Meet Darryl Lenox, the near-blind comedian who will make you laugh out loud with astute observations such as life would be a whole lot easier if it came with this warning: This is just gonna hurt, and I’m sorry. Lenox says, “If the preacher would just say this right before he announces you man and wife it would be a whole lot easier…”
Heavily reliant upon music for inspiration, the comedian tells Life of a Rockstar, “Before the biggest shows of my life, I always bring my headphones and listen to music. Always, always, always because that’s some rhythm. I know I’m a lyrical speaker and I have to have a good rhythm in my head and so I’m always listening to music before a very big show. Musicians specifically can lose themselves in the instrument and that’s when some of the best music comes out. Well, my instrument is my voice and my relationship with the audience so I have to create a musical rhythm back and forth with them and so the music really helps me do that.”
“Blind Ambition” is more than just the title of Darryl Lenox’s recently named top 5 comedy album of 2012, it’s the journey of a man who has come through virtual and literal darkness to see that he can realize all that he imagined as a child and that there has been a purpose for his pain and struggles. Darryl’s hilarious share-it-with-your-friends comedy album does more than solidify his connection to Canada, it illustrates courage and inspiration. “Blind Ambition” is a throwback to the days when famous comedians were recited amongst friends and their one-liners were quoted.
Life of a Rockstar editor Nicole Hanratty recently met and interviewed celebrity comedian Darryl Lenox. She had the opportunity to ask him some deep—and some not so deep—questions about his connection to music and his own art.
Rockstar Comedian Darryl Lenox Finds His Shining Moment In “Blind Ambition”
by Nicole Hanratty
Post: December 30, 2012
When I first met Darryl Lenox inside the Hollywood Improv bar, he appeared to be a confident man enjoying the success of his current album “Blind Ambitions.” Other comedians in the bar were thrilled to see him, meet him and shake his hand. It was obvious straight away that Darryl Lenox is the kind of guy that draws in a crowd because of his warmth and friendly banter. He made sure to find out the bartender’s name and seemed as at home in a comedy club as one might be in their own living room. He also made fun of my sparkly shoes that the doormen at the Improv called “Dorothy-like,” which was fine by me since they did it while checking my ID.
After ordering me a cocktail, Darryl proceeded to guess my birthday and zodiac sign based on answers to a few questions. The fun of the game was that because of the type of person Darryl is, he had the guys next to us sitting at the bar playing along. One of Darryl’s fact finding questions was, “If I came to your house and you made me a sandwich, would you serve it to me on a paper plate or a regular plate?” When my answer was china, he thought he had me nailed as a Leo. (Side note: No bar patrons correctly guessed my month of birth.)
It was an hour or so into the conversation before Darryl told me about his blindness. He can’t see out of his left eye at all and his right eye has only a limited field of vision. The knowledge changed nothing about my perception of him, but once again illustrated not everything is as it seems.
Describing Darryl Lenox to someone whom has never met the comedian, would require the use of words like confident, humanitarian, caring, funny, attentive, focused and engaged. He is a man not in any way shape or form reliant upon misfortunes in life as excuses for any mistakes he has ever made. He is an artisan with words and reads human nature at an almost psychic level. By his own admission, Darryl Lenox is no saint, but he has what we all could use a little more of, “Blind Ambition,” and this is his moment to shine.
After hours of banter at the Improv we set up a meeting time at the W Hotel in Hollywood to have dinner and conduct a formal interview. I knew I had to bring my best questions and he knew I would accept nothing less than the wittiest of retorts. And yes, I asked a blind man what he listens to while driving. It’s a good thing we all have a sense of humor here…
Nicole: So we’ll just start out by me asking you, you’ve said music inspires you in your comedy, so let’s jump into my favorite subject.
Darryl: Jump in.
Nicole: Which artists do you find most inspirational?
Darryl: Currently, Jay-Z, Kanye, John Mayer, still Peter Gabriel, Jill Scott.
Nicole: You mentioned that you have a pretty wide repertoire of music that pulls from different genres. Can we play, what do you listen to when?
Nicole: What do you listen to when you’ve had a bad day?
