 years old...
HUGHLEY: 8 years old.
SANDERS: ...And they had you with your hands on the hood of the car.
HUGHLEY: I said, officer, this is hot.
HUGHLEY: He said, nigger, if you take your hands off this car, I'm going to blow your head off. And I - everything I ever thought about crystalized at that moment. I remember going home, 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 - in an interaction with their children which is to say, I hoped it would - I could protect you, but I couldn't.
SANDERS: Here it is, right now.
HUGHLEY: And now I have to tell - you know...
SANDERS: And you're only 8.
HUGHLEY: And you're only 8.
SANDERS: There's always that moment when you're, like - well, like, when you see your parents...
SANDERS: ...They sink a little bit.
HUGHLEY: And I didn't - I didn't really recognize it until, you know, later in accidents. Seeing all the - like, the most stark example was a kid in Chicago. And the police pull up, and they had this boy handcuffed. And he pees on himself. And everybody is out there. And then they let him go because he wasn't the guy that they thought. He had the same experience I had 50 years and thousands of miles removed.
SANDERS: Yeah. You know, the premise of the book is breaking down white advice for black people.
SANDERS: When you were 8 and had that experience, or when you were growing up having those experiences, what were the white folks telling you?
HUGHLEY: Well, I didn't see - you see, I had no...
SANDERS: You didn't see them.
HUGHLEY: I had no experience with them. I grew up in a very...
SANDERS: Other than the police.
HUGHLEY: Every black person - every white person that lived in my neighborhood was an insurance man, a policeman or a teacher.
HUGHLEY: (Laughter) So yeah. But I had the teachers, but they can only - you know, I don't begrudge people - their vantage point because it's intrinsically theirs. They - like, one thing I came to realize, I lived in Los Angeles my whole life, and I would watch game shows, and they would say, well, this - I live in Los Angeles. But I never - I was like, not in my part of LA. One time I went to West LA...
SANDERS: Yeah. OK.
HUGHLEY: ...By UCLA. It's West LA. And I went, oh, this is...
SANDERS: That's that LA. Yeah.
HUGHLEY: And their policing is different than ours.
SANDERS: Can I tell you this story that I've actually - I wasn't even thinking to tell you. But it is so indicative of how you're treated differently based on where you are. I don't bring it up too much. I'm not tooting my own horn, but I got my master's degree at Harvard. And I lived right in Harvard Square. In our first month of school, all the students are meeting, throwing a bunch of parties.
And one group of students that lived in a big, old group house - like, five of them - had a big, old house party. Everyone gets really drunk. Everyone gets really loud. The police officers are called. And we're like, oh, my goodness. Like, the cops are here. I was past the age of, like, running out the house.
SANDERS: I don't do that, you know...
SANDERS: ...'Cause I don't want my back to them.
SANDERS: But I was there. And then they ended up arresting one of the guys in the house. I'm not going to name him, but he's Asian-American. And I will never forget this. These white Cambridge PD police officers had that Asian dude arrested. And I talked him out of those handcuffs. It was - like, it was unbelievable. And then I thought about that. And I was like, this is not Texas. It's just not Texas.
SANDERS: It's not even Boston across the river.
HUGHLEY: No. It ain't Southie. It ain't - damn sure ain't that.
SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.
HUGHLEY: It's not that at all.
SANDERS: And like even now, like, I - you know, once the people in the neighborhood know you, and you're in the nice neighborhood, you are - like, you can, at a certain point, become other than their caricature.
HUGHLEY: But - except those people move in and out.
HUGHLEY: But then you've got to...
SANDERS: You've got to make it a point to let the new ones know.
HUGHLEY: The new ones know. And it's always - it's so disconcerting. And, you know, with particularly telling about the story that you told where we're, like I said, thousands of miles apart. You know, eons in terms of experiences. I didn't go to Harvard, you know? And so...
SANDERS: I barely went.
HUGHLEY: But how there are ways that your experiences taught you to be.
SANDERS: Oh, yeah.
HUGHLEY: They are only informed by the fact you're black.
HUGHLEY: Like, you knew...
HUGHLEY: ...What to say. It wasn't the white - you knew their language. You got it.
SANDERS: I knew how to deal with these officers.
HUGHLEY: That's right.
HUGHLEY: Because you know what to say because you have been...
SANDERS: I've been there.
HUGHLEY: Like, I don't care who you are. You were going to Harvard. And your parents, at some point, told you that you were different and at some point told you you would be treated differently and that...
SANDERS: They never wanted to give me the sex talk. They gave me the police talk...
HUGHLEY: That's right.
SANDERS: ...The black talk all the time.
HUGHLEY: Look, even if you could be a teenager - we ain't going to talk to you about sex.
HUGHLEY: But we are going to talk (laughter)...
SANDERS: Oh, yeah. I remember. And no shade on my parents. I love them both.
