Veteran comedian Mo’Nique reached a new level of her career as a very versatile entertainer 10 years ago. That’s when she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her powerful performance in Precious and joined the select but celebrated group of comics-turned-serious actors.
But as she tells me over the holiday season—while preparing to make corn pudding casserole, a family favorite dish—Mo’Nique has never considered herself an actress, even though she’s stolen scenes in so many film and TV projects from The Parkers to Soul Plane. It’s always been all about stand-up comedy, and she’s making that clear during her first Las Vegas residency at the Sayers Club at SLS every Thursday through Saturday until Feb. 28.
You’ve performed in Las Vegas but it’s been a few years. Do you like spending time in Vegas?
I think the first time I performed in Las Vegas may have been with The Kings and Queens of Comedy (tours). Vegas is showgirls. 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 started his residency at the Sayers Club last year and you both came up through “Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam.” Did his presence play a part in your coming to 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.
You’re both known for being pretty raw on 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.
You’ve had so much different success on TV and in movies and of course you won 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.