AUP S2E4: Hell of a Week with Charlamagne tha God


TRANSCRIBED: Albert Parnell

Completed 8/19/22

[00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified. 

Cortney Wills [00:00:10] Hello and welcome to Acting Up. The podcast that dives deep into the world of TV and film that highlights our people, our culture and our stories. I’m your host, Cortney Wills Entertainment Director at theGrio. And this week we’re sitting down with Charlamagne tha God. So we had a lot to talk about with Charlamagne tha God who has a ton of big news coming our way. Aside from the recent announcement that Angela Yee will be leaving the Breakfast Club to start her own spin off show Way Up with Angela Yee. He’s also got a new iteration of his late night comedy show hitting the small screen. Comedy Central’s “Hell of a Week with Charlamagne tha God” will feature influential guests and Charlemagne’s hilarious and unfiltered take on the most talked about topics of the week. It premiered on July 28th and it’s executive produced by Charlemagne as well as Stephen Colbert. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a half hour weekly show that features unlikely pairings of comedians, celebrities and thought leaders across the political spectrum to debate the current events permeating politics and culture, with influential guests unpacking the stories, blazing the headlines. Comedy Central’s “Hell of a Week” will showcase a hilarious, an off the cuff Charlemagne all during the late night talk show format that churns America’s news into digestible soundbites. We also spoke to him about how he feels about Angela’s big move, why he thinks women are the most powerful force in media right now, and what he might be looking for in a co-host to fill her spot. We also dig deep into his kind of mental health journey and find out how he ended up becoming a mental health advocate. Spoiler alert, it was not on purpose and how his father and his relationship with his father really inspired that journey. It’s a really important conversation that I think we all need to hear, so let’s get into it. Hey, Charlemagne, nice to see you. 

Charlamagne tha God [00:02:10] Nice to see you, too. 

Cortney Wills [00:02:11] I feel like we’ve got a lot to talk about today. You got a lot going on. I’m excited about this new show. The new iteration of this show, I should say. “Hell of a Week.” And I mean, it’s already been a hell of a week. We got a big announcement from Angela Yee this week leaving the Breakfast Club. 

Charlamagne tha God [00:02:27] Yeah. 

Cortney Wills [00:02:28] How do you feel about that transition? 

Charlamagne tha God [00:02:31] I feel ecstatic for her. You know, I mean, extremely happy for her because, you know, the Breakfast Club and I’m glad we on theGrio because I can have this conversation like, you know, we’ve never seen a hip-hop morning show have the kind of run that The Breakfast Club is having. And this happens with white shows all the time. Like, when you look at somebody like Elvis Duran, who’s a staple, you know, at Z100, legendary radio personality, he’s in the Radio Hall of Fame. He’s been around for a long time. You know, he’s had about three or four different co-hosts go on to do their own shows. You know, like like literally like, you know, Greg T and Carolina, they’re on KTU right now. You’ve had Colin and Anthony come from his from his show, and they had a morning show in Seattle. His original co-host, whose name escapes me right now, but he’s got a hit radio show somewhere. 

Charlamagne tha God [00:03:21] For the Breakfast Club to be able to be a franchise, to be around almost 13 years and have somebody, you know, llike Angela Yee go on to do her own show, which is kind of like a, it is a spinoff of The Breakfast Club. Cause she’s going to be coming on right after us. I think that’s what people don’t realize. Like when you’re traveling around the country and you hear The Breakfast Club on in the morning, literally right after we go off Angela Yee is going to come on with our show “Way Up with Angela.” You know, if you remember all of us come from doing our own shows. Like I have my own morning show before Breakfast Club. Envy was doing his own afternoon show. Angela Yee was doing, you know, Shade 45. You know, hosting the morning on Shade 45, hosting our show. To me, this is the way things are supposed to be. It’s about evolution. It’s about growth. Like, you know, we in the Radio Hall of Fame, like, you know, “we already home” as Hov said. So for her to say, you know what, I’ve done this for 13 years. I’ve I’ve came, I saw, I conquered. Now I want to, you know, try some new challenges. I love it. To me, that’s what life is about. So I’m extremely happy for her. And I’m extremely happy for what the next iteration of Breakfast Club is going to look like. Because, you know, like I said, we are a franchise. And, you know, we’ve always looked at the show as a club. So what does the club have? A club has a lot of members. Yeah. You know, let’s let’s see what’s next. Let’s see who’s who’s coming next. You know, might be one person. Might be two. Who knows? You know? But that’s a process that I’m not even in that zone yet, because, like, this is going to be, like, a year from now before y’all see somebody in this seat permanently, you know, maybe longer. Who knows? 

