Funny or Fuck Outta Here: A Chat with East Coast Comedian Troupe the Decepticomics
COSIGN sat down with The Decepticomics to discuss their emergence from black twitter and comedy in the internet age.
Words by: Candace Carrington | @cultclassiq
“Fuck you and fuck everybody else, it’s our show” explained comedian and self appointed marketing manager for The Decepticomics, John Minus. It’s this brand of up-front yet socially savvy comedy that enables The Decepticomics to sell out bar rooms throughout the East Coast over the last four years.
The group, made up of Dillon Stevenson (NY Comedy Club, Broadway Comedy Club, Gotham Comedy Club), Gordon Baker-Bone (AXS Gotham Comedy Live, Winner 2011 NJ Comedy Fest & Co-Writer “Hater-Bot”), John Minus (Non-Productive Comedy Group, Comix NYC), Mike Brown (Caroline’s Comedy Club, Stand Up NY, and Laugh Lounge) and Cerrome Russell (BET’s “Hell Date”, Knitting Factory, & opener for Hannibal Buress) built their following from the sharp-witted world of Black Twitter, a digital community known for dragging racially insensitive brands and media outlets to their demise, bringing underreported social injustices to national spotlight and turning the timeline into a digital Summer Jam screen for a few immoral “average Joes” (adulterers, deadbeat dads, con artists etc.) Above it all, The Decepticomics cultivated a strong following while simultaneously avoiding the stereotypes of black male comedians.
While this distinction is a feat of its own, It’s also important to note that this group is no band of vine sensations, here today and gone at the drop of a hashtag. Each of The Decepticomics holds his own and will join forces again this spring for their Atlanta show. Between the laughs and sips of bourbon I had a chance to pick their brains on how The Decepticomics came together, what’s it like being a comedian in a viral age, and how they overcame the “black male comedian” stereotype.
Candace Carrington: How did Decepticomics come about? How did you guys end up together?
Gordon Baker Bone: John Minus, he’s the reason we came together from Twitter.
John Minus: Yeah, because I know all these comedians. I already knew Gordon, he came later because I had a lot of reservations about him because he’s awful but Dill and Mike Brown, I knew sort of in real life but mostly on Twitter.
CC: So you reached out to them on Twitter?
John: I met Dill once but I didn’t even know that I knew him, but I somehow found him because everybody gets sucked into black twitter, eventually one way or another. Cerrome I didn’t know at all, but he was just really, really funny so I was like “Oh we’re all comedians, we should just do a show together” and so the first show we did, it was four of us. It was kinda like “Oceans 4” so we needed one more. I knew Gordon since we both were already doing comedy and I thought he was really funny, and the group welcomed him in. But he wasn’t supposed to stay and now we can’t get rid of him. Its great for the group but its terrible for me personally (laughs) no, I like Gordon. We have a very weird relationship because we’re both from New Jersey but he’s like the city mouse and I’m like the suburban mouse, so we argue a lot. So yeah that’s how we came together. It was a good thing and it kept being a good thing.
CC: And you guys are in your 4th year right? How difficult is it for you to build as a group across 4 different states?
John: Yep. Almost to the day. Our first show was February 8th, 2012. Thank you Facebook.
Dillon Stevenson: When we do a show, we all have so many other projects and stuff that we work on individually, so it’s kind of like, The Avengers coming together. It takes a lot for us to come together to do shows.
John: We all have our own movies
Dill: All these personalities who have their own projects but when things come together, It’s worth it because we see the support that we have every time. The crowds gets bigger, people will tell people. It’s basically like word of mouth and social media support. That’s crazy that we can just come down here and only one of us lives here and do two shows with really good audiences.
Gordon: Give us some credit, like we do a pretty good show and people recognize that and that’s why we’re going to Atlanta in May -just announcing that right now. So, we’ll be tweeting about that. (met with skeptical looks from the group) Don’t look around! Watch, by next week I’ll have a room for us.
