Born in Detroit, Loni Love started her career at General Motors before jumping from one male-dominated industry to another — comedy. She’s now a seasoned stand-up comedian of 17 years, as well as an actress, author, and a host on the daytime talk show The Real. She’s embarking this month on the Ladies Night Out Comedy Tour with fellow comics Nene Leakes, Adele Givens, Sherri Shepherd, Kym Whitley, and B. Simone. Her memoir, I Tried To Change So You Don’t Have To: True Life Lessons, (Hachette Books) which will be released this May, explores her journey from a childhood in the projects to a Hollywood career as a headlining comedian and Emmy-winning TV personality. We talked with Love about what it’s like to be a funny woman in a funny man’s world.
Hour Detroit: Are there any barriers that made it hard for you to break into the industry as a woman?
Loni Love: There’s usually only one female comic in any show, and you get the worst spot. People disregard female comics. We do one vagina joke, and the men get all scared about it. Then promoters want you to sleep with them to get on the show.
What would you say to people who still say women aren’t funny?
Just look at the female comedians who are out there — Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Tiffany Haddish, Leslie Jones, Ellen Degeneres. You have too many examples of women who are hilarious.
What’s one of the most discouraging experiences you’ve had in this industry?
I had a promoter one time tell me he almost booked a different female comedian for a certain show, but, because I was more well-known, he booked me. I said, “Why didn’t you book both of us? She’s a great comic.” And he said, “No, I can’t have two females” — and this was a 10-person show! I didn’t know he felt like that when I was hired, but if I had, I wouldn’t have done the show. That’s the type of dividing female comics that I don’t like.
Why do you think there’s prejudice against female comics?
People tend to be prejudiced against things that seem unusual to them. There’s a fear that all females do is bash men, and a lot of promoters don’t want to hear that. But it’s just not true. There are so many women talking about so many different things.
Why were you so determined to pursue a career in an industry that’s not particularly welcoming to you as a woman?
One day, when I was working as an engineer, I was depressed. So, I went to a comedy show. I saw all these men and one woman, and I thought, “We need another perspective.” I saw it as a challenge. It was hard work, but now I have a voice and a platform, and that’s what’s needed.
How does having multiple marginalized attributes — being a black, plus-size woman — affect your experience in this industry?
It’s reduced the number of opportunities available to me. Some people feel like female comedians should be sexy and don’t want them to be big. Or they think black women only talk about certain things. You’re always fighting stereotypes, and sometimes you don’t get picked for roles, because they want you to look a certain way. But, as a comic, you should just be funny. So, that’s what I try to work on — just being funny.
Why did you partner with all women for your current tour?
Many tours have all male comics, so why can’t you have all female comics? I’m trying to change the way female comics are viewed, and we have to work together. The only way you can fight stigmas is by creating your own.
What would you like to see change for women in comedy?
I would like to see just as many women as men in shows, and I’d like to see them paid as much.