Cortney Wills [00:04:53] You think you’ll have a rotating kind of guest host situation until then? 

Charlamagne tha God [00:04:57] Definitely. You know, I feel like, you know, when you watch shows like The View, The Real, when  The real was around, like, you know, whenever they would lose somebody, they would always rotate the guests. I think that’s the thing that makes sense the most. And that’s honestly why I’m so excited, you know, me, because, you know, every other week you could hear a new personality, you hear new energy in here and you know, I’d be lying to ya’ll if I told you all that I’m 95% sure it’s going to be a woman. Right. So to me I think women right now have the strongest voices in the media. I don’t think there’s nobody speaking truth to power. And I’m talking about on all aspects from politics to, you know, pop culture to sports. Everything. I think the best personalities nowadays are women. It’s going to be exciting, you know, to have new female energy in here every other week or every other month. I don’t know what it’s going to be, but it’s definitely going to be, you know, rotating guest. 

Cortney Wills [00:05:54] Well, we’re excited. We can’t wait to see what’s next there. And we cannot wait to see what’s next in store for hell of a Week. You’ve got some really great guests lined up. It’s a perfect time to talk to you right now. It’s comedy month at theGrio. You’ve got a lot of comedians coming through, and I feel like this show leaves a little bit more room than the last iteration for some levity, if you will. Was that intentional? 

Charlamagne tha God [00:06:18] Definitely was intentional. You know, our first season, my man, Chris McCarthy, he was like, look, man, you know, we in this for the long haul. So I just I want you to experiment. You know, and one thing that I wanted to experiment with was, you know, doing more long form commentary by myself. People hear me every day with Donkey of the Day and, you know, that’s like me going off for like five, seven minutes. But I really wanted to see if that’s something that I could do, you know, for much longer. Like when you watch The Daily Show with Trevor Noah or even Jon Stewart back in the day, that’s something that they did. But, you know, what I realized is, even though I can do that, like my strength comes in community conversations. Conversations with a community of people. That’s where I shine. Whether it’s having a conversation in an interview form or, you know, sitting around at a panel, kickin it with people, you know, talking and building. So that is what this season doing more of. That’s why we have the panel. I want to mix it up like I want the politicians and the political strategist and, you know, the political pundits. And then I want the comedians. I want the athletes. I want a little bit of everybody who got something to say. 

Cortney Wills [00:07:23] Oftentimes I talk to people and we’re talking like retrospectively about their career or the impact that their moves have had on the community. But I would argue that, you know, your presence in this game has really bridged a gap between all of those kind of subject matters that you’ve just mentioned, whether we’re talking about pop culture, something crazy that happened in the headlines, politics, mental health, like you’re bringing an audience together to talk about all of those things at the same time and kind of providing the space to be allowed to care about all of those things equally. And I think that that’s really groundbreaking. Do you recognize that particular impact that your career continues to have on our community? 