Dill: Well alright…where are you getting the people from?
Gordon: The people? If I build the shit, the people will come. (laughs). Yeah we’re definitely going to Atlanta next.
CC: Do you all feel comedy is easier or harder in this viral age?
Cerrome: 50/50. If you’re a lazy comic, you won’t have the social media following that you want. Dill’s an excellent writer, and excellent actor, he knows how to promote himself. All 5 of us know how to promote ourselves very well and social media only adds on to it. It helps us grow as comedians and helps grow our fan base as well.
John: I’ve been on twitter since 2007 and like a lot of comedians don’t get that twitter is interactive. They think that if they put their jokes out there they’ll get followers but like you have to talk to people, you have to have conversations, you have to engage in things, so that’s what we do, we engage in things. He (Cerrome) tweets awful things early in the morning, just awful, filth!
Gordon: I like what he (Cerrome) does. Because its professional filth. It’s well thought out. What he does, and I’ve kind of learned this, is like he picks a prime time to tweet. Between 6 and 10 am, people are are heavy in their commute so it’s like morning twitter.
CC: Morning twitter is the the best twitter.
Cerrome: It is! People need that because they’re either coming home or going to work. They might be on public transportation and they want to read these tweets that are better than most radio shows.
John: Yeah they do first shift. I work overnight most of the time so I’m…
CC: So you’re on filth/messy twitter?
John: Yeah I’m late night twitter, when people are trying to get tongues in their butts at 4 am and yeah…it’s wild but I take over that part
Dillon: But the thing with social media is that our audience knows who we are so it’s not like they’re coming to see a random comedian. People kind of already have an idea of who what they’re going to see and that’s great and we know them too. We know the kind of jokes they want to hear. Like I do jokes at these shows that I can’t do anywhere else because I know who I’m talking to.
Gordon: This is a dope interview.
Cerrome: Yeah we definitely depend heavily on social media, just because it gives us a way around the normal channels that comedians have to go through. We’re able to reach a wider audience without the prerequisites that most comedians have to go through as far as like TV credits and we’re able to build our fan base from like a grassroots standpoint. [Our following] are like family, they’ve been talking to us for like the last 4-5 years; they know who my wife is, they know who my kids are from pictures and stories and stuff like that. They know our personal stories. They’ve been with us since the beginning and they’re not just jumping on us because we’re the next thing. It’s been more substantial because we’ve been able to sell out shows in [Washington] D.C. without TV credits the last 4-5 times down. The last sold out shows in New York were through social media and we’re going to go to Atlanta, so social media’s been good to us.
Gordon: There was a girl here that listens to our podcast, who follows me. I never met her before but she wanted to take a picture…and I’m just amazed. I never -I was the last one to fully get on twitter. I didn’t see the purpose of it at first but now I…
Cerrome: His tweets are horrible.
Gordon: I mean I don’t try. It’s more like this is in my pocket I might as well use it. But now it’s something.
CC: That’s cool, I’m sure your fan base appreciates the authenticity
Dillon: (laughing) That’s a good way to put it.
John: Fans are probably like “I like these guys, they’re true to themselves, fucking nut bags.”
CC: It always comes up, the decision to [do drag] or not to [do drag]. As black male comedians, what are your thoughts on that?
Cerrome: I’ll answer this because they’re going to be offensive. Well, Gordon will. As far as black comedians in drag, if it’s not authentic, if it’s not something you feel needs to be done in order to sell your joke, -don’t do it. Because there are a lot of people who are not necessarily comedians and just have a following through Vine or Instagram and they know that drag is the newest trend. They throw a wig on and tell bad jokes and get a little press from that. So with us, none of us have done it because it’s never really occurred to us. You can tell jokes from a woman’s perspective without throwing on a dress, rather than patronize a trend. So that’s why I personally don’t do it. It doesn’t make any sense to me, it’s not needed.
