As a fiery, veteran stand-up comedian, a producer and host and an Oscar winner—Best Supporting Actress in 2009 for Precious—Mo’Nique is obviously a versatile entertainer who probably has any number of projects to choose from at any given moment. But when I spoke with her over the holiday season, there was one only project on her mind, and it wasn’t her first comedy residency in Las Vegas launching this weekend at SLS.
“I’m getting ready to make this corn pudding casserole with sour cream and with that nutmeg,” she says, and I’m instantly hungry. “My Aunt Anne makes the best corn pudding. She’s the matriarch of the family. And now, at age 51, I’ve got to take on the corn pudding champion. You don’t even understand what kind of pressure I’m under. This is bigger than the Oscars or the Image Awards or the Golden Globes. This will cement my legacy.”
After the corn pudding, the Vegas residency should be a breeze. Whether you recognize her best from TV’s Ugly Betty, The Parkers or Nip/Tuck, or stealing film scenes in Beerfest, Soul Plane or Bessie, Mo’Nique is first and foremost a comedian, and she’s ready to entertain on the Strip starting Friday.
You’ve performed in Las Vegas but it’s been a few years. Do you like spending time here? I think the first time I performed in Las Vegas may have been with The Kings and Queens of Comedy [tours]. Vegas is light. Vegas is excitement. Vegas is fantasy. The last time I actually was there was several years ago, and I went to the Blue Man [Group] show. There was a time when I came to Vegas, and it was all about the buffet. You could eat food from all over the world in one [meal], and I tried to take advantage of every bite I could. But now life is different. I don’t do the buffet. I do the buff.
Eddie Griffin launched a residency at the Sayers Club last year, and you both came up through Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam. Is he a friend, and did his presence play a part in your show at SLS? That’s my baby. We did a movie together [Irish Jam] and I’m honored to be on that stage because Eddie and I go back years. When you’re able to play with your friends and then later you’re doing what you love to do, and now we’re both these older people with families and grown children, it’s nice to able to grace the same stage. People say we are both super raw, but are we raw or are we honest? We don’t have those alternative facts. We do honest comedy and storytelling and you can laugh along with it.
What should we expect from your residency? Just show up. We do what we do as comics. What’s our purpose? To make you laugh and make you feel better about your situation, whatever it may be. When you come to Mo’Nique Does Vegas, I’ma do Vegas, and you’re coming for a lot of laughter, no judgment, a lot of love and a great time. Am I going to do Vegas or is Vegas going to do me? What a wonderful Reese’s Cup that will be!
You’ve had so much different success on TV and in movies and of course you got the Academy Award. What kind of impact has that had on your stand-up? I’ve always told people I’m not an actress, I’m a stand-up comedian and a talk show host, but people still give me that label. Did it change me? No, because I never stopped being a stand-up comedian. I’ve evolved and grown up and changed and unfortunately, you’re right, that does happen to some comedians once we do get into TV and movies, something happens to that live performance aspect.
But I never left, and stand-up is actually very therapeutic for me. If I walk away from stand-up, it would jeopardize who I am as a person. It’s part of who I am. I’ll be 99 years old with one tooth and one string of hair hanging, and they’ll stay, “Coming to the stage!” And I’ll say, yes, I’m coming, but it might take a little time.
MO’NIQUE DOES VEGAS January 11-February 28; Thursday, 8 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 8 & 11 p.m., $49-$89. Sayers Club, 702-761-7000.