Darryl: Ooh, if it’s a girl bad day then I listen to some 90s classic R&B, Love and Basketball soundtrack, Musiq, that soul, Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel, “Don’t Give Up.” If I had a bad business day, then I listen to a lot of angry stuff, “I’ll show you” kind of stuff; a little Jay-Z and Kanye to keep my arrogance up real high. Rage Against the Machine when I’m lifting weights.
Nicole: What about when you are sitting down to write material?
Darryl: I don’t listen to music when I write material but I start every single day, I put on some headphones and I open up a Word document and I write an open letter to my step-dad and all the people who have passed away recently and I always listen to 70s classic soul. I’m like, “Hey, man I miss you” and then I just write and then I finish writing and then turn that off and start doing my comedy.
Nicole: So it’s your warm up and it’s an ode, a more serious ode to people that you miss in your life.
Nicole: Who are those people?
Darryl: My step-dad, Charles Woods, my best friend [comedian] Todd Lynn, a friend of mine’s mother Pat Hebert, comedy club owner Ross Rumberg. There is like 11 or 12.
Nicole: Okay, so what about when you are driving, what do you listen to?
Darryl: I don’t drive.
Nicole: Oh! We talked about that. Okay, when you’re being driven.
Darryl: Then I’m the passenger and I have no say so at all, so. I actually did a road trip where one guy absolutely loved Weird Al Yankovic and so we had to drive 12 hours nonstop with Weird Al Yankovic.
Nicole: Stop. Were you dying?
Darryl: Oh, it was painful. [laughter] But it is a great thing too, because I get to learn a lot about other people’s music by sitting there and listening to them. I really like that. One of my biggest goals and dreams to have happen is after I get my first enormous like million dollar deal, I always wanted to catch, I mean riding in a limo, only driving at night from L.A. to Vancouver and listening to all the music important on my play list. And it’s going to start with Big Time and some Marvin Gaye and Dave Brubeck and just only drive at night. In the daytime we’ll sleep but then we just drive at night because I love looking out the window listening to music at nighttime.
Nicole: So what about when you are trying to set a mood?
Nicole: Uh-huh (laughs).
Darryl: Oh, okay. Prince, got to have Prince on there.
Nicole: God, it just doesn’t get better than him… that voice.
Darryl: Woo, yeah. Prince, Phil Collins. I used to have a tape called “The Slayin’ 90” and the first 45 minutes of it was Prince, Phil Collins, Martha Walsh, Sinead O’Connor, just kind of all over the place stuff, yeah.
Nicole: What’s the last album you think you downloaded or added to your playlist?
Darryl: The last album was… I went back and got the old, The Blueprint, [Jay-Z] the first one because I hadn’t had that. So I’ve been listening to that a lot lately but that’s the last one. There is a new The Roots album that they recorded recently that I have but I just haven’t gotten to listen to it yet.
Nicole: Last night when I asked you which song title you would choose to describe your personality, you answered “Imagine,” immediately and without hesitation.
Darryl: Right, yes.
Nicole: How do you feel having a strong sense of imagination has helped you to achieve success and bring you to where you are today?
Darryl: Because I’m the only boy and I have four sisters. I had to spend a lot of time in my brain…making up stuff… [laughter]
Nicole: Pretend you weren’t the only boy?
Darryl: Pretend and lie and (laughs) that’s all what great comedians do, you pretend and you lie and you don’t put any limitations on your creativity when you have an imagination. I hate just regular straight boring; I like to be imaginative about stuff.
Nicole: (Laughs). Okay, you shared with me that a girl had to pass a sandwich-making litmus test if you were doing to date her.
Nicole: I’m curious if you were making a metaphorical sandwich with ingredients that build a lasting relationship, what would they be?
Darryl: Okay, she’s got to be the butt of the bread, the last piece of the bread. That’s the top. If you ever have a good sandwich, the butt of the bread goes on top and then I’ll be the bottom part of the sandwich and then listening, I have to listen to her would be the first condiment and then the not reacting would be the tomato…
Nicole: (Laughs) The not reacting …
Darryl: (Laughs) Not reacting, yeah. [laughter]
Nicole: Boy, you have learned.
