In an era where everyone is telling you to ‘stay woke,’ can you be too woke? Comedian Nore Davis’ new album asks just that question. His newest album, Too Woke, comes out November 23 a.k.a Black Friday.
The album is something new from the Inside Amy Schumer alum. In the album, Davis plays a range of characters that represent different ways to be a black man in America. He uses the characters to talk about everything from toxic masculinity to being a vegan. The album features two sides with seven tracks each. The comedian recently went on Conan to do a set about manhood to give a taste of the album.
Too Woke comes from the Blonde Medicine production company which was founded by veteran Bay Area producer, Dominic Del Bene. Davis had a release party eariler this month in Brooklyn’s Urban Gallery where he unveiled original art done for the album. Joined by Phoebe Robinson and Damien Lemon, the event made headlines for its unique use of art to market an album release.
Laughspin’s Rosa Escandon talked to Davis about the album, writing ‘woke’ material, and what’s next.
You’ve put out several comedy albums before Too Woke. How is this one different?
The process was different working on this one. With this album, I was able to put out my own art, but also go further with it. The majority of albums—they’re released and then comics go, “Hey, you know, my album’s on iTunes. Check it out.” Then, “Hey look, it’s top 10 on iTunes!” and then after a couple of days, it’s gone. So I just really wanted to give my efforts and hard work of writing those jokes its due process. So it’s like, let’s give it more time. Let’s push it more, just like how rappers or even musicians do. This one was different cause I started to think about the whole marketing behind it and not just the show and the performance because that’s easy. Our jokes don’t last that long, but let me build a great big house around it so when people come to see it, they’ll appreciate it more. So people will say, “Look at all this nice stuff that’s all around him, man. He got coasters. He got an exclusive limited edition. He got an art show.” It’s just something that just gives it more and not just a simple release like every other comedian does. I really think as much effort as it takes us to write this material, we should give that same amount of effort in marketing and in the end product too. Like Coca-Cola, you don’t drink it just because it’s good. You drank it because you saw that fucking polar bear. Then you drank it because you saw that commercial, you saw Michael Jackson, you know. We should do the same thing with stand-up comedy albums. And that’s how this one is different from the other albums I’ve done or any other album, maybe.
How many artists did you ask to make album covers for this show? You had an impressive art exhibition as a release party!
I asked around like 22 artists because it’s something different. I was blessed to have 13 artists who submitted to the art gallery.
How was it approaching people to try to get this work? Did you have to explain to them what the album was going to be about? Or did you let them take a lot of creative liberties on the album covers?
I let them know what the title of the album was and what I was doing. I told them where I wanted to display their art in the art exhibit, in the art gallery where I’m going to have my album release party. And just off the initial idea of that, they said that was dope. People were just like really psyched to do it. A lot of the artists that did do it, they know my work; they believe in me. And then some were ecstatic just because of the idea. It wasn’t that much of a hard sell. I gave them the characters I do on this album, a theme, and the title, and then I said you have total creative control. I graduated from Pratt Institute, so I remember when I first started as a freelance artist, I always hated when the client would give me notes and it wouldn’t go with my design, like they don’t know nothing about color, but they have notes about it. I didn’t want them to have those restrictions. I wanted them to have total creative control. And what they came up with, they blew me away.
The characters on this album talk about some tricky and politically charged subjects. How was it developing these characters and was it hard to make comedy about subjects like toxic masculinity or trans rights in America?
The characters came a little bit later after I’d worked on the material. When I recorded this album at the beginning of this year, we were at the height of all these social issues: toxic masculinity, Harvey Weinstein, even our diet. There were all these documentaries coming out on Netflix. Basically, the truth was leaking hard, and it was really affecting a lot of people and just being woke and being aware. Even the word woke was just being thrown everywhere. It’s like our eyes were shut and now they’re starting to be open. So I was getting engulfed in all of these topics and being so conscious I was starting to forget what happiness is, started to forget what fun is, to forget how to turn up. So I was like, how can I take all of these topics that are causing everybody pain and misery and doubt and making everybody sad and depressed, and make it funny. And that’s the unique perspective of the stand-up. We can take somebody’s pain and let them see the funny in it, and then give them a relief, give them a break from their reality. That was my goal to do that and try to make toxic masculinity funny or even white supremacy and never mentioning the president. I also did transgender and LGBTIA material because my brother is transgender and a lot of comedians try to take on the LGBTIA material, which they don’t have to. No one asked you to write a joke about that. I just write about what I experienced with my brother and what would make him laugh. What he’s going through in his struggle as a trans man, it was just so heartbreaking. It’s hard. He’s a trans man and he’s black and it’s so much. I was like, how can I make a joke that’s about him that makes him laugh and not feel ashamed, because there are a lot of jokes out there that make a person feel bad because they are the butt of the joke. I just wanted to make something that would make my trans brother laugh and, hopefully, the rest of the community can see that and laugh and relate too.
You mentioned very briefly, and I wanted to make sure I heard it right, you don’t mention the president in this album?
No, I don’t. I don’t mention him at all.
That must have been a very conscious decision. Was it hard to not talk about him when talking about hate in America?
I know exactly. He’s the one that stirred it up, but I don’t think he’s the one that needs to be present in our joy or in my art making. He has no respect for anybody, and he’s a white man that’s saying whatever the hell he wants. What’s funny about that? Black people knew that shit a long time ago. There’s nothing new about that. We know about rich white men doing whatever the hell they want. And now the world is seeing that this is a rich white man that don’t care about poor white people. Of course. We’ve been trying to tell you all that! So why is that funny? There’s no need for it. We have to focus on your own happiness, your own love. What are you doing every day that makes you happy? That’s what you’re worried about because it’s just a storm. It’s going to pass. It’s a trend, just a trending topic. Trends go away and then my material won’t be timeless. I want my material to be evergreen so you can listen to it now or you can listen to it 10 years from now. It’ll still hold up.
What does being woke mean to you?
It’s having your third eye open all the time. Wokeness is not being a sheep and you’re no longer a wolf. You’re somebody who sees the world through their own lens and you just walk alone and sometimes you do find people that do share the same views as you, but the majority of the time it is lonely. Being woke is just being a free spirit.
This album is coming out in two volumes.
Yeah, and each volume is only seven tracks. Seven jokes. It’s not like one list of, like, 26 jokes or it says number 30 because I feel like we’re in a time of saturated content. And I just want people to listen to my jokes and control what I give them. And then they’re done. Each volume is only about 14 minutes to 15 minutes. The whole album is only like 40-42 minutes. You can listen to a podcast because you’re involved in the conversation, but when you’re in a stand-up show, it’s very one-sided. It’s just one person talking to people laughing. So I just wanted to shorten that time, give people a little bit of that experience so when it’s over and done, you can go back to your podcast. I love stand-up albums. I grew up on them. Back in the day, Chris Rock and Martin [Lawrence] and Robin Harris, you can sit there and listen to their whole hour because there was no such thing as other content.
So other than the album, is there anything else that you’re working on right now? What’s next for you?
I’m being featured on 2 Dope Queens on HBO. Working on that set, and then I’m working on another set for Comedy Central half-hour in January. And that’s all new material that will be on an album called Emotionally Attached. I feel like how artists have podcasts or actors have TV shows, stand-ups have comedy albums. I have a label that is dope. I have access to Sirius and streaming services. And then my own platform where I can always keep putting out an album and give my fans new material whenever I’m ready.
Laughspin has an exclusive sneak peek from Too Woke. Listen to a full track here: