Interview: Comedienne Cocoa Brown discusses the ride of fame

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Tyler Perry’s “For Better or Worse” star, Cocoa Brown, brings down the house on Saturday at Play On! Theatre. (Publicity photo)

Farah “Cocoa” Brown, a Newport News native and VCU graduate, has serious entertainment chops. She has appeared on a slew of TV shows, including “2 Broke Girls,” “ER,” and “Breaking Bad,” and acted in movies such as Lakeview Terrace and Mahogany Blues. Despite the Hollywood success, stand-up comedy is Brown’s true passion, and on July 7, she’s bringing her brand of it to Play On! Theatre as the headliner of the National Stand-Up Comedy Series. C-VILLE spoke with Brown about her career and the best way to deal with being booed.

C-VILLE: How did you get into stand-up?
Cocoa Brown: “Boredom. I was working at a corporate job and it just wasn’t fulfilling. A friend asked me to emcee a comedy club while they searched for a regular, and I got bit. I loved it. Then, once I got with a mentor who had been doing comedy for 25 years (“The Fat Doctor”), and he taught me about the formula for stand-up, things took off.”

What do you mean by “formula?”
“Anybody can get on stage and talk trash. But can you take your thoughts and what you see in life and turn it into something relatable? As a comedian, you take something very simple and you exaggerate it. That’s the formula. Simple enough for anyone to understand, but exaggerated enough for people to laugh at it.”

Did you find it difficult when you started doing stand-up?
“No, not really, I kind of took to it. It was something I truly enjoyed doing and I loved it. It gave me an outlet, and a freedom, and it didn’t really get difficult until recently.”

Why do you say that?
“Because now people expect so much of you. You can’t just enjoy the journey, it’s always, ‘Well you’ve been doing it so long what’re you gonna do next?’”

So it’s a double-edged sword. You work all this time to achieve success, but then it’s ‘O.K., you’re successful, what now?’
“Yep, you can’t just enjoy the ride.”

Who was your inspiration when you started?
“One of the comedians I truly admire is JB Smoove [best known as Leon on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm”]. He was already in the business when I came up, and he was just an amazing talent. Whenever he stepped on stage it was just tons of laughter, and he had the crowd in palm of his hand. He’s also a really nice and humble guy. I always used to pattern myself after him, and when people called me the female JB Smoove, I took that as huge compliment.”

You’ve had a lot of success in acting, is that the end goal?
“I love acting; I love being able to transform into different characters. But, I definitely want to get into producing, directing and writing.”

Cocoa Brown
July 7 at 8pm and 9:30pm
Play On! Theatre at Ix

Which is harder, acting or stand-up?
“Stand-up all day long, because you have to be on your toes. With acting you’re given a script, you know what you have to be, what you have to say. But, stand-up can change at the drop of a dime.”

That reminds me of a Jerry Seinfeld speech, where he says comedians have it much tougher than actors. He says something like, ‘For actors it’s put on these clothes, stand there…ready? Say what we told you to say!’
“Yeah exactly. With stand-up everything changes depending on the venue, the crowd, what’s in the news, what you look like. Stand-up has so many more dynamics than acting.”

Ever had a crowd that wasn’t into your performance?
“The one and only time I’ve been booed was many, many moons ago. I didn’t know I was at a particular singer’s [Erykah Badu] alma mater and I talked about her and that crowd turned on me so fast. It was like a tsunami of boos. At that point all I could do was exit stage left [laughs].”

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