SANDERS: They're amazing.
SANDERS: My dad was scared to do it at all. So he, like, outsources sex talk to my mom. And literally, it was all of - like, it was two things - don't date a white girl...
SANDERS: ...And then don't have sex until marriage. That was the sex talk.
HUGHLEY: The funny thing about that is even when they say don't date a white girl, it wasn't racism. It was that all our parents had that fear that you could be in the situation where her parents didn't like you, or somebody saw you with her and didn't like you, or she could say that you had forced yourself. They lived with this constant state of fear.
HUGHLEY: They all have a story about a guy...
HUGHLEY: ...That got caught up in some [expletive].
SANDERS: Oh, yeah.
HUGHLEY: They all do.
SANDERS: All right. Time for a break here. When we come back - how D.L. Hughley has talked to his own kids about race and the difference between that conversation with his son and with his daughters. BRB.
(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")
SANDERS: There are going to be a lot of listeners to this show who are white...
SANDERS: ...And say, I actually want to be active on this stuff. I actually want to help. I'm going to read this book. I want to be on the right side of this kind of disparity. What do you say to them?
HUGHLEY: We seem to be on the wrong side of history every 15 years. Like, you ever notice that?
SANDERS: Oh (laughter).
HUGHLEY: We're on the wrong side. I think it's a simple equation. The very accountability that they laud and say that we should be - we should have in our communities are the very ones we should hold apparatuses to. If a police officer kills someone - look. Here's the thing that's very interesting and happens to play itself all time.
If I commit a crime, and it's caught on video, all that DA will do - a prosecutor would 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 his frame of mind. We don't know the state he was in.
SANDERS: What are the mitigating circumstances?
SANDERS: Et cetera.
HUGHLEY: So I think it's OK to be - I think accountability is a great word if it works both ways. And it's - if you see something, it probably is that.
SANDERS: What about the white folks hearing you now that want to do better?
HUGHLEY: Then they have to hold people accountable. I mean, they're going to sit on juries. They're going to have social media mentions. They're going to be a part of a community. So it's just not enough to want to do better. It's to be active about it.
SANDERS: I want to go back to your family. How old is - how old are your children? And what do you tell them about this stuff?
HUGHLEY: My oldest daughter is 30. She'll be 31. She - 30. My youngest - my son is 29. My youngest daughter is 27.
SANDERS: When they were kids...
SANDERS: ...Walk me through the talk that you had with him.
HUGHLEY: Well, you know, obviously, for your girls, it's a little bit different for your boys. But...
SANDERS: How different?
HUGHLEY: ...Be - you know, naively, I just thought that they wouldn't find themselves in the same - well, my son is autistic. He has Asperger's syndrome, which, you know...
SANDERS: That's an added layer of...
HUGHLEY: Yeah. So that was always...
SANDERS: ...Confusion for police officers.
HUGHLEY: Yeah. And so I, you know - I just was very careful, one, because one of the things you've got to do with somebody with, you know, Asperger's syndrome is kind of repeat...
HUGHLEY: ...The things over and over again. So maybe 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 out of a black man talking to the police too much. I've never seen a good thing. I've never seen a good thing come from talking too much. But at a certain point...
SANDERS: You just stop talking.
HUGHLEY: ...You answer the questions you can and then say, I don't want to be disrespectful. I'm not going to speak anymore. Call my parents. And they'll bring a lawyer down here.
SANDERS: Did he ever get caught up in a situation where he did that?
HUGHLEY: Yes, he did. And he told them the exact, same thing that I told them to. And they let him go.
HUGHLEY: Yeah. And he came...
SANDERS: What did they stop him for?
HUGHLEY: Coming from a party in Hollywood. And he matched the description.
SANDERS: Matched description.
HUGHLEY: And they got to asking him all these questions. And where'd he come from? And - you know, and he - you know, I gave them his name, his ID. And then they started asking for - he said I don't, you know, I'm not trying to be disrespectful. I know you have a job to do. But I've answered the question to the best of my ability. Call my parents.
SANDERS: When they called you, did you answer the phone?
HUGHLEY: They didn't call. They let him go.
SANDERS: Oh, before they even called.
SANDERS: Because my next question would be, like, as a black parent, when you get a call saying, this is the police department, I can't even imagine what that feels like.
HUGHLEY: Well, I've had it with my daughters who turned out to have some (laughter)...
SANDERS: Uh-oh. What'd they do? (Laughter).
HUGHLEY: My two - I don't want to tell their business.
HUGHLEY: But suffice it to say, they were the criminals. He was the good guy.
SANDERS: (Laughter). How was your talk for them different? You said, naively, it wasn't the same.
HUGHLEY: Well, yeah. Just be careful and be respectful. And, you know, because there was always this notion that they wouldn't deem them the threat that there was with him. So I probably was a little bit negligent in talking to them about - because I just never...