John: Well actually he’s wrong, I have [performed in drag]. (laughs) Yeah I did, were you there? The first time I tried to start a show of my own called “Non-Productive comedy show” in New York and for some reason they all fell on holidays. So one of them fell on the gay pride parade so I dressed in drag for gay pride, and it was fun, it was just a thing. This is actually a bigger issue for me specifically, I hate the straight jacket you’re put into as a black male comedian. You saw me up there, I go up there and talk about whatever. Like for the longest time we we’re like “oh we can’t do gay jokes because they won’t like it” so —
Gordon: I never said that.
John: –No, you didn’t say that but we were talking about how hard it was because everybody’s butts tighten up. It’s one of those things where you know I don’t like having boundaries. That’s why I do this. I don’t do this for people to tell me what I can and can’t do. I don’t wanna do drag and have people go “oh you’re downgrading masculinity” Fuck that, it’s too much hyper masculinity in black men anyway. You gotta have feelings.
Dillon: My only problem with John doing drag is that he didn’t tell me that was going to happen before I showed up to the show
John: Where’s the fun in that?
Dillon: He asked me and my peoples to come on. I knew him but I was there with my sketch group and none of them knew him so I was like “Oh this is my dude John’s show” and we get there and Johns in a dress and I’m like “uhhh, this isn’t how I know John.”
Gordon: How do I feel about drag? Ahhh it’s kind of a hack now. I think it’s been done. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. It’s cool for some people but it’s not for me anymore. I did improv and I did like a scene with a dress on one time, didn’t like it.
Dillon (to Gordon): That’s not how you improv. You make it up on the spot, you don’t have to put on a dress.
Gordon: No, like I ran into the back, grabbed a dress and went on stage. It’s not something for me. I like what Martin [Lawrence] did with it, I like what Flip Wilson did with it. Historically, it’s kind of cool but now I’m looking at it as black male comedians taking black female actresses roles and then complaining that there’s no funny black women out there.
Mike Brown: Also, at the time when people were doing drag a lot, we were in a different space socially with transgender people and all that. People looked at cross dressing as just funny and I think now it’s just different.
CC: Like slapstick?
Mike: Yeah. It’s kind of low hanging fruit sometimes.
John: Recently I watched a lot of Kids in the Hall and Monty Python. They were always cross dressing. Especially Kids in the Hall. I think they preferred to do it. They always cross dressed so I don’t associate it with color because everyone I saw doing it was white. So it’s not weird to me but like I said on stage, I didn’t grow up around a lot of black people so I didn’t get those, ingrained “this is what we can and can’t do” things. I think the whole point of this show is we’re doing what we want and we’re not doing what you think we should do. That’s the point of all of us. We don’t want to dress in drag but if we do, why not? Fuck you and fuck everybody else, it’s our show.
Mike: Yeah I think separately, if we’re on a show, we’re all in different shows as “the black comic”. People expect us to be a certain way and we’re never that stereotypical way. So when we got together to do this show, it was great mix of different styles and comedy but it’s not what you’d expect from a group of 5 black comics. I think it was a precedent set by like the Kings of Comedy, you got like 4 behemoth comics, coming in from the urban room circuit or whatever or the “community room”, as I like to call it and then you have us “ok we do any room we can get up at”. I think because of that, we’re the truest form of alternative comedy.
John: No but seriously, this may sound big headed but a lot of people want to be on our show.
Whether you want to be on the stage at their show, or in the audience, the Decepticomics are certainly not a group you want to miss. Connect with them on twitter at @TheDillon1, @BakerBone, @AlterNegroSho @CerromeRussell and @YoMikeBrown. As promised, the Decepticomics are teaming up with NSFW (creators of Sundresses and Whiskey, and Bourbon Ball) in May for Cocktails, Crunk and Comedy, a high energy comedy show in Atlanta, GA interspersed with crunk music and complimentary cocktails between each set.