Langston Kerman is the man behind “Black History Facts,” a hilarious set of semi-fictional insights on African-American culture that include “Black History Fact: Mariah Carey is the only Black woman to get worse at singing, the more weight she gained” and “Black History Fact: Sugar Ray Robinson named himself after the band Sugar Ray.” He was also featured on season 1 on Issa Rae’s “Insecure”, is shooting a pilot for Seth Rogen’s new project, and has a Master’s degree in poetry. Here, he talks comedy, explains that Bernie Sanders is not a real socialist, and why he listens to Black women.
It was either going to be Langston, after Langston Hughes, or Theodore after the Cosby kid. I was almost “Theo Kerman.”
Chicago is arguably the most segregated city I’ve ever lived in, and I lived in Boston. I grew up in Oak Park, Illinois. It is active in keeping people of color separated. I think the west side Lil Rel and Hannibal Burress talk about are black and impoverished neighborhoods and Oak Park is this funny, diverse place that can only do it for a couple square miles. Chicago produces so many funny people because Chicago has mastered being haters.
The common thread is truth in both voice and opinion. Everybody is coming forward with their most truthfulness instead of what makes people comfortable. “This is what I actually think” even if it makes people uncomfortable. Lil Rel made his Chicago-ness for the masses because of how well he delivered it.
I don’t actively feel like I have a lot of negative energy thrown my way. Part of it is me feeling like the positive feedback I get trumps whatever negative I may get, for lack of a better word. I don’t think about who hurts my feelings because so many people reach out with kindness.
The Chex commercial makes me want to die everyday. It found me at a time that I desperately needed the money. I had just quit teaching and it was funny on paper and as soon as I showed up the first day I was like “this is going to come back and haunt me.” But there’s no way to really deal with it than to just own it. “Awwww I fucked up” was my first thought. The hard part is when you do make a little money and filtering the part you don’t need to be a part of your career. I had to say “nah man, don’t say yes just because of a nominal attachment.” Patton Oswalt probably feels different now about doing a Sprite commercial.
My hope for my career is also is to not be rooted in the success of someone else. I dont want to be known as “the guy from Issa’s show” or “the guy who wrote on Chris Rock’s thing” I want it to be the Langston Kerman thing. If you allow yourself to live under someone else’s name, then they’ll keep you there.
The transition between before “Insecure” and after is kind of nuts. There’s a euphoria to it in feeling “celebrity” but its also “what does this mean?” people having more access to you. In success, you get affirmation, but you still have to retain grounded-ness. Shit should still be funny. 800 likes doesn’t mean its good.
I tried school, I did well in school, and ended up in the place i said I would never be…back in my mom’s basement.
Earlier versions of me wanted to make Black people laugh harder. I WANTED people to run out of the room because i said something THAT funny. I find myself very frustrated because im not always what Black audiences want. But you have to be true to your experiences. Really who likes me is who I should be focused on. You don’t grow up like I grew up without knowing how to fight back. My mom was my biggest bully, so its nothing you can say that can hurt my feelings.
He was motivational for us. He inspired plenty. He represented possibility for us. That cool and that leadership was good to see, but he wasn’t rescuing anybody out of the hood, if it was even possible for him to do that. As a human, I fuck with Barack, as a father, as a husband, as a dad. But you can’t be in a position like that without, at times, also being a monster, it comes with the job, I assume.
My father is a practicing socialist. He thinks Bernie is a joke. Bernie’s a guy who took the words of socialism and applied it to capitalism. My dad is for the end of capitalism. Period. For myself, socialism sounds dope, but as a stand-up comedian, I need people to making money so they can come see me perform. Its not simple.
Black people need to question institutions as a whole. We get trapped into having so many conversations about race, when it really is about money. Let me be clear, “Black lives matter.” But moreso, than “I hate your Black skin, I hate that you’re poor” and the fact that you’re also Black just supports my argument more.
A LOT of it has to do with listening. I consider myself a well-educated person but I am willing to learn more. If we look at the last election, Black women are the only ones who did what they said what they said they would. Only 4% voted for Trump. You have to listen to people who follow through on what they promise. Black men have to be better at listening. My girl centers me and gives me purpose. Im in a long distance thing, so it makes me go out, work, do what I gotta do, tell the jokes I gotta tell so I can get home and we can have that phone call. Its a good balance. I love her, and its a lot of DM slides I would have taken advantage of, had I met her later, but I wouldn’t trade it.
Catch Langston this Thursday (6/1) on “Hidden Fences” LIVE at The Knitting Factory (361 Metropolitan, Williamsburg, BK)