SANDERS: Do you think society sees black women as less of a threat?
HUGHLEY: I think that black women appeal to them in a different way. And they maybe have a - you know, a fear of them. But it's not as innate, not as primal as it is with black men. Like, in one of the things - one of the next books I want to write is how to find your smile because if you look at black men through generations, we're never smiling. And one of the things they talk about - black men that they like, one of the things they like in black men - like, the greatest black men. If you talk about Magic Johnson, what is it? You talk about his smile.
SANDERS: His smile. Yeah.
HUGHLEY: What do you - if you talk about - he's so fun to be around. All the black men that society's embraced had a way of making society feel welcome and comfortable.
SANDERS: Feel comfortable. I've been trying this new thing now in life, like, just to see what would happen if I didn't smile.
SANDERS: And in some...
HUGHLEY: Well, prisons happen.
HUGHLEY: You don't need to...
SANDERS: Yeah (laughter).
HUGHLEY: You don't need to see what happens. I'll tell you what happens in the - locked up abroad. That's what happens.
SANDERS: (Laughter) Abroad.
HUGHLEY: But it is. Look at our - look. Go back in your history, your family and look at the litany of black men standing together not smiling. Why is that? Who - I wonder who stole your smile. And it's because from the time we've been here, we have been told who we were.
HUGHLEY: And so all the time that we're here, we're playing either, I don't want people to think I'm this, or I don't want people to think I'm that.
SANDERS: Yeah. Or I'm not going to show you anything behind this poker face.
HUGHLEY: Right. That's right.
SANDERS: You're not going to know what's going on here.
HUGHLEY: That's right. So it's really interesting...
SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.
HUGHLEY: ...And very funny to me.
SANDERS: So then with all of that...
SANDERS: ...Seeing the factors that black women are facing...
SANDERS: ...And black men are facing, as someone who is married to a black woman...
HUGHLEY: Even my mistresses have been black. I want you to say that. They - all of...
SANDERS: I wasn't going to bring it up. But OK. We can bring it up.
HUGHLEY: Even my mistresses have been black.
SANDERS: What do you - and you've talked about working on your marriage and getting past infidelity issues. But, like...
SANDERS: ...You cheated. Then you didn't cheat. What's going on?
HUGHLEY: Well, here's the thing. I never felt guilty about having other women. I just didn't.
SANDERS: How long have you been married?
HUGHLEY: Thirty-two years. I just didn't. And I don't know that I - there was an old line in a movie, "Carlito's Way." And he said, I didn't rehabilitate. I ran out of wind.
HUGHLEY: But I don't - there are ways that I see things and the way that I interpret things in a way. And I just - I don't feel - I feel bad about the things that I've left in my wake and the things that - you know, like, my daughter said, I want my - both my daughters have said, I want a man who's just like you and nothing like you at the same time.
SANDERS: How does that feel to hear?
HUGHLEY: That feels - well, I guess it feels good and bad (laughter).
SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.
HUGHLEY: I mean, I guess it's sweet and sour. So - but I don't feel as if that is all I am.
HUGHLEY: 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. 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.
SANDERS: She forgave you, I'm guessing.
HUGHLEY: Forgave me a couple - a lot of times.
SANDERS: When did it stop?
HUGHLEY: It's like - what do you say to those drug...
SANDERS: Always an addict.
HUGHLEY: What is it? One day at a time? One day at a time. Yeah, yeah.
SANDERS: OK, OK. But you feel good about where it is right now for you?
HUGHLEY: I do. I feel good. Yeah, well, you know, I - feeling good, for me, is never as - like, I hear people say things like that. I don't know that I feel good as much as I know that I feel clear.
SANDERS: It's probably worth...
HUGHLEY: Yeah, yeah. Maybe. We'll see (laughter). We'll see.
SANDERS: Also, the thing about feeling good, it's like - there's probably something going to piss you off at least once a day.
SANDERS: It's OK to be pissed off. I think...
HUGHLEY: It is.
SANDERS: ...There is a certain ethos in, like, the self-care, self-help mentality that I see so prevalent today. Like, you should always find a way to always be happy.
HUGHLEY: And you know what? It's so prevalent because my - I lost my old man last Saturday.
SANDERS: Oh, my God. I'm so sorry.
HUGHLEY: And everybody was telling me, you've got to be there - like, my wife and my sisters.
HUGHLEY: You've got to be there. He'll know you're there. He - you want to - he wants you...
SANDERS: There. Be in the service.
HUGHLEY: ...Being there with him at - you know, I'm talking about while he was...
SANDERS: As he died.
HUGHLEY: As he is dying.
SANDERS: What did he have?
HUGHLEY: He had stage 4 lung cancer.
HUGHLEY: And so as he was laying - first off, two things I found remarkable. It was - one is the best conversations I've ever had with my father where ones he couldn't talk. So it...