Charlamagne tha God [00:08:08] Yes. And I got to thank my mother for that. And I got to be hip-hop for that. And the reason I got to thank my mother for that is because my mother was a Jehovah’s Witness who was an English teacher. And when I was young, she told me to read things that don’t pertain to me. She said that to me verbatim, and that’s something that always stuck with me. So when I would go into the library, plus the book program you had to read for books, you know, to get a free pizzas, so I would devour and everything because I literally wanted to eat. I wanted pizza every Friday, so I would literally run, do these books. And it started with Judy Blume and Beverly Clearly. Then I started getting books about the supernatural out of the library. And then like I would be reading like the Jehovah Witness, the Watchtower, the the Awakes and the My Book of Bible stories. And I was just always a consumer of content. Like I was just a consumer of interesting content. I literally was a person who would like just pick up an encyclopedia and just start reading it, like literally just, just because. I saw Malcolm X later, he read the dictionary in jail. And the Autobiography of Malcolm X was the first book my dad ever gave me when I was young. So yes. And in hip-hop, you know, man, I learned about so many historical figures listening to rap music, you know, and when Chuck D said things like “Farrakhan’s a prophet, I think you ought to listen to him.” Or “when we were walking around with the Malcolm X hats and the African medallions,” like all of these things I wanted to know more about. So I always knew hip-hop was way broader then maybe, you know, certain aspects of hip-hop were presenting. I always knew that. I learned so much about religion and, you know, politics and everything else just from the music. So I always knew, you know, we were broader than what we presented. And, you know, seeing guys like Tupac, you know, like he was he was the perfect balance of ratchetness and righteousness. 

Charlamagne tha God [00:09:54] Me, I’m not an expert at anything. I didn’t go to college. I don’t have a major in anything other than life. So all I do is share different aspects of my life. And these are things that I’m actually interested in. Like, I didn’t set out to be a mental health advocate. I needed the help. I needed to do the work on myself. I looked in the mirror one day and did not like what I saw. I realized that I was projecting pain on people. I realized that I was a hurt person. I was, you know, hurting others. And when you got this microphone and you are, you know, impacting millions of people, that’s not a good energy to have. You know what I’m saying? Even though like a lot of things I might have done and they laugh and people laugh. A lot of that might have been at other people’s, you know, expense. And so it’s just like between that and just wanting to like, I love my dad. So I mean, this, with all due respect, would not want to end up like my dad and not wanting to do my wife the way I saw my dad do my mom, you know, I mean, like I wanted to really just make a change to be a better, better human. And it’s like when you’re doing that, that’s going to reflect just like the pain reflects or anything else reflect. They say hurt people, hurt people. Healed people help other people heal. You know, and that’s what it is. All of these things you’re talking about, they’re literally just who I am. Like, it’s not something I’m intentional about. I’m just intentional about being all aspects of who I am at all times. 

Cortney Wills [00:11:14] Who or what do you think gave you that permission that time where you looked in the mirror, saw someone that you didn’t necessarily want to be and decide that you were going to break that cycle? Like who gave you the permission to step out and do that? Because we talk about mental health now, the way we talk about the weather. But that wasn’t even the case five, ten years ago. 

Charlamagne tha God [00:11:34] Oh, man, it’s a lot of people. Amanda Seales. Angela Rye, my man Pete Davidson and Neil Brennan. Because these were people that were always having those conversations, you know? Debbie Brown, you know, Debbie been my friend for 17 years, no, 15 years or something like that a long time. I mean, I just had so many people around me that were already going to therapy, you know, like they were already doing the work, that was already on this journey of healing and I would just hear them talk about it. And, you know, my good friend, Jasmine Waters, you know, God bless dead. You know, she was she was one of those people that, you know, from the age 18, she was in therapy. So these are conversations we always used to have. And, you know, these people were telling me I need to go to that. I was hearing him talk about it and then, you know, they started telling me, yo, you need to really go do the work. I remember Amanda Seales saying one time, she was like, men, I forgot what she said. I forgot how she worded it, but I’m paraphrasing. But she was just like, you know, men are afraid to step out there and do the work on herself. And she was just like I just I want to challenge y’all men to go do the work on yourself. And it’s just like for me, it was a challenge that, you know, I accepted because I did want to be a better person, you know? I mean, like, you know, we all have a we all have that, that, that those shadow energy around us. I didn’t like I didn’t like that. I didn’t like I didn’t like myself, to be totally honest with you. I thought I did what I liked with a version of myself that I had created. You know, this is caricature. Cause the caricature was actually protecting Lenard, right. And this caricature was, was, was keeping people from seeing my hurt and keeping people from seeing my pain. But it’s just like, man, I, I got, I got four daughters at the time. I only had two, but it’s just like I didn’t want to be that. 

