Not too long after Get Out hit theaters, I was approached by someone I didn't know too well at work to be involved in a sketch they were building for Seriously.TV. At the time, Seriously operated out of our offices, and the guy writing it, stand-up comedian Nore Davis, was someone I'd chat with via Twitter DM about new movies, especially the latest superhero blockbusters. I'm not shy in front of a camera, so I said I'd be down, and we turned around a hilarious video about what happens when you're extra-shook around white people post-Get Out.
Nore and I had kept in touch ever since, which is good because I've been able to see him blossom. Over the summer, he appeared on Conan, in a stand-up segment that currently sits at 900K+ views on Facebook. He'd also put out a special, You Guys Are Dope, via Amazon earlier this year, and has been posting about trips he's made to the Marvel Comics office in New York City. Basically, dude's been hella busy since we made that wild video in the Complex office.
In the time since he got internets famous via his Conan clip, Nore had been posting a number of different characters on his Instagram; essentially, he was showcasing seven different types of black men in this woke era we're currently living in. Socially conscious material is his modus operandi, and it looked like those images ushered in his latest project, a comedy album titled Too Woke!, which is available today (Black Friday). We linked up recently to talk about the year he's had, as well as breaking down his process for rolling out this album like a rapper, and why he wants to be the Hov of stand-up albums. Check out this track from Too Woke!, "White Supremacy," then dig into our conversation.
I wanna congratulate you; it's kind of crazy to see somebody that I worked with succeeding like this. You've really got some shit going on. How's it feel?
It feels really good man. It feels good to get things moving. I always want the focus on my stand-up and when me and you was rocking back then, even though I was able to get my voice in there, it was kind of weird. It was kind of offset, but it still set the platform of setting relationships and now that that was over and that helped me pay some bills, I was able to be an artist, a full artist, and focus on stand-up. So, focusing right now on Too Woke!
Earlier this month, you held an interesting release party for Took Woke! It was a whole gallery experience, right?
Yeah, I [wanted] do an art exhibit. Most stand-ups, when they come out with an album, it just comes out. There's no PR for it, there's no press, and then it's done. I just wanted something to have a nice, slow rollout to give awareness and attention to it so people can really be like, "Oh, this is kind of like how rappers promote their albums, man." I'm just like, "How can I extend a stand-up and not just focus on the joke, but focus on the image of the whole theme of my album?" So I [decided to] make an art exhibit. Because the focus of the stand-up album, with always love to try to figure out a funny cover, a funny album cover. Or like what the tone of the album's gonna be. I said, "Let me make an art exhibit and have a whole bunch of illustrators" because we have nothing but illustrators and designers that love doing comedy fliers. I was like, "Let them design a whole album cover different. Their own rendition of my album cover and it will display the artists' art, their tone, their execution." And then I'm gonna put it in the art gallery, in the art exhibit. And we gonna have the comedy show in the art exhibit. It's probably like Jay-Z's "Picasso Baby."
That's like my inspiration for that. We're never gonna be huge as music, and that's fine because it's so fast and it's very subjective, but so is stand-up.
That gallery showcase was where you revealed the album cover, which you got Frank William Miller Junior to do. How'd that come about?
I always knew Frank's work. I'm putting this album out with Blonde Medicine, with my boy Dominick. Dominick is heavy into hip-hop, and he was the first person to produce my first album, Home Game, in 2013. He knew Frank, and was like, "Yo, I get him to design your cover art." Then I built the whole art exhibit for the roll out of the album. To have [FWMJ] to do [the album cover], it's crazy. I gave everybody else tools to do it, but when his came back?!?!?
Did you get the build with him at all, to mold what it was, or did you kinda just get—
I sketched, I usually sketch them out. I went to design school. I can see the vision, but execution was never my forte. I'm glad Dom reached out to him. Frank killed it.
At one point, Kanye West was going to be releasing his next album, Yandhi, on Black Friday. Were you intentionally releasing this album to counteract that?
I wasn't throwing shade. I was definitely throwing inspiration of like, I love his focus on the seven tracks, politics aside. I don't know what the hell that is, but before all that Trump crap happened, I did love the seven tracks [album idea]. I feel like that's great, where the artist can control the content, where we could control, "this is the jokes you get right now, and then I'll be back." I just give people two volumes, and each volume is seven tracks, so each volume's only about roughly 18-20 minutes. That's all. That's all I'm taking of your time.
That reminds me of your special, You Guys Are Dope, where you'd like 10 minutes of stand-up and then you'd break that up with a little four-minute segment or whatever.
Conversation. Yeah. Interstitials. Yeah.
You had a similar approach with the album?