SANDERS: Me, too.
HUGHLEY: Like, all we had to do to have a great relationship was for you to shut up.
HUGHLEY: I just hate that it was cancer.
HUGHLEY: But so, you know, and I, you know, got - like, when he was lucid, he said things. And when I was - but I got home from a gig from the road on Saturday. And my old lady calls. And she goes your sister just called. Death is - your father's death is imminent.
SANDERS: He was in LA.
HUGHLEY: You need to go. Yeah, he's in LA. So I go - I vacillate back and forth with I don't want to go. I don't want to go. I don't want to go. I don't want to go.
SANDERS: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
HUGHLEY: So I go. I see this man, who's my hero, fighting for breath. And that cough...
HUGHLEY: ...And the way their eyes are half opened...
HUGHLEY: ...And they can't hear you.
HUGHLEY: And I'm like so - 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. Like, he was - because he's such a formidable...
SANDERS: He's your hero.
HUGHLEY: ...I just didn't believe that he couldn't summon the will up.
HUGHLEY: So at one point, he raises his hand. And he - it brushed against my face. And it falls down. And I know that it was a muscle spasm. But they believe...
SANDERS: It was...
HUGHLEY: ...It was...
SANDERS: What do you choose to believe? Because there's a lot of stuff that happened. When my dad was dying, I was like, that meant something more.
HUGHLEY: I choose to believe the truth.
HUGHLEY: And the truth was he was a wonderful human being who died of a horrible disease...
HUGHLEY: ...Who would be a - he would be angry if he knew I saw it.
SANDERS: Saw him suffer like that.
HUGHLEY: It was - when he died - so we - my mother rests. And so we just go hours of this. And then you have the hospice care nurse who, you know, is as sensitive as you can be, knowing that you've got another shift of this tomorrow.
HUGHLEY: So she's there. And they're there. And they're trying to - the oxygen. And he's struggling to breathe. And my mother - she says he's going. So we all rush in. And I'm holding his hand. And he takes his breath. And he never lets it out. And then his pulse just flutters and stops.
SANDERS: So you felt - you were there in the moment.
HUGHLEY: I felt it. And I went - my wife and sisters went, this was beautiful. He went the way - and I went, this is the most horrible thing I've ever seen in my life. And I wish I had listened to me instead of them because their version of what needs to happen and happiness and what's complete is so much different than what - I have nightmares about it every - now, I know it's just been a week a half.
But I have nightmares about it every time. And I talked to a really good - a really great comic over the weekend that was giving me a hard time. And he said that he'd gone through the same thing. And he still has those nightmares. I'm like, what - that wasn't worth it to me.
HUGHLEY: It wasn't.
HUGHLEY: So people's notion of what happiness is and what, you know, being - is so much different than mine. I would rather be clear. And it was clear I loved him. It was clear he loved me.
HUGHLEY: And the last time I saw him was three weeks before he died. And I'm talking about, even though I had been in his presence physically, he wasn't there for three weeks. It was just medicine and technology.
SANDERS: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
HUGHLEY: So that was a long, convoluted way of saying that, you know, happiness and complete and all that kind of stuff is so much different for people.
HUGHLEY: And it doesn't serve me like the people...
HUGHLEY: It's not built as advertised. I'll say that.
SANDERS: OK. Have you - I did this thing where, like - so my dad died when I was 18. And, like, bit by bit, month by month, I would begin to look back over our childhood and see all of the things he was doing for my brother and I that I didn't even notice. And I think I realized, finally, a few years after he was gone that, like, being a black father is so much harder than any black child will know...
HUGHLEY: Right, until they're a father.
SANDERS: ...Until he's gone. Until they're a father.
HUGHLEY: Until they're a father.
SANDERS: Is there a moment that you've seen in the last week, looking back on his life, where you say...
HUGHLEY: Yeah. You know, I just never - to me, he was one of those cats that never smiled. And he was a guy who - I remember I was - it's so funny you mentioned this because this is the first time in a week and a half that I've thought of an image that didn't revolve him - remind...
SANDERS: ...Of death.
HUGHLEY: Didn't - so I was a kid. And I was on this guy's grass in our neighborhood. And I was sitting with his granddaughter. She - we were in her grass. He staggers out. He's drunk. He has a gun in his belt. He waves the pistol. Stay off my grass. The kid - neighborhood kids couldn't wait to tell my father. So they run down there. And they tell my father that this man that pulled a gun on me. And my father gets up out of his chair. And I am grabbing his leg. No, he didn't. Please, he didn't.
HUGHLEY: He didn't do it.
SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.
HUGHLEY: Please. Please. And he drags me, literally.
HUGHLEY: And he walks up to the man and said, did you pull a gun on this one? He didn't. He was...
HUGHLEY: And he, you know...
SANDERS: How many of y'all were there?
