Fast-rising Atlanta comic Dulcé Sloan on her new 'Daily Show' job

This was posted by RODNEY HO/ on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog on Tuesday, September 26, 2017

For many correspondents on "The Daily Show" over the past 20 years, the satirical news-oriented comedy program has been a gateway to bigger and better gigs. And the show producers are perfectly fine with that.

Former Atlanta stand-up comic Dulcé Sloan this month joined a show whose illustrious alumni include folks who spun off their own talk shows (Samantha BeeJohn Oliver, Stephen Colbert),  jumped into film (Olivia MunnJosh Gad) or joined scripted TV shows (Wyatt CenacSteve Carell). 

"You get to flex a lot of muscles here," said "Daily Show" executive producer Jen Flanz, explaining the job's appeal. "You use improv. You need to have a unique point of view. You do stand up; you perform scripted pieces. We do a lot of sketches and field work. And it's fun and collaborative."

Sloan, a Meadowcreek High School graduate, built skill sets attuned to the needs of "The Daily Show." After acting for many years, she became a fixture in  the Atlanta stand-up comedy scene.

"The Daily Show" hired her this summer. Her first set piece aired earlier this month focused on how the fashion industry appropriates aspects of minority cultures.

Or as she explained it on air: "It's when you take something that defines the culture that you're not a part of and profit off of it."

"Sometimes," she later said, "it crosses the line like when you get movies about white boys saving jazz [referencing the film 'La La Land'] or Miley Cyrus twerking."

Then she notes that white people sometimes embrace things that were once considered ghetto. "Look at big butts," she said.

"I always try to," host Trevor Noah said.

Sloan looked at Noah with gratitude and their hands touched.

"Thank you," she said.

"Big butts used to be considered undesirable," she continued, "but since the Kardashians bought all of theirs, everyone wants one!"

She concluded that "this is about equality. If minorities were equal, they wouldn't worry about people taking their culture because that wouldn't be all they have. Look white people, if you're gonna appropriate, take everything, take the good and the bad. You can take my struggle, too. Get pulled over for no reason, get followed through a store and the next time there's a Black Lives Matter march, I want to see you there Kendall, but don't worry about bringing that Pepsi girl, we drink Sprite!"

In an interview after it aired, Sloan said she was happy how it turned out: "Trevor is so sweet, such a generous performer. He really helped me out."

Noah had seen her breakthrough Conan O'Brien set early last year, where she expressed annoyance with white girls touching her afro. "They're not classy," she said on stage. "They don't want stay on the perimeter... She takes the whole hand, goes straight for the scalp, shakes it back and forth and then exits your afro with this jellyfish action while she's looking at her friend going, 'Lauren, it's so soft. It's like a poodle!"

Noah kept her in mind so when he had an opening over the summer, he invited her to audition.

"I wrote a desk piece about basically trying to help white people navigate the racial minefield of online presence and social media," Sloan said, "just giving tips not to terrorize their friends of color." She then flew to New York and did an audition piece about how hard it is to be black and patriotic, especially since her birthday is July 4.

"Two hours later, they called me and I had a job," she said.

Jocelyn Conn, senior coordinating producer, said they liked Sloan's "big personality. And right off the bat, we liked her point of view."

"We look for people who get us excited, make us laugh and want to keep watching," Flanz added. "Dulce fit that."

"Being an actor and being a comic has prepared me perfectly to do this job," Sloan said. "I've had to learn to write and perform. Both of those things have to come together for this show. All the other correspondents have been so great in helping me with the process, showing me how pitches work, how the show works."

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: Dulce Sloan attends the Tribeca TV Festival conversation with Trevor Noah and the writers of the Daily Show at Cinepolis Chelsea on September 24, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Roy Wood Jr., a "Daily Show" correspondent who hails from Alabama and is heard daily on Kiss 104.1 in Atlanta, said, "She has a frankness about her comic perspective that's very blunt but right on the nose."

You won't see Sloan every day or even every week. Correspondents are used when needed and when available. "The Daily Show" tries to keep six around for flexibility and if somebody gets a juicy movie role or guest star on a TV show, they are allowed to take time to do that. "We like to let people do those things," Flanz said. "If one person isn't there for a week or two, we aren't completely strapped."

A professor at Brenau University in Gainesville noticed her comedic potential when she was a  DJ on the college radio station but she pooh-poohed him at the time. "People heard her ranting about things on the radio and thought she was hilarious. She was serious!" said J. Scott Fugate, who is also an actor. "I told her she should be a comedian but she wanted people to take her seriously!"

Sloan's Atlanta mentor is Big Kenney Johnson, who has been doing stand-up for 20 years in this town. Eight years ago, she reluctantly took his Stand Up 101 class at the Laughing Skull Lounge in Midtown. But he saw a diamond in the rough immediately.

"She's like a Picasso in the middle of finger painters," he said. "She has something that is obviously different and special. I was honored that she wanted me to help her hone and refine what she already had. It's like those antique road shows. You find something in the attic and you just need to polish it. She's a Tiffany vase. "

She knew who she was and was surefooted from the beginning, he said. "She wasn't afraid to make mistakes," he said. "She was able to tweak and modify almost on the fly. She could hit the stage at 7 and later that night do it again that much better."

Not surprisingly, he thought Sloan's debut on "The Daily Show" was rock solid. "She was poised," he said. "She didn't look nervous. She didn't look like a rookie. Her first day in the big leagues and she hit a home run."

Marshall Chiles, owner of the Laughing Skull, marveled over her work ethic and likes to tell the story about how she bought a mini-van in Atlanta one time so she could drive to gigs around the Southeast with other comics and help guarantee herself more airtime.

While she said the carpooling was helpful to her, it was not the primary reason she bought the mini-van. "I'm not that calculating," she said. "But honestly, if Marshall loves to tell the story that way, I'll let him ride!"

Sloan's mother Mary Ann Hill helped Sloan indulge her love of entertaining going back to age six. "She made dresses for me for shows," she said. "She bought me wigs and props. She was a performer as a kid, too, in a dance troupe." Her uncle is the professional R&B star Stevie B, who had a No. 1 pop hit in 1990 called "Because I Love You."

She also interned at the Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville while in high school before attending Brenau University.

Once back in Atlanta, she watched the modest comedy scene blossom over the past decade. "It was good to be in that nice little bubble to be able to develop and do two or three shows a night," she said. She also kept day jobs. Her last non-comedy gig was an office assistant at a stucco supply store in Doraville whose boss was supportive of her taking time off for comedy festivals, conferences and gigs. "I also owe her a Mercedes if I make it big," she said. "That was the deal."

Sloan said she is very much into talking about her own experiences, which Big Kenney encouraged her to do. She jokes about being a black woman or plus-sized woman or as on Conan, a woman with natural hair.

One joke stems from the fact her biological clock is ticking big time. "The punchline is I look at men how men look at women," she said. "When I do that joke, everyone knows what I'm talking about."

And the night Trump beat Clinton last November, she got a call from a straight white dude lamenting the results. "I told him, "Dude! You're gonna be fine! Why are you calling me?,' she said. "I got a joke out of that."

She spent about 18 months in Los Angeles after seven years in Atlanta, where she performed on Conan and became a regular at the Improv in Hollywood. She won a Diversity Showcase competition on NBC and shot a TV pilot which didn't make it to air.  But it was all part of the process that led her to "The Daily Show."


'The Daily Show,' Monday-Thursdays, 11 p.m. on Comedy Central

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.