Nikki Carr is by far the freshest face and voice on the newest season of Last Comic Standing. Carr began her comedy career at age 34 at the New York Comedy Club and made her television debut on BET’s Comic View in 2000. Since then, she’s appeared on It’s Showtime at the Apollo, Martin Lawrence’s First Amendment Stand-Up and Showtime’s Stand Up for Family, and made a name for herself with her signature song, “The Fat Girl’s National Anthem.” With Last Comic Standing providing her widest audience to date, Carr has perfected weaving life’s challenges into rich comic material and fiercely funny performances. Having entertained audiences for the past 17 years, she attributes her success as a comedian to her mom encouraging her silliness as a child.
AfterEllen.com: Congratulations on making it to the finals! First things first: What was it like meeting Wanda Sykes? Tell me everything!
Nikki Carr: Thanks! To be totally honest, the moment I first saw Wanda Sykes in the same room that I was in, I was star struck nervous! I’m a pretty shy person as it is, but I had to try hard not to faint. Wanda is my Shero! A black, lesbian unafraid to be who she is. Proudly introducing the world to her family and all. A true inspiration! After I saw her a couple more times, and began to relax, I got up enough nerve to tell her how her, Ellen DeGeneres and I hung out all the time, but then I’d wake up, and they’d be gone! So suffice it to say, it was a dream come true!
AE: So aside from Ellen and Wanda’s comedic genius, what inspired you to get into comedy?
NC: I believe my Mother always knew I’d be an entertainer of sorts. I’m pretty sure she thought I’d be a singer or actress, because as a child these are the parts that she nourished, accepting the whole time that I was just a very silly child. I think she hoped that my silliness wouldn’t be a hindrance. I don’t think she saw it as a comedy career.
However, I kept her laughing always, laughter has always been a sure sign of happiness to me and as her only child I felt it my duty to make sure I always had something ridiculous to say or do to crack her up!
I started seeing shows like Def Comedy Jam and decided that being funny is all I’ve ever really known how to do! Now you can get on TV for it? My very first show ended in a standing ovation! I gave myself five years to get onto TV. I did it in three. Then I just continued to do comedy because I love it and people enjoy and love and PAY me because of it!
AE: So it’s safe to say that your onstage persona is just an extension of your own personality?
NC: What you see is what you get! I’m silly 24/7. My kids are silly! My grandchildren too! I can’t stand to see my children or my girlfriend without a smile on their faces. Immediately I have to ask, “You OK?” I try to keep the world around me smiling if not laughing their heads off! Nikki Carr onstage is very much an extension of Nikki Carr offstage.
AE: On Twitter you mentioned losing a lot of friends after coming out on Facebook. Have you addressed it on stage?
NC: I did lose a few hundred friends on Facebook after I came out. I actually came out on BET Comic View 2014, which I’m not even sure aired yet because I’ve been so wrapped up in this competition. I came out because Obama intrepidly spoke out for gay rights in his INAUGURAL speech? Really? That hasn’t EVER happened! This is enormous! He is standing up for my right to be treated equally during one of the most important speeches he will ever give! I have to now proudly stand up for myself! I am a lesbian. Those who choose not to love me anymore are free to go. It doesn’t make me love you any less. However, I do have a fear of being killed for being a lesbian.
AE: What inspired you to come out?
NC: The whole coming out thing is very scary. I’d touched on it throughout my career, but never really admitted to anything. Part of the reason is because my mother insisted that if that’s who I needed to be, then I should wait until I “made it” like Ellen did. She felt saying anything too soon would limit or maybe even, stop my success. The other thing is that I didn’t want to lose out on potential bookings because of homophobes. If they did book me for their parties or boat rides, they wanted to pay me very little, or, have me do a cruise and pay me with “fun.” My bills can’t get paid with “FUN!” My children can’t eat “fun.” So I kept my mouth shut until I just didn’t care who I’d lose with the news. My mother had learned to accept me. My children all know and have always known and have always continued to love me. And God created me so He can’t be mad.
NC: On this show, I’ve learned to shave my jokes. I learned how to do a hilarious four-minute set. (Wanda’s mentoring taught me that)! I learned that I am a pretty good comedian (as per the judges on the show). I learned that I am a real comedian. I’m doing this show with only reasons to cry, fail and or give up inside of me, but yet somehow, I keep finding the strength to deliver despite my homelessness and my unstable relationship and TONS of other problems. I learned that no matter how hard my life gets, I can still make other people laugh with this powerful gift.
You can catch Nikki on Last Comic Standing tonight at 10pm ET, with guest mentor Cheryl Hines.