Dulcé Sloan, WC '05, laughs backstage at another comedian's joke. Between shows the group of performers told jokes, reminisced about shared experiences and talked of mutual friends. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Killin’ It in Comedy

Comedians often benefit from the cluelessness of others.

Some white women have made the unwitting mistake of petting Dulcé Sloan’s Afro. They pay now for their presumptuousness by appearing live on stage as punch lines.

“They don’t stay in the perimeter of the Afro and keep it Christian, no,” the wide-eyed Sloan gushes in a routine, demonstrating how “they put their whole hand straight down to the scalp and shake it, while they’re looking at their friend and saying” – she slips into a preppie falsetto – “‘Lauren, it’s so soft! It’s like a poodle!’” Sloan pauses a beat and mugs a sour face. “I’m not rubbing my fingers through her blond hair and saying, ‘It’s like a golden retriever!’”

Dulcé Sloan, WC '05, performs during the Best of Atlanta Comedy showcase. She recently performed a featured segment on 'Conan'. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
Dulcé Sloan, WC ’05, performs during the Best of Atlanta Comedy showcase. She recently performed a featured segment on ‘Conan’. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

That joke elicited big laughs when she told it on Conan O’Brien’s late night variety show earlier this year. After doing standup for six years in Atlanta, Sloan, WC’05, is killing, to use comedy’s lingo, in star-making, hard-to-crack venues.

“When I got the call from Conan, they wanted me to perform two weeks from the time they called me,” she says, “so I immediately started trying to perform every night to hone my material and get it as sharp as possible.”

The strategy worked. The day after her Conan experience, her phone was ringing with invitations to some of Los Angeles’ most exclusive comedy clubs, including The Comedy Store, where Jerry Seinfeld, Garry Shandling and others started.

In December, Sloan took top honors in the 12th annual StandUp NBC comedy showcase, landing her a talent contract with NBCUniversal, which promises future, high-profile projects. The competition was fierce among the nine finalists winnowed from 40 semifinalists from all over the country. The Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal picked her as one of the “New Faces of Comedy.” She has appeared on Fox NFL Sunday’s Riggle’s Picks and ABC’s Resurrection.

That means you, too, will get to know her tactilely pleasing Afro and frank, no-BS delivery style. She finally felt comfortable enough with the idea that she could make a living in comedy to give up her “dream” day job as a sales rep selling stucco. (Hey, don’t knock it. Have you ever seen a suburban subdivision in Atlanta without stucco?) She jets between Atlanta and Los Angeles to be closer to the cameras, and in the meantime, she’s touring at a frenetic pace, hitting mostly college campuses all over the country with a sleepless, near-military work ethic.

“I’m not an overnight success,” says Sloan, who is 32. “I’ve worked hard to get this far.” Her name means “sweet,” and it sets the tone – mostly. Another stereotypical adjective that crops up is “sassy,” not her all-time favorite buzzword, but she can live with it. But mostly what defines Florida-born Dulcé Lazaria Sloan was her experience growing up in several Atlanta suburbs surrounded by funny women.

“My grandmother was always giving silly gag gifts, and my mother is good at going off on rants with hilarious wordplay,” she says. “Humor was a big part of my upbringing.”

Joyful cut-up

Early on, Sloan showed comedic potential.

John Major, her teacher at Meadow Creek High School in Norcross, says she eschewed the stereotypical “class clown” role because that would have been a distraction from learning. “She was just so joyful and happy all the time, though, and she was always enjoying herself. So the people around her enjoyed her, too. Her humor springs from joy.”

Sloan enrolled at Brenau to study theater and become an actor. She learned quickly that the single-gender environment provided fewer distractions, enabling her to focus. And for the record, she adds in droll, flattering vernacular: “May Day’s the s**t.”

Her professors remember her as a joyful cut-up. Women’s College Dean Debra Dobkins, who recalls Sloan’s quick comebacks and “slightly mischievous gleam in her eye,” describes her former literature student as “creative, independent and often outspoken, so I’m not a bit surprised that she’s finding success in entertainment.”

When she graduated, she began exploring different performance modes. She signed up for a standup comedy class at The Laughing Skull Lounge.

“From the first time she took the stage, it was obvious she had talent,” says “Big Kenney” Johnson, her teacher. “She was not a contrived character; she was unapologetically Dulcé – a sweet and genuine person devoid of any pretenses. Now, sometimes her stuff is critical, and sometimes it’s irreverent, but it’s always honest, which is why it works.”

Dulcé Sloan, WC, '05, center, laughs with other comedians backstage between performances at The Laughing Skull Lounge. The group of comedians gathered together to perform at the Best of Atlanta showcase. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
Dulcé Sloan, WC, ’05, center, laughs with other comedians backstage between performances at The Laughing Skull Lounge. The group of comedians gathered together to perform at the Best of Atlanta showcase. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Sloan quickly became a fixture in Atlanta’s comedy scene, which The Laughing Skull owner Marshall Chiles describes as an ascending hub for the medium. “We were waiting for someone to blow up, and that’s Dulcé. When she told me she’d sold her car and bought a van so she could drive other comedians to gigs with the hopes of getting booked herself, I thought, ‘She just might make it in this tough business.’”

She wrote and performed sketch comedy with improv groups and competed in contests. L.A. talent agent Reg Tigerman, a judge in a contest, picked her from a group of 75 aspiring comics as “the one who had the most talent.”

“Her unique point of view is relatable but still unexpected,” he says. “I was struck by her charisma, stage presence and originality.” Sloan’s jokes veer broad and bawdy, but she never goes blue. You can take your children to her shows without fear of hearing the F-bomb. Her shtick focuses often on her ample figure, which she typically accentuates with a see-through blouse over a leopard-print bra. She takes the stage with a provocative shimmy, urging the audience to “take it in, take it in.”

“You might be wondering, ‘Why can I see this big chick’s bra?’” she says. “Well, it cost $100, and if I pay that much for anything, you’re gonna see it. The rest of my outfit? $17.88.”
Big Kenney Johnson describes her work as “somewhat observational and very reality-based. What you’re getting is a straightforward, first-person account of her life as she experiences it, and it just naturally comes out funny. You sense her genuineness.”

‘Brenau taught me to be a Golden Tiger. If I don’t find a husband soon, I’ll be a Golden Cougar.’

How does she work? Instead of falling into comedy-writing anxiety over scripting and practicing the “perfect” setup and punch line, she typically takes an eyebrow-raising social encounter – a gay man grabbing her breast during brunch, a checkout clerk hitting on her, the aforementioned Afro assailants – and zeros in on the punch line. Then she goes on stage and trots it out “without a net,” filling in the blanks extemporaneously.

“I’m less a writer than a performer,” she says, adding that her theater background probably influenced this orientation. “Some comedians will spend hours writing and rewriting a joke, but I’ve found that that approach wastes valuable time. I try out the joke on the audience, and if it works, I keep it. If it doesn’t, I haven’t spent too much time on it. Some jokes are funny only to you or funny only to other comics, which is known in the business as ‘playing to the back of the house.’ The only gauge of what’s really funny and what isn’t is the laughs in the general audience.”

Sloan strives for “universal, mainstream” appeal, rejecting the label “urban.” She also disdains the axiom that comedy functions as a catharsis that derives from tragedy. “If somebody shares pain on stage, I am bothered by that,” she says. “I’m up there to entertain, not to make the audience my therapist. I just want to reach as many people as possible while being true to myself.”

Does she regret her decision to set aside her experience as a theater student at Brenau and pursue a career in comedy?

Nope, she says quickly. “Too much drama.”



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