Charlamagne tha God [00:13:28] And, you know, when I started having that conversation, my dad, you know, he told me that he was going to therapy two or three times a week, that he tried to kill himself back in the day. And he was on 10 to 12 different medications throughout his life. That the state of South Carolina started giving him what we call a crazy check because they couldn’t figure out, you know, what else to do with him other than put him on medication and give him some money every month. And it’s just like, man, all of that just started to help me piece together like my life in a real way. Because, you know, one of the things that I realized when I was in therapy is that I had a lot of daddy issues. Like a lot. Like a lot of his whole projects, just his idea of what I thought manhood was. A lot of it came from like my pops, I mean, a lot to the point where I, you know, even when I and I talked about it in my first book, when I confronted him about cheating on my mom, like he literally looked at me and was like, you only got one girlfriend? So when you say that to a 16 year old, 17 year old young man, and this guy is just trying to get validation from his dad, his first, you know, male role model. It’s like, damn, I’m supposed to be out here. I’m supposed to be playa playa in these streets? And only for him to come back all these years later and say, You know what, man? You know, the thing I regret the most, man, is like, you know, messing up with your mom and, you know, you know, I really love how you, you know, hold your family down and, you know, how you are with your wife and kids. And I’m like. You should have told me that 30 years ago. You know what I mean? But I give them grace. Because, like I said, he had his own issues. And we are a generation. We’re a first generation to have the luxury of healing. The generation before us didn’t have that. It was too busy scratching to survive. And, you know, we didn’t have the luxury of healing with the first generation that had the luxury of healing. So, you know that all of that helped me give him more grace and it just helped me align my chakras the right way. 

Cortney Wills [00:15:27] I love that. Thank you so much for being so candid with me about that. And you know, you reminding me of a conversation I had with Amanda just last week and I was talking about like what a crazy time it must be to be a comedian these days. Because, number one, like you said, we all have this luxury of healing now. But I think we’re also hyper sensitive to our own and each other’s like triggers. And part of comedy has always been going to the tough places, making light of the tough things, finding levity in things that sometimes we can’t even bring ourselves to talk about. And and when you do that, you’re going to offend somebody. You know, I watched The Right to Offend. I watch so many documentaries about comedians. And I just feel like it almost sometimes feels like we don’t deserve comedy right now. Like, we can’t take it, you know? And what Amanda said was that she feels like what happens now is that comedians used to be audiences used to come to comedians specifically for comedic experience. And now often she feels like they’re coming not to get the comedy, but to poke holes in it, you know, or you read a book to point out all the ways it could have been written better. And so as a comedian, I would imagine, especially one who is sensitive to mental health and people’s triggers and, you know, wanting to be inclusive, like where do we even start to draw the line now between having that real open, safe space and, you know, kind of allowing for all of these sensitivities? 

Charlamagne tha God [00:17:05] Well, you know, I always say I’m not a comedian. I’m a radio personality. I do use the lens of humor to, you know, message things. But I honestly feel like regardless of what form of communication you’re doing, what form of art you’re doing, whether it’s music, what is writing books, whether it’s comedy, whatever it is, you know, if you are going to say what it is you feel like you need to say, like if the spirit is moving you, if your intention is only to, you know, get people to observe this, you know, in a different way. And if your intention is pure, you can’t be afraid to say what it is that you know, you need to say, because, like you said, you’re always going to offend somebody. There is nobody out there who is ever going to please everyone. And if your goal is to please everybody, you always going to lose, like because it’s impossible. Like there’s always going to be a debate. There’s always going to be pushback. There’s always going to be a critic that doesn’t like what you’re doing. Like, you know, the rule of ten is two things. Two people told me my main Cadillac Jack, who first hired us here at the Breakfast Club and my father, Cadillac Jack said the rule of ten three people are going to like it. Three people are not going to like it. Four people are gonna be on the fence about it or they won’t even care. That’s life. That’s just the way things are. 

