Leaving the L.A. gang life behind, D.L. Hughley made the rounds in comedy clubs before finding spots on MTV’s Def Comedy Jam and BET’s Comic View. In 1998, Hughley debuted his sitcom The Hughleys, a family-friendly sitcom. During the run of his sitcom, Hughley also participated in the Kings of Comedy tour, which was documented in Spike Lee's 2000 film The Original Kings of Comedy. Recent projects include his 2014 comedy special Clear and the 2016 medical series Heartbeat.
Comedian, actor. D.L. Hughley was born on March 6, 1963, in Los Angeles, California. The second of four children, Hughley grew up with his father, Charles, an airline maintenance worker, and his mother, Audrey. Hughley's teenage years were rife with troubles; for most of them, he was a member of the Bloods, a Los Angeles street gang. He was also expelled from high school, but earned a G.E.D. later in life. When his cousin, a member of a rival gang, was murdered, Hughley decided to pursue a different life. As an adult, Hughley actually got teary-eyed on television while talking to his fifth grade teacher, one of the only people he says supported him when he was young. In his own words, "I was this close to not making it."
Hughley turned his back on the gang scene and got a job as a telemarketer for the Los Angeles Times, which proved to be a positive step in more ways than one. There he met his future wife, LaDonna, and was promoted to management. The pair married on February 22, 1986, and had three children: daughters Ryan and Tyler and son Kyle. LaDonna urged Hughley to try performing as a comic; soon, he was making the rounds of local clubs.
While playing area clubs and honing his stand-up skills, Hughley fine-tuned his comedic approach. "I think stand-up is one of the last places left where people can expect to hear a level of truth," Hughley says. His style of comedy reflects this point of view; he is unafraid to portray autobiographical and topical material in exactly the light he sees it. The transition to television wasn't far off. After appearances on Def Comedy Jam, Hughley was invited in 1992 to host BET's show Comic View.
Career in TV and Film
In 1998, D.L. Hughley gained his widest exposure yet with the debut of his sitcom The Hughleys. The show was based around a black family that had recently moved to a primarily white suburb, a situation in which Hughley had found himself in his own life. While the show was more tame and family-friendly than Hughley's adult-oriented stand-up routines, he adapted his talents to the format. The NAACP Image Awards nominated Hughley in the Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series category five times. During the run of his sitcom, D.L. Hughley also participated in the Kings of Comedy tour with Steve Harvey, Bernie Mac and Cedric the Entertainer. The tour was documented in Spike Lee's 2000 film The Original Kings of Comedy. When Bernie Mac died in 2008, Hughley and the other Original Kings spoke at his funeral.
Hughley took a job with Comedy Central, hosting a late-night talk show called Weekends at the D.L. It ran from 2005 to early 2006. Later that year, Hughley signed on for the new TV show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, written by West Wing powerhouse Aaron Sorkin. Hughley's character was a sketch comedian on the fictional late-night show depicted in the series. Although Studio 60 started out with big expectations, the show never gained a strong following and was cancelled after one season. Hughley was realistic about the problems on the show, saying that, although disappointed, he wasn't surprised that it had been cancelled.
Hughley went on to make his next HBO special, Unapologetic. From there, he moved even further away from acting, taking a job with CNN as host of D.L. Hughley Breaks the News. The humorous program was a departure for the network, which was hoping to capitalize on the lead-up to the 2008 presidential election. The show went off the air after a few months, when Hughley decided he wanted to be based in Los Angles in order to spend more time with his family. Next up was radio. Armed with his own morning show on New York's KISS FM, Hughley tried to cultivate a following as a radio personality. Due to issues with the syndication company, however, the show went off the air after a little over a year.
In 2013, Hughley returned to radio with The D.L. Hughley Show, an afternoon drive time program. The show has proved to be a success, and it is now airing in 60 markets. On the program's website, he explained his approach to radio: “I’m fast, funny, and topical. I make people laugh a lot and think a little."
On television, Hughley debuted his stand-up special Clear in 2014. He also appears frequently on such programs as The View and Real Time with Bill Maher. Branching out in a different direction creatively, Hughley has landed a recurring role on the new medical drama Heartbeat, which debuts in 2016. Still he remains committed to his love of stand-up comedy, playing numerous club gigs and concert dates every year.
Throughout all of his work, D.L. Hughley has retained his belief that comedians should stay true to their own points of view. He offered the following advice in an interview, when asked what younger comedians should know: "If you lack the courage of your convictions, sell shoes." At the same time, Hughley doesn't want to simply turn his performances into a tool for his own ends. "My gig is to observe all that stuff and take it in without ever forgetting that I'm here to make people laugh, not to preach."
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