When it comes to having a good time comedian Loni Love is always down for the cause.
This time around, Love is tapping BET’s edition of Lip Sync Battle for the upcoming Soul Train Awards with R&B crooners Keyshia Cole, Macy Gray and Tank.
After the taping was a different story. While Cole headed to Las Vegas to celebrate her 36 birthday, Loni Love decided to call it a night, skip the festivities and prep for the Emmy-nominated daytime talk show The Real on the following day.
If you truly know Love’s story, you know that the entertainment industry was never in her career playbook. Love graduated with an engineering degree from Prairie View A&M University, then worked as an engineer for Xerox for eight years before switching career paths. Fearlessly making the jump from engineering to comedy, it all paid off.
When Loni Love first hit the comedy movie scene in 2004 in the movie Soul Plane, she played an airport security guard named ‘Shaniece’ along with fellow comedian Mo’Nique. The movie also included comedy heavyweights like Kevin Hart, John Witherspoon, Sommore, D.L. Hughley and more. Since then, it’s been a steady climb in Hollywood for the multi-hyphenate.
Now, Love is an author, actress, comedian, talk show co-host and relationship expert. As you can see, Loni Love does it all. However, one title she’s working to add to her resumé is being a late night television host.
“I’ve been in this business for 10, 15, 20 years, it’s time to have my own show. It’s happening!” said the Detroit native.
Here, Love talks about her career decisions, lessons she’s learned from being a comedian, her goals for 2018, and the importance of staying true to herself.
Her Agenda: First off, tell me a little bit about jumping from engineering to comedy. Were you scared to make that jump?
Loni Love: I wasn’t afraid to switch over careers because I’d been planning it. I tell anybody if you’re doing something to actually plan. When you plan, you’re going to have some ups and downs, but at least you’re better prepared.
Her Agenda: So always have an exit strategy before you leave your job, right?
Loni Love: Exactly! Some people make the mistake like ‘Oh I’m just going to leave’ and they don’t have a plan. You can’t do that. You have to have a plan. Your plan may be a year or it may be five years from now, but I always tell people to have a plan. That’s what important.
Her Agenda: What was your plan? Did you give yourself a year to leave?
Loni Love: In order for me to leave [that] job, I had to have certain things in place to switch over. I needed some type of income, that was the first thing. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it maintained my standard of living. I was able to save to leave my job. I needed to be in a certain amount of clubs because as a comic you have to be able to perform clubs. I needed to have a certain amount of money. I also got a development deal at that time.
You’ve got to have boundaries and goals for things. The most important question is ‘do you have income coming in?’ What is it that you need in that field to be known for? Once you have those things in place — you can move!
Her Agenda: That’s so true. I think that’s one thing my mom always taught me. Don’t ever leave one job without actually securing the other. Tell me about one lesson you’ve learned professionally this past year?
Loni Love: Wow. So much. The thing about life is that you’re constantly learning. I don’t care how old you get or in a certain field — you’re always going to learn something. What I’m learning to do, especially in comedy, is to continue to be fearless. To talk about things that other people [won’t]. I was just on a comedy show. It was a great comedy show with a great comedian, but nobody talked about politics. I love talking about politics. I don’t talk about politics in a preachy way. I talk about it in a funny way and people are very receptive of it. So I’m just amazed at how many comics, especially with how the times are, they don’t.
They say, ‘I don’t want to talk about it because people come to comedy shows to escape.’ Yea they come to escape, but they want to hear real sh*t, too. Talk about it. And that’s the thing about my comedy, it comes from a real point of view. There’s certain comics that use music cues, whereas I’m talking about things that are actually happening. So when people ask where do I get my comedy from? I get it from life, from what’s happening in the world and I try to find levity.
Her Agenda: Since you touched on that, what are some things you won’t include in your comedy sets? What are somethings that are off limits to you?
Loni Love: There’s not too many things that are off limits. But I don’t really like putting people down unless they need to be put down. If I’m joking about a celebrity it’s because that celebrity really did something to be mean. I think there’s a difference in just being mean and there’s a difference when somebody has done something.
There’s some women’s issues I don’t like to talk about. I don’t like to talk about rape, so I don’t. If I say a joke and I feel uncomfortable then I won’t say it anymore. That’s what I’ve learned to do in my career. If I feel bad about something, I don’t talk about it. Like joking about cancer or diseases. There’s so many other things you can joke and talk about.
Her Agenda: You go according to your internal compass because people will do it just for the applause. You’re saying stay true to yourself always.
Loni Love: There’s comics that are great at that and they don’t care. That’s their right. But for me because I’ve been doing this for so long, if I say a joke and I don’t feel right about it, it’s better for me. I’ve reached at a point where I want to be happy, too. If you do as many shows as I do in a year, you don’t want to say things and keep making yourself unhappy or question yourself. I love entertaining people, but I have to entertain myself first. If I’m not having a good time, how is the audience going to have a good time? That’s a rule of thumb for myself.
Her Agenda: Since that’s one of your mottos, tell me one of your goals for 2018? I see late night TV is something that you’re really gunning for. I feel like there hasn’t been a lot of Black women there. I know there’s Robin Thede that’s up right now for late night. But with you in regards to late night, how are you making that happen?
Loni Love: First of all, I’m very proud of Robin. I’m there and available for her because it’s so hard just having a show in general, especially a show with a Black woman. You just don’t see that. You can count on one hand how many shows there are [with] Black women — and I’m talking about Black women starring. You have to question that. Let’s look at comedy. All you have is Issa. You have a couple of women on Saturday Night Live. When you think about that, you ask ‘How am I going to get a show?’
What you have to do is constantly expose yourself and show your comedy. That’s the reason why you see me doing daytime. The reason why you see me doing the one-off shows like Hip Hop Squares, and Lip Sync Battles, anything that I can do to show exposure. It’s like networking. You have to network with certain people and right now I’m working with Kevin James potentially pitching my own sitcom. You look at these different opportunities and you try to align yourself with these people that have ability to push you through.
I’m enjoying my career right now. To answer your question in a nutshell: it’s continue to have exposure, continue to show the talent, pitch the show and find the right home for it.
Her Agenda: You’ve been through your fair share of friendship break-ups. How does one maintain good relationships in the business and what should one do if they go sour?
Loni Love: One person needs to be the adult in the situation. You can’t allow what you see on social media to influence you. I don’t allow that to happen to me. Fans start taking sides and that’s for them to do that. I reach out to the person or I don’t, and I’ll just leave it alone. Because I am on a talk show, we talk about things and that’s when the truth comes in. Our show is not a gossip show. It’s an entertainment show. We talk about something that’s being reported and we give our opinions about it on what we believe.
Too many people are [making] comments through social media. It’s really about sitting down. If you have a problem with that person, talk to that person. Everybody isn’t receptive like that. A lot of people like to play out stuff on social media because that may be the only press they get. Like I said, I have a show. If anybody has an issue, come on the show.
Her Agenda: What are you looking forward towards this season especially with it being Live.
Loni Love: I like the live shows because they have actually helped show my sense of humor more. Live means there’s no do-overs. What I’m noticing because it’s completely live, they see my sense of humor better from the responses of the fans. So I like the live element. The thing about humor and comedy it’s all about timing The energy is much better and we’re getting some really great guests most of all. To be able to have Tina Knowles-Lawson, and Debbie Allen it’s a nice variety of women. I really like this season I’m really enjoying and I think the fans are too.
[Editor’s note: This interview published on November 27, 2017. It has been edited for length and clarity.]