Darryl: Uh-huh (affirmative), don’t take everything personal is very hard so that would be like onions. Everybody is not found of onions but not reacting, listening and then, this sounds … the meat of the whole thing is, it sounds bad but “let me lead” because my intentions are to make both of us unbelievably happy because I love that heart so the meat is “let me lead you” to where I think we’re supposed to be and then a toothpick is nakedness.
Darryl: That’s what holds the sandwich together is the nakedness.
Nicole: (Laughs). It all comes down to being naked.
Darryl: (Laughs). That’s right, that’s right.
Watch Darryl Lenox “Blind Ambitions” Clip Filmed Live at the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver
Nicole: So last night when we were at the Hollywood Improv, we ran into a comedian friend of yours who asked you what you’ve been up to and basically said, he’s such a fan of yours that he just wants to be sure that you see it through and it jumped out at me as a funny thing to say to guy who has a limited field of vision, is blind in one eye, and has just released an album titled “Blind Ambition.” Nonetheless, it brings about an interesting question, what things have Darryl Lenox not seen through?
Darryl: Not seen through…whew. I’m not done, I haven’t started anything that I’ve not done, but I haven’t accomplished any of my goals yet but not seen through? … I probably got three or four sitcom treatments and screenplays that I need to finish and that I will finish. Personal stuff, I went through a big one yesterday. There are a few people that I still need to apologize to and I’ve got to buy my mom a house and those kinds of things. There are a lot of those; there are a lot, a lot of those.
Nicole: How do you take something in your life that may have been a negative experience, and I know you’ve talked about a few of them in your act, how do you find a sense of humor with the life lessons you’ve learned?
Darryl: I was talking to my manager today about this but I think because I do have such a limited vision I have to get really close to something to see it really clearly, and I’ve always read that if you stare at something long enough, you can see through it, it disappears and the closer I stare at something and look at it, you see all aspects. You see the hurt part, the anger part and then eventually you will see the funny part in every single life situation there is some humor in it.
Darryl: It’s always in there; it just takes some time to look for it. So the horrible things that have happened, that’s the first thing I think of, “How bad did this hurt?” and then my brain immediately starts thinking, “When I tell this painful story, how am I going to make people understand and relate to it?” And the best way to do it is make it funny and all humor is based somewhere on those five emotions and so I’ll find it, I’ll find it.
Nicole: How do you personally define having a sense of humor and what personal parameters do you set as to what is fair game for your material?
Darryl: The sense part is something I’m still working on; I think I mentioned this last night. There are some people who have a high, high sense as in like a seventh sense if you want … They are like super sensei’s…
Nicole: Like you said Tina Fey.
Darryl: I’m not there yet so I’m working on fine tuning my sense.
Nicole: You’re trying to get your black belt.
Darryl: That’s right, but the parameters? My goals as an artist and a man are to be more inspired and be an inspiration and so I don’t say anything mean about anybody …I won’t try to get a laugh on something that’s not inspired or inspirational; I won’t do something if I don’t think there’s some sort of inspiration in it.
Nicole: You’re not wearing it today, but right away last night I noticed the pearl earring that you wear and it’s pretty prominent in the photo on your album cover. It takes a confident man to pull off a pearl earring. It’s not the most common earring that you see a man wear?
Darryl: No, two, I wear two pearls.
Nicole: I know your confidence has been shaken a bit at times in your life, going through your divorce and losing vision. How do you come from being that guy who is trying to figure out how he could logistically pull off a suicide being blind to being excited that one day you could be an eye witness? Can you walk me through from where you gained your confidence? That low point to your high point, now.
Darryl: I never trusted anybody … It’s the weakest part of me, my eyes, the weakest, and to have to rely on somebody else to handle that was just scary and I felt like life was just really hard and I had fought so hard through so many aspects of life that I thought, “If I lose this little bit of vision, I just don’t think I’m that strong anymore” and so I didn’t want to live that existence. So that was very scary but it wasn’t yet the lowest part of my life. It was just a scary existence I didn’t want to come face to face with. When that doctor dug into my eye with that needle and thread and was purposefully hurting me to make me better, I felt like he was saving my life and after that I thought, “Well, if that guy can do that then I can do anything, all I got to do is work as hard as he did.” And when I got up and I looked down and saw my shoelaces for the first time ever without any aid, I was a new dude, I was a new dude. So the confidence was from that experience and his willingness to work and hurt me and the success of it.
