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Dulcé Sloan Refuses to Fall in Love With New York

Dulcé Sloan. Photo-Illustration: Vulture and Getty Images

New York City? [Shrug] Concrete jungle where dreams are made of. Meh. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. Yeah, but why? There is no shortage of art talking about how great the city is, but stand-up comedian, Daily Show correspondent, and host of the That Blackass Show podcast Dulcé Sloan just doesn’t buy it. (What she really doesn’t buy is that idea that it’s less racist than the South, where she’s from.) Hating New York has been a sort of muse for Sloan, who dedicated one-third of her 2019 Comedy Central Presents special to the subject and still had enough passion to talk about it further in her Conan appearance later that year.

On Vulture’s Good One podcast, Sloan talks about finding new ways to hate New York, creating a podcast about representation, and controlling outdoor comedy shows. You can read some excerpts from the transcript or listen to the full episode below. Tune in to Good One every Tuesday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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On Boldly Not Liking New York That Much

Well, the city is trying to kill you on a daily basis is the first thing that I learned. But I think the most annoying thing is just people’s overall very staunch objection to people saying that they don’t like the city. I think it’s a very odd thing that people are so caught up in either being from here or saying they’re from here. When you move somewhere, like when you move to Atlanta, you just move to Atlanta; that’s where you live now. And it seems to be like, when people move to New York, it’s one of those cities you dream of moving to. Like I made it. I moved to New York, or I made it. I moved to L.A.

But the difference seems to be that when people move to L.A., they just move to L.A. When people move to New York, they have to go through some trial by fire to become a New Yorker. It is a very odd thing to me, where it’s like you have to prove yourself to a city. It just seems weird to me because I don’t like going toe to toe with a municipality. So I think when you make something your identity, then when I say I don’t like this city, people take it so personally because it feels like a personal attack.

On What Her Success Means to Others

I think sometimes when you’re in the middle of working on something, you don’t realize the impact that it has on people. Then working on other things, you realize, Oh, this could be impactful to people’s lives. Every time I was on Comedy Knockout, I wasn’t like, This is going to bridge a gap. No, I didn’t think that. Did I know that I would say something to piss off my ex? Probably. But it wasn’t that I was going to be bringing communities together talking about what Andy Kindler’s dating profile would be. That wasn’t happening.

But I filmed a movie in Puerto Rico at the beginning of the year called Chick Fight, and I was one of the leads in the movie and I’m the only Black person in the movie. It’s also a very small cast. Alec Mapa’s in it, Fortune Feimster, Kevin Nash, Malin Akerman. When I was on set, there were Black Puerto Rican extras there, and some of them came up to me and they were like, “It’s so great to see you as the lead in this movie.” I speak Spanish; they were talking to me in Spanish. I was like, “Really?” And they were like, “Yeah. Because people come down to shoot productions here all the time. We never see people that look like us as the lead actors in anything. Or even in it.” So for me, it was a huge opportunity because this was my first leading role in a movie. But then to know that not only are there other Black women [as extras], there are other Black women who are in the production who were impacted by me just being in the movie. “And that you’re Black and your hair is natural, and just the way that you look, and to see you as the lead in this movie was,” they said, “a really big deal to us.”

When I think about other women that look like me getting jobs, it’s like, All right, every job they get, cool, that means I could do something else. There was one pilot season where me and Nicole Byer were hitting each other up, going, “Did you go out for this? Well, I heard about this. Did you go out for this?” because of what our look is. We’re not delusional as to how the business works. We know we have the same look; we’re gonna go out for the same stuff.

On How Comedy Audiences Are Like Children

One time I was doing a show in Atlanta, and the crowd was so rowdy, so drunk, so loud. What most comics do when crowds are rowdy like that [is] they try to yell over the audience. They speak louder, but that makes the audience speak louder so now we’re in a competition. So this other comic was basically just almost yelling his whole set. It was a very fun thing to watch, and he got offstage exhausted. But one thing I started doing — that I didn’t even notice I was doing, I think, because I’ve done theater for so long — is I understood the power of volume when it comes to attentiveness.

So we had a really rowdy crowd, and as opposed to yelling over them, I started speaking more quietly. I got offstage and another comic was like, “When you dropped your volume, they stopped talking.” I said, “Yeah, what do you mean?” He was like, “A lot of comics yell over the crowd. You dropped your volume down. So since you dropped the volume down, they started paying attention.”

The next time it happened and I did it, I was like, This is what he was saying. Because I’d been performing for so long just doing theater, theater instincts kind of kicked in. I’ve done like 14 children’s shows. When the kids start to get real rowdy, you bring your volume down because if you can hear someone at a regular volume, you can just talk over them because you’re not paying attention. But when someone brings the volume down, like when someone’s whispering to you, they’re trying to tell you something important. So your natural instinct is to go, Wait, what did they say? What did they say? Your natural instinct is to pay attention when someone drops their volume.

So that’s one of the things that I kind of have just figured out from performing and having that kind of background: No matter where I’ve been, all over the country, all over the world, if you have a rowdy crowd, yelling as an adult at a group of adults, some people resent that. You can’t come in with the wagging of the finger: I got a two-drink minimum. I spent too much money to be here and for you to yell at me. So it’s kind of giving the audience a decision: Either you can lower your voice or you can [not] hear what I’m saying. I’m not gonna yell at you. We’re all adults in here.

On Outdoor Comedy Shows During the Pandemic

Sometimes we give the audience too much credit. Sometimes we don’t give the audience enough credit. I was in [a show] in Brooklyn like two weeks ago; it’s an outdoor show at a brewery. The man in the building across the street I guess didn’t appreciate that there was outdoor comedy, so he started playing salsa music very loudly. So he’s blasting salsa music. Then there’s fireworks going off every 30 minutes. Then there’s various cars rolling by and motorcycles. This was the first weekend that everybody had really been out of their house after quarantine, so the audience just has puppy energy. They’re happy just to be out and to see each other.

The audience isn’t listening, there’s music blasting, there’s fireworks going off, there’s multiple vehicles driving by. Nobody is listening. And at one point with the booker, I was like, “I think you need an intermission. I think we all need just a moment. I think they need to be able to talk. I think we all need to just reset for a second.” She was like, “Are you going up?” And I was like, “Absolutely not. No. This is the fourth time I’ve done stand-up in four months. I am not putting myself through this. No.”

Some of the comics were like, “They’re not listening!” I was like, “We have to acknowledge why they’re not listening. We’re finally coming out of our houses. We made it.” You literally are happy to be alive. You’re happy not to be afraid for that three hours. You’re happy just to be out and be around people, and you’re having a drink at a brewery. And we are happy to be out and to be able to perform again. We have to acknowledge where they are. We haven’t worked in months. We don’t know what’s going to happen. These outdoor shows are a new thing.

Last night I did a show at the Stand, and I’m just like, Whatever comes out of my mouth is whatever comes out of my mouth. I think this is one of the times where everyone’s really looking at the audience, going, “We’ve all been through a lot. We’ve all been very scared for a very long time.” How do we reconcile these things? Our new normal is sitting outside because we literally can’t be indoors.

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Dulcé Sloan Refuses to Fall in Love With New York