HUGHLEY: It was four of us.
HUGHLEY: But we want this one, right?
HUGHLEY: And he goes - and the dude was incoherent. And he pulls the pistol out. And he slaps that man with that pistol.
SANDERS: Wait. Your dad took that man's pistol, slapped that man in his face, pistol whipped...
HUGHLEY: My dad slapped that man, pistol whipped that man...
HUGHLEY: ...And threw it on the grass and said, come on.
HUGHLEY: That - and that, I'll - from that moment on, I never had a superhero. I didn't. Everybody else thought Batman was [expletive]. I thought that man was.
HUGHLEY: I had never - I've never...
HUGHLEY: ...To date - and I've been in the presence of men who - I've never to date seen a man as formidable as he was.
SANDERS: My thing with my dad that I noticed more the older I get - like, he would do this thing that my brother and I would make fun of all the time growing up. He would be perfectly happy sitting alone in a quiet room - wide awake, just sitting there.
SANDERS: And we were like, what the hell is wrong with you, man? Like, he loved to watch TV, but, some days, he would just sit. Like, what's going on? What are you doing? And now, I'm, like, he was Zen. He had it figured out. Like, he had this level of peace with himself and the world that, like, I'll probably never get to. And...
HUGHLEY: You might, man. I'm...
SANDERS: I hope so.
HUGHLEY: You know, it may not look like - you know what's so funny? I remember my father doing the same thing.
HUGHLEY: And I asked him, why are you sitting by yourself? And, like, he would always be sitting in his van...
HUGHLEY: ...Or always be sitting off by himself.
HUGHLEY: And I was, like, wow. This is as close as that dude is ever going to come to having a vacation.
HUGHLEY: Like, literally - like, that's the best it gets for him.
SANDERS: That's it.
All right. Time for one more break. On the other side, D.L. talks #MeToo and Roseanne, and his answers on both topics will most likely surprise you. Be right back.
I can't have you in this room and not talk with you about your comedy. I was watching you on "ComicView" back in the day.
HUGHLEY: Oh, yeah.
SANDERS: I was watching you on "Kings Of Comedy" back in the day - still, in my opinion, the best comedy special of all time - I'm not saying that - I mean it.
HUGHLEY: Thank you, man.
SANDERS: You in that yellow suit...
HUGHLEY: Oh, yeah.
SANDERS: ...Did it.
HUGHLEY: That was a...
SANDERS: Do you still have the suit?
SANDERS: (Laughter) Where's the suit?
HUGHLEY: Yes. I keep hoping that Hollywood - Planet Hollywood is going to ask for it.
HUGHLEY: Like, I hope it's a - like, somebody, like, asks for it, and I'm, yes, I still have the suit - in plastic, ready to go.
SANDERS: Stop it.
HUGHLEY: And I can't fit it. It's too big.
SANDERS: It's too big (laughter).
HUGHLEY: It is. It is.
SANDERS: Describe this suit for folks that haven't seen it.
HUGHLEY: It was a yellow-mustard wide suit. All you have to do is look at the Steve Harvey collection - that's the suit...
HUGHLEY: ...Just in mustard yellow.
SANDERS: There is this scene where you're talking about the difference between white people and black people. And I watched it yesterday, and I said, this could be a line in this book today. I'm just going to play it.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE ORIGINAL KINGS OF COMEDY")
HUGHLEY: White folk do [expletive] for excitement we don't do - always got to ski and bungee jump and skydive. Black folk, you'll never bungee jump - that's too much like lynching for us.
HUGHLEY: So I'm going to let you tie a rope around me and push me off a bridge?
HUGHLEY: You must be out your [expletive] mind.
HUGHLEY: Let me do you. I do you. [Expletive] that.
HUGHLEY: We don't have to do [expletive] for excitement. It's hard enough just to be black [expletive] with all that.
HUGHLEY: We have enough excitement in our lives trying to do regular [expletive].
HUGHLEY: They talk to you at work - what are you going to do for excitement today? I'm going to drive past the police and try not to get my [expletive] whupped, and then...
HUGHLEY: ...I'm going to fill out this loan application that's been denied 50 times. And...
HUGHLEY: ...Then I'm going to pull my wallet out and hope I don't get shot 41 times. That's the [expletive] I'm going to do.
SANDERS: The same stuff that was resonating then...
SANDERS: ...Is an issue for all of us now.
HUGHLEY: Yeah. It never - you know, now it's - when I think about it, I'd always wanted to - I think I've always had the same sentiment - you know, the same mentality or the same sentiment...
HUGHLEY: ...As I always felt the same way. I think society wasn't tuned to that frequency now. And now, you know, they're kind of more tuned to that frequency.
HUGHLEY: I think it's a lot of things. I think now they're more inclined to at least pretend like they care, you know?
SANDERS: They being?
