417 at 4:17: An Interview with Comedian Loni Love

417 at 4:17 is just what it reads to be: A sparkling bit of information—could be a great happy hour, could be a news nugget—every day at or around 17 minutes past the four o'clock hour (sorry... afternoons only). It's late enough to hearken the near-end of the workday, but early enough to still anticipate a good evening. It's the golden hour. And it's 417 time.

Today we have a special treat for your 417 at 4:17: An interview with a top-notch national comedian, one who will be coming to 417-land in a matter of days. Loni Love—a regular on the talk show circuit, including guest stints on Chelsea Lately—will perform at the Gillioz Theatre on Friday, April 2. Loni is a veteran of many TV shows (including D.L. Hughley Breaks the News, Chelsea Lately and VH1's I Love the... series) as well as the movie Soul Plane.

Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. show (which are available here) are $20. Local standups Jeff Houghton and Tyler Snodgrass will open for Loni.

We caught up with Loni during a Texas stop on her tour, which comes in advance of her first one-hour Comedy Central special, “Loni Love: American Sister”, which debuts next month.

Check out Loni’s (extremely purple) website—which includes tour dates and upcoming TV appearances—here. You can also find her on Twitter (@LoniLove) and Facebook.

We chatted with Loni for about 15 minutes. Here’s what she had to say.

How did you become a comedian?
LL: I started while I was in college [she was an engineering major at Prairie View A&M in Texas]. When I moved to L.A., I started going to the clubs and saw there weren’t a lot of female acts. So I got into it while I was working. Once I got my act together, I entered the Aspen Comedy Festival. I won the Jury Prize at that, and that sort of started my professional career.

So you have an engineering degree? Probably not too many comedians who have that! Do you put that to use in standup?
LL: [Laughing] It was a good day job, and it helped me to get myself in a position to do this. A lot of comedians have to struggle so hard, at least financially. [Being an engineer] allowed me to stay in L.A.

Who were your comedic influences?
LL: I like, of course, Richard Pryor. I like Bill Maher, Eddie Griffin. I like people who actually have something to say. They take comedy from the truth and find a way to present themselves.

Where do you get material?
LL: I talk generally about [a few] subjects; fat people uniting, relationships, current events and politics.

How often do you add new stuff?
LL: My comedy is topical, so it changes, so right now I’ll be talking about Sandra Bullock or health care. No show is the same. Something like Tiger Woods, that’ll last six months and then all of a sudden something else will come up.

You’ve done the late-night circuit: Chelsea, Jay, Colin Ferguson. What’s your favorite show to do?
LL: I like them all because they all let me learn something different. Chelsea is wild and crazy, and with Jay it’s a little more conservative. I just did George Lopez’s show, and that’s a different type of ethnic group, and so was Mo’Nique’s show. Everyone is different but I like them all.

What would you like to do that you haven’t yet?
LL: As a stand-up, I just did my first hour-long special. It’s exciting to be able to think I can hold someone’s attention for an hour [laughing]. But as far as just doing something different, I’m more into movies. That’s what I’m trying to do. There’s a change in movies right now with things like Knocked Up; it’s a whole new genre that’s not like an obvious silliness, but an indirect silliness that I would like to be a part of.

You play lots of different venues: colleges, clubs, theaters. How does your show differ by venue, or does it?
LL: It’s totally different. The thing is when we do a college we have restrictions; they’re younger, sober. We might be in a cafeteria or an auditorium. At a nightclub it’s usually later. They’re adults and have gone through a lot more things, so I talk to them a lot differently. When I do a church show it’s obvious! … I try to put little messages in for college students that I wouldn’t at a nightclub.

What can people expect at your show on Friday at the Gillioz?
LL: Well, it’s in a theater so I’m not as close to the audience, so I have to do different things.

Will we recognize any of your material, either from previous acts or from the special?
LL: There are some thing that are familiar, a lot of new stuff that they haven’t heard of. Most people know me from Chelsea or Tru TV, but this is a way for them to actually see me. When you do late-night shows, you only get to use four minutes of material. That’s nothing. The nice thing about the hour-long is you can kid of get a sense of who I am and my sensibilities. That’s why I encourage every standup to do an hour, at least a half, so people get a feeling for who they are.

On a scale of 1-10, how family-friendly is the act?
LL: My show, because of the stuff that I talk about, is not for children. I don’t like performing for children; that’s not where I am in my life right now. I wouldn’t say it’s “family”.

Do you know anything about Springfield?
LL: No, uh-uh. But I’m excited to find out.

You’re known for being one of the commentators on VH1’s “I Love the Fill-In-the-Blank” series of shows. How do you feel being recognized from that?
LL: Well, VH1 was one of the first things I started doing. They started my TV career and got me noticed as being on TV. And because they ran it so much, people got familiar with my name and face. It really helped to start off the “clip” era of TV.

What was the best decade?
LL: Even though I wasn’t born at the time, I liked doing the ’70s. I think it actually gave the most flavor, there were a lot of fun times and stuff. I loved researching it and then writing jokes about it. Really enjoyed that.

Anything else you want to say about the show on Friday?
LL: I’m just excited to come to [Springfield]. The thing is, when you do as much TV as I do, people are like ‘we wanna see you live and have a nice evening of comedy’. I’m excited to be coming there; we’re just going to have some fun. America is going through a lot right now and a lot of people are going through issues, and all I’ve ever wanted to do was entertain people.

Matt Lemmon, digital director