Dewayne Perkins Black History Month Interview

As a comedian, when was the first time you realized that you were funny?

When I was writing for a show called The Break with Michelle Wolf on Netflix. I remember that was my first job and I was the only Black person on this staff. It was very hard because I was thinking, “I’m not a fan of being the token.” [I] helped [Michelle] write some of the jokes [for] the White House Correspondents Dinner that year. There was a joke that I wrote that basically called Sarah Huckabee Sanders the archetype of white women. It was chosen as one of the best jokes that year by the New Yorker.

At that moment, I realized no one else on this staff could have written that joke. My point of view is why I’m funny. My existence and my lived experience are what makes me great. That was a very validating moment at the beginning of my career that I’ve always remembered when I’m entering new spaces: nobody can do what you can do, because you are you, period.

When did you know acting was your calling?

I was very tiny in elementary school and kind of feminine. I had a stutter. I was bullied heavily. Going into high school, I thought, “I’ve watched enough TV, I’m pretty smart. I can figure this out.” I created identities for myself to choose which one was the safest, and which one was going to get me what I needed. In my freshman year, I was a football player. Eventually, I realized that was not fun so I quit and I joined my school’s dance team. At that point, I thought, “Oh, too gay! Everyone’s gonna know.” So I quit.

In my junior year, I found improv. I thought, “Okay, cool. This is cute. I could play a bunch of different people.” My improv teacher was also the director of musicals so I started doing musical theater. I thought, “I like doing this.” She convinced me to go to an acting conservatory for college. By senior year, I thought, “I enjoy what I’m doing. This feels closer to me. I’d rather go down this road than any road I’ve done so far.” It felt the closest to happiness.

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