comedians you should know

Nore Davis Will Be Your Stand-up Superhero

Illustration: Franziska Barczyk

This week, we’re highlighting 24 talented writers and performers for Vulture’s annual list “Comedians You Should and Will Know.” Our goal is to introduce a wider audience to the talent that has the comedy community and industry buzzing. (You can read more about our methodology at the link above.) We asked the comedians on the list to answer a series of questions about their work, performing, goals for the future, and more. Next up is Nore Davis.

What would your Real Housewives tagline be?
I’m a stand-up comedian; everyone else are just li’l comedians.”

What of your work do you think you’re best known for, and what of your work are you most proud of?
I feel like I’m best known for being a good stand-up? Wouldn’t this be a question for someone else who knows or heard of me? I don’t go around asking people, “Hey, what do you know me for?” lol, that’s weird. I’m super-proud of my stand-up comedy albums and the artwork. I’m a huge fan of album-cover artwork, and I was able to design and execute them exactly the way I envisioned them.

Tell us one story from your childhood you think explains why you ended up becoming a comedian.
There are a combination of stories that lead to me becoming a stand-up comedian, but they all have the same common denominator: control. I was controlled a lot as a child — wasn’t heard, wasn’t loved, and wasn’t seen for who I truly am. So stand-up allowed me to be free from control: nobody telling me what to say, what to do, or where to go. Onstage, I’m my own writer, producer, and director up there. It’s so lovely, healing, and freeing.

If a network green-lit a semi-autobiographical series for you to star in tomorrow, what would your character’s name and job be?
I actually have a pilot in development and don’t want to spoil it, so I’ll say I’d produce, write, and star in an unscripted television show about me and my homies watching and giving sharp commentary, a.k.a. roasting, the History Channel’s Alone. A couch, snacks, my homies, a remote, and all we do is laugh at white people trying to survive in the wild. I would fast-forward to the part where each person calls the helicopter to go home. Just cuts of us hysterically laughing when they finally call it quits. The show would be called CALL THE CHOPPA! Only on A&E.

If you had to come onstage to just one song for the rest of your life, what song would it be and why?
“Icon,” by Jaden Smith. Why? Just listen to the song. I’m seriously just an icon trying to live. Periodt. It’s basically confident fuel that fills up my self-esteem tank when it’s low. Plus, Jaden and Willow Smith’s music never makes you think about their parents. Love that.

Tell us everything about your worst show ever.
The time my dad booked me to perform for a Ruff Ryders biker gang at the Polish Community Center in Yonkers, New York. That was the first time figuring out that not every audience wants to hear stand-up at all. The DJ was playing, and they were all dancing and grooving to “Before I Let Go,” the Frankie Beverly and Maze version, so that gives you a sense of the age group. The DJ didn’t even lower the record — he CUT IT and said, “Aight y’all, it’s time for comedy.” They stopped in their tracks and looked at the DJ like he insulted them! He did, but with me being “the comedy.”

He said, “Here is Nore, Kenny’s son.” Didn’t even get my name right, but that doesn’t matter ’cause the crowd turned their backs on me and went to order drinks from the bar. They were loud and looked at me like I was their substitute teacher trying to teach math. As everyone left the dance floor, I made eye contact with my dad. His look haunts me to this day. He made a look like, Damn, this “hobby” isn’t for him. I fu**ed up. I knew to just throw in the towel and walk off the stage. I said, “That’s my time,” and signaled to the DJ to turn the music back up and slowly placed the mic back in the mic stand and walked straight to my car. The song “Before I Let Go” is very triggering, and my dad and myself never spoke of it. Thank GOD!

Nominate one comedian you don’t know personally who you think is overdue for wider recognition and why.
I’ll nominate three very funny Black women named Sydnee Washington, Marie Faustin, and Aminah Imani. Individually, they are a force, but together they are the Destiny’s Child of stand-up comedy! I’ve had the pleasure to work with them and watch them grow. They get funnier and funnier each year and have been holding down the Knitting Factory Comedy at the Knit, which sadly recently closed. I urge people to see them individually and together. Follow and support everything they do. Nobody is funnier in my opinion. They will roast you and each other, but with so much heart. Sydnee will hit you with a hard setup, Maria with the punch line, then Aminah with a hard tag, then Marie’s powerful laugh, which causes all three of them to laugh in unison. All you could do is stand there and laugh with them. I can watch them host any and everything.

When it comes to your comedy opinions — about material, performing, audience, the industry, etc. — what hill will you die on?
Social media is a tool and NOT your whole career. I urge young comedians to work hard on their live performance and not just post crowd-work material online just to gain followers. Sam Morril and Nimesh Patel do it excellent because they are GREAT stand-ups FIRST! We all came up together. They use it as a tool to boost their already very polished material, which you can only see LIVE. I only post old jokes because I’m not joking for free. Like Gary Gulman said, “In this economy?” HA, NEVER. I’m referring to stand-up comedy only. The energy, the laughs, the drinks, the parking, the excitement, and the vibe will live on forever.

What’s an embarrassingly earnest goal you have?
Be the first stand-up lead in a Marvel or DC superhero film. Who, you ask? I don’t know, and that’s the embarrassing part. Comic-book movies are very limited with Black characters, so who could I play? Maybe the grown version of the chubby Black child in Logan?! Maybe Marvel gives that character a lead film? Idk. Cancer selfishly took away our iconic Black Panther. Don Cheadle is War Machine. Anthony Mackie is Black Captain America. Maybe a Milestone character, but DC is pretty racist, so who is next? I’d love to give it a shot, and that’s a super embarrassingly earnest goal of mine.

What is the best comedy advice, and then the worst comedy advice, you’ve ever received, either when you were starting out or more recently?
Best advice: “Build in NYC. Never perform in L.A. until the industry asks you to. You will just be another dead body added to the pile.” — Tracy Morgan

Worst advice: “You should wait for someone (industry) to GIVE you a comedy special.”

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Nore Davis Will Be Your Stand-up Superhero