HUGHLEY: The society in general. Like, you have, you know, the social media movements. And, you know, everything's a hash tag, and people are woke. And now, you know - the metrics, the frequency wasn't tuned to that. People were just - they were in a different place.
SANDERS: Comedy has changed so much.
SANDERS: I was thinking about that special and how I consumed it and how I watched it - and, what was it? - like, a two-hour special...
SANDERS: ...Before commentary, so it had a - on a DVD. Netflix has changed everything.
SANDERS: Streaming has changed everything.
SANDERS: As someone who is an OG of the game, watching the comedic - the comedy landscape now, how different is it for you?
HUGHLEY: Well, you know, it's funny. I just shot a Netflix special...
HUGHLEY: ...May 11, so it'll be out in September.
HUGHLEY: But it just comes on.
HUGHLEY: So it's just - there's no - like, it's just the air day...
SANDERS: What's it called? Because you have to call it book titles.
HUGHLEY: It's called "Contrarian" - "Contrarian."
SANDERS: No, you need it to have a title like one of these.
HUGHLEY: No, it's - because - you know, because these comedy specials are, like - I've always had - I've done 11 of them, but they always had the one name.
HUGHLEY: But, to your point, it is all about people having what they want when they want it. And how do you - and that's a very cluttered environment.
SANDERS: It's so cluttered.
HUGHLEY: So how do you - but I feel bad for entertainers, period, because now it's so much more communal than it would've been. Like, my manager can weigh in. My - I'm not talking about me. If I'm - because I pay - if I pay you, you're going to do, like...
SANDERS: (Laughter). You're going to do what I say.
HUGHLEY: ...Shut up about not doing what I say.
HUGHLEY: But, you know, the audiences train the entertainers as - it's, like, almost like this. All of a sudden, we start painting portraits instead of painting what we painted. Now people want portraits. Now people...
SANDERS: Explain. Like...
HUGHLEY: People want - they want - it's like telling Michelangelo, I want you to paint my family portrait.
SANDERS: So you're saying that this collective social media buzz...
SANDERS: ...Informs the art that you can make.
HUGHLEY: That's right.
SANDERS: And I also think that a lot of consumers of media, myself included - we want to go to stuff to be affirmed and not to be challenged.
HUGHLEY: Right. And - but art - the definition of art is challenge.
SANDERS: Yeah. What - is there a thing that you felt like you couldn't go into into your new special, given the current climate?
HUGHLEY: I will tell you this...
HUGHLEY: ...That there is a conversation that the - because Netflix is kind of the new frontier. It's kind of the way...
SANDERS: It's scary.
HUGHLEY: It really is because - like, it's Amazon. It's all - but there's a bit that they didn't tell me not to do.
HUGHLEY: But they said, you know, last time we did this kind of thing, the guy - you know, it was - you know...
HUGHLEY: He said something like this, and this was...
SANDERS: Can you give me the topic?
HUGHLEY: It was about my son and his diagnosis...
SANDERS: His Asperger's.
HUGHLEY: ...And how I dealt with it.
SANDERS: OK. So you were joking about Asperger's.
HUGHLEY: Yeah. They were, like, did - can we get him to sign a waiver? I'm, like, he live with me for free. That's the way...
SANDERS: They asked your son...
HUGHLEY: Yes. Like...
HUGHLEY: They asked me, could I get my son - I'm like - but, you know, it's - it was a little more to it than that. But, ultimately, everybody wants to be safe.
SANDERS: That's the thing.
HUGHLEY: And we can't guarantee you that. If you want to be safe, ride a roller coaster. And even that isn't safe.
SANDERS: Well, and also, I think that we are performing a certain performative safety that lets us feel like we've done something - when the big stuff we haven't figured out yet.
HUGHLEY: Of course not.
SANDERS: And if someone can say, I did my woke thing for the day by tweeting to D.L., saying that joke was wrong...
SANDERS: You can feel like you've done something.
SANDERS: But your son is still going to go out...
HUGHLEY: I'm not going to...
SANDERS: ...Get shot by the police.
HUGHLEY: Just like Roseanne - I didn't think Roseanne...
HUGHLEY: ...Should have been fired because I don't think she'd have been hired. But ABC...
HUGHLEY: ...Is so - like, I thought that she - you, everybody knew who she was. Everybody knew what she did. I like Roseanne personally. I think she's...
SANDERS: Is she cool?
HUGHLEY: She - well, you know, I...
SANDERS: You've hung out with her.
HUGHLEY: I make allowances for people who are talented that...
HUGHLEY: ...Are in my kind of...
HUGHLEY: They're in my get-down that I can, you know...
SANDERS: So you're saying that you and Roseanne back in the green room - you'll be nice (unintelligible).