Nicole: You gained confidence from him.
Darryl: I asked him, “Is this something that you really know you can do?” And he had to make an impromptu decision and I think that was even more inspiring and it’s the first real hero that I’ve ever had, real one. I mean I’ve had Jacky Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Barack Obama, those are heroes in theoretical form to me but a real live human being to do that…I got a hero out of it. I met somebody who was what I was trying to be, inspired and an inspiration.
Nicole: You brought up earlier music you listen to when you have had a bad business day with an arrogant response listening to your music, and that was going to be actually one of my questions because the theme of being humble versus arrogant pops up in “Blind Ambition,” which while super funny is also a spot-on observation of cultural differences. But we all have tendencies to be both humble and at times a bit more braggadocious, so I’m wondering if you can tell me when you find yourself to be the most humble version of yourself and when your arrogance knows no boundaries?
Darryl: The humble is any time that I’m not on stage or having a conversation with anybody. Walking, because I have to watch where you walk to see if there is a step in front of me and I’ll knock your glass over on accident some times. So I’m very humble in all the aspects of my life except when I’m talking, either in a microphone or to people just because I have to be so aware and considerate of my limits. I guess it’s more of a vulnerability than humble but I’m very aware of that. And then the arrogance part, is the exact opposite. When I’m talking, when I’m on stage, in a microphone or when I’m in a conversation with somebody because that I know, I know people. I just know people so … There is no part of humanity or human conversation that I’m uncomfortable with so that’s … I almost have a messiah complex about that kind of stuff. [laughter]
Nicole: When I was listening to “Blind Ambition” and I heard you say instincts are always right, I knew right then that you and I had a connection. That’s a huge thing for me and I think even on my Instagram profile it says, “Always trust your instincts .” Admittedly, trusting my instincts sometimes works out less well than I had hoped but my instincts have–I would say–a 98.5% success rate. Can you tell me about a time when you took a leap based on instincts alone that did not pan out?
Darryl: I met an Aries lady with red shoes pretending to be a Leo recently and I trusted my instincts and I was dead flat wrong. [laughter]
Nicole: All right, a time when you went on instincts alone and it did pan out?
Darryl: “Blind Ambition.” It was a big risk; it was an enormous risk financially and career wise and everything but I knew deep, deep down inside that it was time and I was supposed to and … We don’t always get a Braveheart moment where you are like, “I’m going to win everything. I’m going to fight and I’m going to paint my face blue and white and I’m going to have a speech.” But I had that; I felt that instinct. It was very deep inside of me.
Nicole: What is your favorite movie of all time?
Darryl: Shine. It’s about a pianist, David Helfgott who is a brilliant pianist but tough relationship with his father Nicole and his father was always pushing and driving him but at the same time would never let him leave to go get better. So, he became very neurotic and just ran away from home basically to go play in England. There is a piece of music, the Rachmaninoff III, that apparently is so difficult to play that men have gone crazy trying to master this piece. In order to get his father’s approval, he wanted to learn that piece of music. So you fast forward to the finals of important competition and he decided he was going to play that music. And there is a scene, Scott Hicks directed it, and so David Helfgott, Geoffrey Rush is playing and his fingers are moving so fast and then Scott Hicks cuts the audio off the piano and all you hear is keys thumping but no sound so it’s (singing the beats of this song) and it’s just hands are blurring and his glasses fall off and he slows the sweat down. The sweat is just dripping off his head and he starts to slow motion his hands and he loses himself in that piece of music and I start crying right away, the first time I saw it, I start crying because I’ve always wanted to have that moment where you lose yourself in the thing.
Then at the end of the piece, boom, turns the audio up, everybody is going crazy, he passes out on the piano and he goes crazy and he’s in an insane asylum for five years and it was worth it. It was absolutely worth it and I think that’s what I felt like. I hope that’s what happens in “Blind Ambition” for me. I just go all the way in to the expense of everything just for that one moment.
