Stand-Up Dwayne Perkins on Mixing Comedy and Horror

By Andrew Chin, August 11, 2016

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The Brooklyn comic has wowed on Conan, starred in recurring vignettes on The Tonight Show and is finishing up an indie comedy-horror film where he stars as a comic who has four jokes to make his captors laugh or die trying. He returns to Suzhou (Aug 18 @ The Camel Suzhou), Shanghai (Aug 19-20 @ Kung Fu Komedy Club) and Beijing (Aug 21 @ The Bookworm) after wowing last year during his first Kung Fu Komedy organized Mainland tour.

Congratulations on coming back to China. How was your experiences here like last year and were there any 'only in China' moments that inspired any new jokes?
I had a blast in China. I really like it. I loooove Suzhou. As far joke inspiration  there was the "old" part of Suzhou: like being in Chinatown in China. Cab drivers who defy the laws of physics and Hunan food that was so hot it made me cry.

The last time we talked, you mentioned working on an hour long comedy special for Netflix and the film, Dying to Kill. How is the progress for both projects?
My hour comedy special Dwayne Perkins: Take Note was released on Netflix and is getting rave reviews. Dying to Kill is done and we hope to release it soon. I can't wait for people to see it.

The movie is a horror-comedy mix but how were you able to balance such a grim scenario (the film follows a stand-up comic who has three jokes to make his kidnappers laugh or die) with the laughs? Is it one of those things, where it swings between the two extremes during different scenes or did you try to keep a consistent tone throughout?
Great question. I think both. We swing back and forth but we did try to find some comedic truth even in the intense moments. It's been called genre bending. It's like, I like my music playlist to be eclectic and all over the place. This movie isn't all over the place but hopefully people will enjoy and be able to process the varying tone.  

In real life sadness is never void of laughter and laughter is never void of sadness. I once laughed at a funeral, not out of disrespect but because something funny happened. I was still sad but the laughter happened in its own bubble. So in that sense Dying to Kill makes sense to me. Often people joke in the least funny situations as a way of coping with their respective horror.

Is making films something you want to continue doing more of and are you working on any other non-standup projects?
Absolutely. I think once I embraced several years back that I was a writer, things opened up for me.  Now after doing this movie and comedy special I have to accept that I am also a producer. And as long as you have cameras and people with you, no one can stop you from producing. It's a good time to be an artist. You may not reach the masses but you can reach your core audience without any push from "the machine." Although, a push is welcomed. (smiles) I'm also an author. My book of essays, Hot Chocolate For The Mind is on Amazon and my next book, Zombie Run (co-written by Koji Sakai) will be coming out in December 2017.

Going back to stand-up, how was your past year touring and are you happy with your new material?
My past year has been amazing. I feel blessed and proud. Knowing the special was out there has given me a creative jolt and I'm bringing new concepts to the stage quicker than in the past. In my mind I want people to come and see me live and see hardly no jokes from the special. Having clear goals really helps. I'm also not being too precious or self editing. I think the result is really good material is being added to my show and my voice is coming even more into focus. Knock on wood, I'm in a good place stand-up wise.

Elections are often a major source of inspiration for comedy and this one especially seems like it's full of potential for jokes. Has it inspired your act?
Honestly it hasn't inspired me much. It saddens me more than anything. I think politics can be entertaining but when they cross that line and become more entertaining than informative and helpful it kind of becomes a non joking matter. I know that sometimes you have to laugh to avoid crying but it seems like as a community we can wish for the worst just to have more fodder for jokes. I'd rather focus on life experiences common to us all. I may call on people to better themselves before I call on politicians to be better.

As a black comic, do you feel compelled to talk about Black Lives Matter in your act or do you think that's an unfair expectation?
I think I may, but I don't feel compelled to do so in my stand-up - but on my podcast I definitely do. On my Off The Top podcast I talk about any and all things in a very stream of conscious way, but people click and want to hear me. At a stand-up show it's okay to talk about anything, but at the same time people did come to be entertained. So you can broach any subject as long as you do so in an entertaining way.  On my Movie Night podcast I talk movies. And my love affair with movies is growing every day. 

Following your China shows, what are your plans?
Keep promoting the special. Sell the movie Dying To Kill. Keep doing my podcasts Off the Top and Movie Night, and in September I may take my comedy to Norway for some shows.

Is there anything you would like to add?
Even if I don't come to your town to do comedy, look for Dying to Kill soon and Zombie Run in December 2017. Thanks for engaging me.

Suzhou: Aug 18, 8.30pm, RMBTBA. The Camel Suzhou.
Shanghai: Aug 19-20, 9pm (Fri), 8pm and 10pm (Sat), RMB170-200. Kung Fu Komedy Club.
Beijing: Aug 21, 8-10pm, RMB150-180. The Bookworm.

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