HUGHLEY: She makes me laugh, and it's not - I don't feel a sense of animus. But I do very much believe she's a racist, and I do believe that that was - there was no - you know, like, when she says, I didn't know she was white. Well, you knew that Susan Rice was white - black, and you called her a gorilla in 2013. And ABC - we didn't know - well, you did know. You wanted her audience. And you did the same thing with Rush Limbaugh and that audience. You want to get the luxury of appealing to a certain mindset but then pretending like you didn't know what they were doing. Rush Limbaugh did exactly what he was going to do, which was be racist, and Roseanne did exactly what she was going to do, which was be racist.
SANDERS: But you still say that she should not have been fired.
HUGHLEY: I think once you made the decision to take that - on that mantle, you go for the whole ride.
SANDERS: As in, ABC should have just...
SANDERS: You banked on this. You knew what she was.
HUGHLEY: You know what she was. You just hoped - I don't even know what you hoped. You knew what would happen.
SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah.
HUGHLEY: That's why you put her on when you did.
SANDERS: Because they knew that this was a time in which that's...
HUGHLEY: That's why they put her on when they did. That's all strategic. You can't tell me that happens by accident.
SANDERS: Has there been anyone that has been pushed out of the conversation, lost a job because a controversial comment was made, and you say that was wrong?
HUGHLEY: I think that everybody - I don't think - I think that this whole #MeToo movement - I think that we're lumping them all together. I think that they're all the same conversation. I think that you can't have a serious conversation about a movement that's going to bring people to heel or to justice when you have two men - one black, one white - they both work for NBC. They both were accused by dozens of women of sexual assault. Now the black one's in the big house, and the white one's in the White House. And yet you want me to have a serious conversation...
SANDERS: You're talking about Bill Cosby.
HUGHLEY: You'll go back in time and readjusticate this, I think, based on a - you know, 25 years ago, you can judge - and how far are we going back? Are we going back as far as Thomas Jefferson? Because if you think that Harvey Weinstein was bad...
SANDERS: Hearing you talk about it, it seems as if there's an environment in which you think that, like, allegations could come for everybody at some point. Do you think they could come from (unintelligible).
HUGHLEY: Of course. Well, I wouldn't be shocked - here's what I'll tell you - that I am not unaware of who I've been and the things I've done. I would like to put myself in this - I would like to believe that there's nothing I've done that would border illegality. But I'm not in somebody else's position, and I know...
SANDERS: Well, and also, for lots of folks, there's - the threshold is not legal.
SANDERS: It's appropriateness.
HUGHLEY: Right. Well, I've done a ton of inappropriate stuff. But I'll say this - that I feel as if - if somebody committed a murder in front of you, somebody did something heinous to your family in front of you, it wouldn't - you would, as the only witness, have to take the stand and say, even though this horrible human being that is in front of you and is bringing up all kinds of memories, I've got to face my accuser and say I did this. I think the standard is different. I think that you shouldn't be able to make an allegation unless you willing to take the other step and say those allegations out loud and to do - which is what I definitely commend - the young lady who went in front of Cosby, you know, whether people like that or not. I think she did what you are supposed to do when somebody is wrong. You face...
HUGHLEY: ...Your accuser and say, hey, that's who did it.
SANDERS: Do you think that men in positions of power like yourself...
SANDERS: ...Have a greater responsibility now...
HUGHLEY: I think power...
SANDERS: ...When you see that stuff to say, hold on?
HUGHLEY: I think we can assign whatever label we'd like. Power means my ability to influence your life in some kind of way. So having celebrity and influence is probably more appropriate. But I think that men are doing what they've always done, which is - and I think that it's the reason you'll see - how did Harvey Weinstein get that girl? Because he was rich and powerful. You know, so we can't - but I do think, at a certain level, you have to have a level of clarity. You can't have - like, there are degree - there are gradations of murder.
SANDERS: Yes. They're - yeah.
HUGHLEY: There's not a...
SANDERS: There's not just one murder.
HUGHLEY: Right. Like, they're lumping them all together now.
SANDERS: Have you changed your behavior in light of #MeToo?
HUGHLEY: I have not.
SANDERS: Even in terms of just, like, saying something if you see something?
HUGHLEY: I have not.
SANDERS: So it's - OK...
HUGHLEY: I can't think of a way I act now that I don't - that I wouldn't have before.
SANDERS: Do you think that's cool?
HUGHLEY: I don't know. We'll know in a minute.
HUGHLEY: We'll know in a minute.
HUGHLEY: Because I don't think there's anything that I'm doing that I wouldn't say I did.
SANDERS: But there are lots of folks saying it is this culture of, like, masculinity, period. So, like, if you're a man, and you see another man doing something inappropriate, going into a place you shouldn't be doing - like, it is more on men everywhere to call that out.
HUGHLEY: If I saw a man - before there was a #MeToo, there was a me. I'm a man.
HUGHLEY: And there are certain things I wouldn't allow men to do around me.
