It seems clichéd to say that no matter where you go, there’s a Buffalo connection, and it can turn up in surprising places. During a recent phone interview with D.L. Hughley, the comedian brought up his visit to the Anchor Bar and the many Buffalo conversations he has with his radio show co-host, Steve Wilson, who grew up here.
“I try to learn a lot about where we’re playing,” said Hughley, who returns to Buffalo for the all-star “Comedy Get Down” show Saturday in First Niagara Center. Joining Hughley will be comedy stars Cedric the Entertainer, Eddie Griffin, George Lopez and Charlie Murphy, with each act performing a 30-minute set before coming together for a final curtain call.
Each comedian could headline their own successful tour around the country, so why come together? They just like each other, Hughley explained. Several of them joined an effort by Lopez to raise money for a statue of Richard Pryor – the legendary comedian whose legacy influenced many of Hughley’s generation – in Peoria, Ill., Pryor’s hometown.
Along with private donations, the 2014 benefit helped raise a reported $130,000 to erect Pryor’s statue, which was dedicated last year. The comics got along so well, the benefit gave them an idea.
“We were having such a great time that we figured we should tour together,” Hughley said. “We were all from different demographics, but we’re still all laughing and talking about how wonderful this could be. I’ve worked with Cedric before, but I never had a chance to work with these other guys. There’s a respect for what we do and we have a genuine affinity for each other.”
While Hughley broke through as a stand-up comedian, he has had a varied career over the past two decades as an actor, author, producer and commentator. He co-created and starred in the sitcom “The Hughleys” from 1998 to 2002, hosted a comedy news show on CNN, authored the political commentary book “I Want You to Shut --- Up,” and competed on “Dancing with the Stars.”
Hughley is currently hosting the syndicated “D.L. Hughley Show” on radio stations across the country and stars on the medical drama, “Heartbeat,” which airs on Wednesdays on NBC. He’s also authoring another book, “Black Man, White House,” which is a fictional oral history of the Obama presidency.
“I think it’s the funniest thing I’ve ever written,” Hughley said. “I’m excited to see how people respond to it.”
While most working comedians are performing in clubs or similar-sized rooms that can occupy 150 to 250 people, the “Comedy Get Down” crew will appear here in a venue usually associated with sporting events and large concerts, not comedy.
Traditionally even bigger comedy names like Jerry Seinfeld and Louis CK perform in theaters and casinos with a capacity of 2,000 to 5,000. But things are changing with comedy shows becoming more common in arenas, especially in Buffalo.
Kevin Hart performed two shows at the First Niagara Center in 2015. Coming soon to FNC are Amy Schumer on May 7 and Jim Gaffigan on July 19. While the prospect of slinging jokes in front of thousands instead of a few hundred may seem daunting to some, Hughley noted that comedy only needs a microphone and the ability to keep a crowd’s attention.
“It doesn’t matter if (the crowd is) five feet or 500 feet in front of you,” he said. “The amount of energy is different, but basically the mechanics are still the same.”
Hughley is no stranger to all-star comedy tours, as he was part of the “Original Kings of Comedy” tour with Cedric the Entertainer, Steve Harvey and the late Bernie Mac. Spike Lee filmed and directed the final two nights of the tour in Charlotte, N.C., which became an MTV film of the same name in 2000. It launched a number of similar comedy tours, concert films and documentary series.
A similar behind-the-scenes look is planned for the “Comedy Get Down” tour with the comics planning to film a scripted reality series about the tour this summer. It’s expected to air on BET, Comedy Central and TV Land.
While the “Original Kings of Comedy” played in front of mostly black audiences, the addition of Lopez to the “Comedy Get Down” tour brings a new demographic to the table. The news and social media report on conflicts that break down along racial lines, but Hughley said that comedy is one medium that brings people together.
“Generally, blacks and Hispanic never get along,” he said. “It’s funny to see these audiences coming together and getting along, because they see (George and us) getting along. I think we know how blessed we are to be in this position.”
Throughout his career, Hughley has never been one to shy away from controversial topics that would ruin dinner parties and block users on social media. When asked what was on his mind as he developed his current set, Hughley quickly rattled off a number of current topics like Bill Cosby, Donald Trump and the Zika virus.
“My set is what the world looks like at this particular moment; where we’re at as a society,” he said.
“Comedy Get Down” with D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, Eddie Griffin, George Lopez and Charlie Murphy
When: 8 p.m. April 23
Where: First Niagara Center