(CBS Local)– Comedy Central has a new digital docuseries available on its YouTube channel called “Dark Humor.” The series spotlights Black stand-up comedians, their approach to comedy, sources of inspiration and their unique experiences in the business.
One of the comics featured is Sonia Denis. CBS Local caught up with the New York based stand-up to discusses her experience as a Rwandan-American woman in the entertainment world, what her parents think of her comedy and how Black comics of a previous generation made her work possible.
“Even before I started stand-up, I was a fan of stand-up,” said Denis, in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “Once I started doing stand-up, I watched a lot of documentaries where comedians were talking about their experiences. It was kind of cool to me to be able to do something that future comics can watch. Future Black comics will watch that and say ‘wow, it’s so much easier now for us.’ It was cool to be a part of that.”
Denis says she would’ve felt more pressure to be a certain type of comic if her career began 10 years earlier. The stand-up comedian knows the industry has a lot of work to still do when it comes to elevating Black voices, but she’s also encouraged by the current situation that exists.
“Comedy is so much bigger now and there are so many different lanes,” said Denis. “There’s no more of that separation of you’re a white comic or you’re a Black comic. I think 20 years ago, maybe I would’ve felt more pressure to be someone else or take on some sort of character. Comedians are just themselves now and there’s less of a worry of am I like Martin Lawrence or am I like Dave Chappelle.”
The comic says the best comedians have always been personal in some way. That’s certainly something Denis focuses on when she does her performances. There is always plenty of talk about living in New York and her parents.
“When I first started, a big goal for me was to be able to live off of comedy and to do it in New York,” said Denis. “I think I have a long way to go, but I’m grateful that I’m able to make money doing stand-up and acting and writing. No one in my family went into entertainment. A lot of my family members are nurses and my dad is a programmer. I grew up in DC and my family thought I was nuts when I quit my job and decided I was going to be a paid clown. My mom lived in Rwanda until she was in her 20’s and I think for her she needed other people to say this is legitimate. Even once I started making money, my mom floated that I could go back to my office job. I think my parents are proud because I don’t think they thought I could do it.”