HUGHLEY: And anybody who knows me and who's been in my - 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 - ever needed to movement to do this. So, to your point, I don't act any differently because I believe the way I've done things is at least honorable enough where I can 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 things I've done.
SANDERS: Pound for pound, do you think #MeToo is good for the culture?
HUGHLEY: I think that it depends on what it gets, what it was - look. The fruit it bears. Look at all the things they do to women of color. Are you going to include that in this, too? Are you going - and then - you said there's some - you're going back in time to make some things right. How far are you going to go back?
SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah.
HUGHLEY: Are you going to give everybody - justice delayed is justice denied. Are you going to be - because that's a heavy load to all of a sudden make things right. Are you going to make it right only to a point where it's convenient for you?
SANDERS: Yeah. Well, I'm thinking about this week R. Kelly in the news again.
HUGHLEY: I think R....
SANDERS: We've been new.
HUGHLEY: And we did. And you know what's so funny? And I talk about this all the time. If you make an album that's good enough, black people make excuses for you. Like, I'll never buy Kanye West music again. I don't care what he says.
SANDERS: After the...
HUGHLEY: After the...
SANDERS: ...Slavery comments.
HUGHLEY: I'll never do it. But, if you make an album good enough, black people - well, you know, ain't been saying it since about that.
SANDERS: Well, a lot of white people, too.
HUGHLEY: Eh, not a - well, I'll tell you what. For me, I think that our - that black people, in my experience, have made a lot of excuses for people just because of the thing - like, if you make us feel a way, evoke some emotion in us...
SANDERS: Michael Jackson.
HUGHLEY: Michael Jackson, O.J. Simpson, Bill Cosby - that's how bad we need to feel good. Much like we in society can make monsters, we can make our own heroes. We can tell our own stories. We can edify our own positions and not hold people to account.
SANDERS: Yeah. Last question for you...
SANDERS: Then I know you've got to go.
SANDERS: Tell me a joke.
SANDERS: Tell me a joke from your special (laughter).
HUGHLEY: A joke from my special...
SANDERS: Yeah, tell me something from your special.
HUGHLEY: I'm really excited. You know, I always - it was very funny because I - now that people are so interested in their DNA...
SANDERS: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
HUGHLEY: Like, everybody at 23andMe.
SANDERS: 23andMe - which I've never been into because it's...
HUGHLEY: Me neither.
SANDERS: ...Like, either way, I'm black.
HUGHLEY: That's right. Like...
SANDERS: Still can't get a cab in New York.
HUGHLEY: It's really weird to me for black people to be into this because only in America would they steal you from your homeland and then sell your ancestry back to you, like...
SANDERS: They make you pay for you to know.
HUGHLEY: For a hundred dollars, I'll show you where we stole you from. Like...
HUGHLEY: And you ever notice how excited white people are when they find they've got a little black - oh, I'm 3 percent black. Well, you're not going to...
SANDERS: Bet you wouldn't take 75 percent, would you?
HUGHLEY: No. You're not going to report that to Equifax, are you? Because I'm - I want to be black, but I just applied for a home loan.
HUGHLEY: So I just - so - it's called "Contrarian." I'm very excited. You know, one thing I will say.
HUGHLEY: I think between the radio show and the book and the special, "Contrarian," I find myself in probably the most creative space I've ever been in.
SANDERS: I like that.
HUGHLEY: And it's been so - this is how selfish it is. I said, I just want my old man to live long enough so he can see I had another book on the New York Times bestseller list.
HUGHLEY: That's - like, that was my...
SANDERS: And you've had a few now, right?
HUGHLEY: Because - yeah, I wanted him to - I wanted to walk in with him and say, this - I wrote this. And you're in the book, and I talked about - and it's just - it has been such a creative space, and I've never felt clearer, which is the closest approximation as I can come to happiness.
SANDERS: I like that.
HUGHLEY: I like it, too.
SANDERS: I really appreciate it. The book is called "How Not To Get Shot." The Netflix special's coming out...
HUGHLEY: In September - it's called "Contrarian."
SANDERS: "Contrarian" - thank you.
HUGHLEY: Thank you, man.
SANDERS: I'm a lifetime fan.
HUGHLEY: Thank you, man. What a pleasure.
(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")
SANDERS: Many thanks to D.L. Hughley. His new book is called "How Not to Get Shot: And Other Advice From White People."
Also want to thank some other people today - everyone who came out to our live show in Los Angeles last night, Monday night. It was super fun. I always enjoy seeing y'all real live in the flesh. It's great. If you missed that show, we'll have many more shows to come - actually, one more in the LA area later this year around October. Stay tuned.
Also, as always, make sure to send me the best thing that happened to you this week for any week or all the weeks. Record yourself. Send the file to me at email@example.com - firstname.lastname@example.org. Until Friday, thank you for listening. Talk soon.
(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.