Nicole: So I know your out here to promote “Blind Ambition” which is going to air on Starz soon and you have some great things going on that include a Podcast with Marc Maron and a spot on the KROQ Morning Show and your album was just ranked on the top 5 comedy albums of 2012. So you’re definitely starting 2013 off with quite a bang. What do you want to get accomplished this year?
Darryl: I want to make my first million bucks. I want to get nominated for a Grammy. I want to write an opus. I got this story I just want to tell and I want a new hour. My life is so very much past what happened to me but I’m excited to talk about my present and my future and I want that to be my next hour. My day-to-day existence, how I’m seeing everything with this little triangle vision that I have and I want to have a big-ass impact this year cause so much of what I did before was based upon this is what I’ve overcome but now it’s like okay, I can exhale and now we can really have this great conversation and get down.
DARRYL LENOX ON THE WEB
DARRYL LENOX AND CHARITY
Darryl supports The Third World Eye Care Society. “The Third World Eye Care Society is a great foundation that my ophthalmologist in Vancouver told me about. People in third world countries don’t have the same access to just regular visual needs, eye glasses, contact lenses and saline solutions but mainly eye glasses and so we all if we have eye glasses have an old ugly pair we don’t use anymore, you can just bring those to my show. We have a barrel set up and we’ll take those and ship them to Singapore or Cambodia and that’s it.”
ABOUT HIS FAVORITE:
Flavor ice cream: “Butter Pecan.”
Place to relax: “In a comedy club before the people get in, an empty comedy club. That’s like a church environment for me. It’s very serene and quiet and your thoughts don’t have any limitations and it’s perfect quiet for me.”
Favorite comedians: “Of all time? The long answer is I have a table, an invisible table I set up in the back of the room and at that table I envision Richard Pryor, Bill Hicks, Eddie Murphy and Bill Cosby and I imagine that I’m going to perform in front of them every night and I know they would tell me if I’m not doing well, if I’m faking it or being lazy. So I’m trying to impress them every night.”
MORE ABOUT BLIND AMBITIONS
Nicole: So, okay here’s where you slayed me in “Blind Ambition. “ How many dudes buy a book called ‘She’s Just Not Into You’?” (laughs)
Darryl: She’s Just Not Into You (laughs).
Nicole: None. I bought her a drink (laughs). She didn’t,–I can’t even say the word because I’m too much of a lady–she doesn’t like me and there is no need for a paperback. The line is genius.
Darryl: (Laughs) Thank you.
Nicole: I love it. Can you give me a few other book titles that men don’t need to buy or wouldn’t buy?
Darryl: Think Like a Woman, Act Like a Man (laughing), Hello God, Are You There It’s Me Morty. All those gender specific books, they don’t work when you flip-flop them like that. They just don’t work (laughs). There are tons of them; they don’t work (laughs).
Nicole: One of your funniest lines is, “I hope this big black dude don’t beat me up and poke me in the donut.” (Laughs). You seem to effortlessly weave the issue of racism into your routine. You deliver a line, and no one in your audience seems appalled or offended or upset, but–I know because I walked away thinking about it–that in some points that it’s true and it gives you something to think about. I’m wondering if that’s purposeful on your behalf and overall if there are social issues that you want to bring awareness to through your comedy?
Darryl: I don’t know how purposeful it is with the intent of I want you to think about this as much as it is just an actual part of life. You know, some people are tall, some people are short, some people like black people, some people don’t like black people, it’s just all part of being a human being and we just evolve. I had a friend tell me, you know when you walk into a room people are thinking, “I hope this big black guy doesn’t beat me up and take my wife.” [laughter] …So I said that on the special, but there is no purpose or intent in trying to make you think about that.
As far as the social issues that I want to bring up, not particularly. It has to strike a chord with me emotionally for me to want to talk about it, and if it doesn’t, you know I’m not going to talk about it. I don’t want to be the guy who is trying to change how people think about the world. I want people to think about how they feel themselves so that’s more of an agenda than anything else.