Charlamagne tha God [00:18:21] My daddy always said You’re never as good as they say you are and you never as bad as they say you are. And that’s it. And that’s just like how I always move. And guess what? If I say something and I did offend someone, if I did trigger somebody, I have no problem apologizing. Like none whatsoever. Like zero, zilch, nada. And sometimes man, you know, especially in this TV game, you know, because, you know, it’s not like radio where you’re on a podcast where you’re on and you’re just talking. And then after the fact, you got to deal with all the backlash after the fact that it’s already been said. With TV, you’re you’re writing and you have P.O.V., right? And sometimes you might have a P.O.V. or something, you weren’t even looking at it like that in no way, shape or form. If somebody will point something out to you. It was a person we were talking about. It was actually Serena Williams, actually. Serena recently said she’s retiring, but she don’t like the word retirement. She likes the word, you know, transition. And, you know, it was just it was something that was a commentary that I had in the in the studio, the TV studio. And like somebody just was like they just pointed it out like, yo, you know, we should be careful with that because a lot of the right wing likes to label Serena, as a man, like she’s built like a man and stuff like that. And I was like, Oh, and I know I didn’t even think about it. Like, that wasn’t even the correlation I was trying to make or nothing. But when they told me that I got respect for Serena, I never met her or anything, but I just got respect for her and reverence, so I would never want to even put fuel on that fire, you know? So I kind of, like, took it out of her and just made it about me in the community in regards to how we use certain words. So yeah, I mean, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Like I don’t want I don’t want to purposely hurt anybody. I don’t want to purposely offend anyone. But if I’m having a real honest conversation about something and somebody gets triggered or somebody is hurt by something, I said there is nothing wrong with apologizing. Sometimes apologizing opens up a whole other conversation like you can’t be too big to apologize, right? 

Cortney Wills [00:20:29] Absolutely. I could talk to you forever, but I have got to let you go. I think I have time for one more question. And I was just looking at your guest list. You’ve got Sam Jay coming up, who I adore. I think that she is so brilliant in what she’s doing in the comedy space is really moving the needle to people understanding and people understanding who didn’t even know that they didn’t understand until they started listening to Sam Jay talk to me about, you know, what is your opinion of her comedy specifically? 

Charlamagne tha God [00:20:56] Yeah. Sam Jay’s on the night. She’s on the night. You know, we come on 1130 right after The Daily Show. I mean, it’s just dope to me, like, you know, and is once again, everything you just said is, I know that’s how people look at a person like her. But for me, it’s like I just think she’s smart. I think she’s funny, like, same way. I think Chris Rock is smart and I think Chris Rock is funny, you know, same way I think, you know, Kevin Hart, Dave Chappelle, you know, Andrew Schultz. They just smart. They’re just funny and they’re telling me their perspectives of the world. I think what makes Sam Jay so unique that she’s telling her perspective of the world, but at the root of it all, she’s smart and she’s funny and it’s wild, right? Like, I don’t go out much. I think everybody know that. But for whatever reason, when I go out, I always run into Sam Jay. Like, literally it’s like literally like when I’m out, like I was in, I was at I went to my Andrew Schultz had a comedy show at Radio City. He had a afterparty somewhere. I’m like alright lets go to the party. Sam Jay. I was at a some other event, Sam Jay and, you know, her partner. And then the other night, we after the comedy show Dave Chappelle, you know, Chris Rock, Kevin Hart, Sam Jay. So I always end up in spaces with Sam Jay. And we we kick it and we have conversation. I just think she’s a dope person, and I don’t even think we’ve scratched the surface of, you know, what we’re going to see from Sam Jay. 

Cortney Wills [00:22:21] I agree. Thank you so much for your time today. It’s been a total pleasure. Can’t wait for this season of this show. And as always, we appreciate the work that you continue to do. 

Charlamagne tha God [00:22:30] Thank You, Courtney, I appreciate you. 

Cortney Wills [00:22:31] You’re welcome. Thanks for tuning into this week’s episode of Acting Up. If you liked what you heard, please give us a five star review and subscribe to the show wherever you listen to your podcasts. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to podcasts at Follow us on Instagram at Acting Up dot Pod. Acting Up is executive produced by Cortney Wills and produced by Cameron Blackwell.