Exactly. My approach with stand-up is always something different, unique, to where hopefully I can inspire comedians behind me instead of just people really getting involved in people's stories instead of like, "yo, this is my special." This is my art. I always wanted to have a different flavor. For You Guys Are Dope, it was like let me give you stand-up, which is inspired by the conversations you see on the movie.
You had a huge moment with your appearance on Conan. That must have been amazing to get that call. How did that come about?
I've been trying to work on a late night set for probably a year, year and a half, because that is work. That is work. It's not just joke after joke after joke. It's like your flow, your theme, can't feel rushed, but also feel comfortable in that short of period of time. I'm the type of storyteller with jokes, but also with some realism in there, and slapstick where I'm having fun. The main question is "how can I [do] me and not fit into the mold where last night's set is?" And that's the real work.
It took me a year. I failed so many times, probably like applying to Jimmy Fallon, to Seth and all that, and then what really happened was Conan, like the actual booker, they see the potential and then they're like "all right, work on this," and they keep giving you notes and giving you notes, so I just go back to the club, work on this, and record, and blah, blah, blah, and I did it for the summer, and I finally found a set that I was proud of.
I was able to take his notes, go back to the club, and then they approved it, and they flew me out to LA and we shot it. Shout out to JP at Conan, man.
I got in the topics in there, but I also like to find a nice funny edge to it where it doesn't make anybody feel shameful.
The bit that cracks me, I think it's at the end when you talk about not wanting to go back to Africa because you can't ship the shoes. That's fact. Especially for a sneaker head, that is super fact.
I am a sneaker head at heart. I love to do something where I do...I guess I'd say it's "universal," but I just make sure I have a button in there that'll say, "I'm black." Just in case you didn't know...I'm black.
What was the response afterward?
Everybody wanted to know where my shows were at. They just followed me and it's great. I'm just going to funnel all that into this album. And I feel like it's good just to give the audience or my fans, give my fans, this is some art I did. Boom. Go enjoy the other content. I'm not going fight with that.
During your Conan appearance, you made a comment about being "took woke," which is the title of your new album. Was the concept for the album building at the same time? How long were you working on the album?
After I did You Guys Are Dope, we know if it was going to get picked up by whoever. Amazon luckily picked it up, like the beginning of 2017, [but] I was done with it [in 2016]. From that point until to now, I was like "let me just work on another album" because I can control that. Most stand-up comedians, they love waiting for somebody to give them something. That's not my wave. That's not what I do. [Jim] Gaffigan got 12 albums. Fuck it. Let me try to be the Jay-Z of stand-up albums. Let me just make some dope audio albums and specials when they come. An audio album is something I can control. I did Home Game and Away Game, and still get serious checks from that. I get supported from it and I'm pumping out my own art. I was like, "Fuck it. Let me just make an album." That was during 2017. Black Lives Matter. A lot of socially conscious stuff we were all involved [in].
The #MeToo movement and everything.
It got to the point where I was trying to get involved but then I tried a protest. It was too cold. Are you worrying about social issues so much, so impassioned about it and then you're like, "Fuck, I can't physically do anything about it. I'm just angry. I'm just emotionally upset." This whole thing developed from there. I'm just too woke.
You want to enjoy something like Halloween. "Nah, man. White people only love Halloween because they ain't got nothing to fear, so they gotta scared themselves." That's so woke. Nigga let's just dress up and have fun.
Exactly. Give me some candy.
Right? It's trying to tell the audience not to be too woke. Be conscious. Be loving. Be a great person, but also have fun. Also turn up.
What you're saying mirrors things I've heard comedians say, where once you walk in that comedy club, it's time to just let all that shit fly, especially if people on stage working out their material. But then you've got the Louis C.K. stuff, where you were doing some real shit and now he's literally on an apology tour right now. What are your thoughts on stuff like that? Are there lines that you can cross when you're on stage doing a comedy set? Are there things that comedians still shouldn't be approaching?
I feel like for me, I can only talk for me. What I like to do with my stand-up is make it in a way where it's not offensive to everybody, but it's just fucking funny. Bring it back to the funny. And also, I'm just a good person. Just be a good person. Do your art. That's it.
I love that now where audiences are challenging the artists. Back in the day we didn't have no reach. We just got the R Kelly stuff. And then we hear about that. Oh wait. Hold on now. His art is going to out trump what he's done? Nah. It's not like that no more. I like how people are really investing in the artist as a person and not just also their art.
Outside of the album, what else are you working on? What are some of your aspirations?
I'm working on a show right now, and talking to some production companies. Definitely [want to create] my own show where it's my own lane, where it's unique, and it's me, and it's very entertaining. Hasan Minhaj has The Daily Show pieces on steroids. That's my inspiration.