It's been amazing seeing Nore Davis' career (and his more personal life) grow and change over the last few years. I've spoken about meeting him when Seriously.TV was working under Complex a few years back. What I've not shared was that the only time Nore and I actually worked together was on this hilarious video about being too scared about white people after watching Get Out that dropped back in March of 2017. Nore wrote the whole script (although we may have flipped a couple of lines during the recording); the entire premise and sketch were right there on the page. It was then that I knew Nore was someone to keep an eye on. A year-and-a-half later, Nore told me he was trying to be the Jay-Z of stand-up, which was roughly 10 months before Nore's impactful cameo during Season 2 of HBO's Succession. Basically, he's on his way.
During the quarantine, stand-up comedy has been interesting. Before both Dave Chappelle and Hannibal Buress dropped their latest specials on YouTube, comedians were hopping on Zoom, doing whole-ass comedy shows in roughly 50 minutes—yes, this includes opening comedians and a DJ warming up the crowd, who were encouraged to turn on their mics and laugh when they feel it. I got to experience during the March-April quarantine era, and while it is kind of weird hearing digitized laughter in your headphones while watching a comedian states away making you laugh, you're laughing, and it helped at that time. On May 29, 2020, hours before the death of George Floyd became the leading conversation, Nore hopped on Zoom and recorded the set that'd become his new comedy album, Live from the Comedy Trap House, a project that not only touches on life on Zoom and in quarantined America, but so much more (including some familiar favorites for fans of Nore's previous work). With the album in the world now, it's both a dope time capsule of a digital age, as well as a testament to how Nore's will to create knows no mediums.
We recently hopped on Zoom with Nore Davis to talk about recording Live from the Comedy Trap House, his new-found independence, the quarantine journey to this album, and the importance of wearing your kicks during the quarantine, even if you're just on the couch playing 2K.
That one show that I sat in on, on Zoom, when was that? That was in May?
Bro, no, that was way early. You pulled up in the beginning of the Comedy Trap House. It had to be March, April, bro.
That makes sense. It definitely was early quarantine, which, we're looking at quarantine like you look at different eras, like dinosaur eras.
Bro, months are years. It feels like Kobe passed away a year ago. He passed, we were all sad, grieving, and then the next thing you know, we all locked up.
You moved recently, right?
Yeah, I moved. Thank you, sir. Yeah, I'm out that motherfucker. That lease was crazy. That lease was crazy. That relationship was crazy. Everything at the condo-
Wait. What? The relationship is done as well?
Yeah, no. No, we're not together. I'm single now. I'm single. That's why I got my chest out on the album cover. I'm joking. I'm joking. That's a joke.
But that was a serious thing. You guys are good? You're all right?
No, we just went out separate ways. We went our separate ways. Yeah, quarantine did that to a lot of relationships. You either were going to make it or you wasn't. At the beginning we was like Barack and Michelle. And then towards the end, we was like Goku and Vegeta. And then split, and that's it. But yeah, wish her the best and I'm doing my thing. And that's it.
That's good. Moving along, there were a lot of people, I think, that used Zoom before quarantine, but Zoom had a thing during th quarantine. I mean, literally, you could do a headline anywhere now, and be like, "Yo, the first time X, Y, Z was done on Zoom during quarantine." Were you using Zoom before quarantine?
My nigga, I did not know what the fuck a Zoom was until quarantine came. I didn't know what quarantine was. I just learned that word and I just learned Zoom. Same thing probably for a old person, or somebody getting on social media. Even, I think, a year ago, TikTok came upon the scene for me. I was like, "The hell is TikTok?" And now, it's a big thing.
It's the thing.
It's the thing, exactly. I had no idea, bro. And then I heard, "Okay, people are using Zoom. People are using Twitch. People are using IG Live." So many forums. And then I felt like the best forum for me to make it feel as much as standup, that could play to the art of standup as possible, was Zoom. So I can at least hear people and see people laugh.
Talk about how you went from, "What the fuck is Zoom," to now, "All right, let me set up this situation where people could see me do standup through this medium".
I saw some comics doing attempts of all types of forums, when we were a month into March. I was like, "Yo, all right, maybe I'll do Zoom. I'll try it. Let's see if this'll come out okay." I did one show ,nd then when I threw a joke out there, I heard people laugh. I was like, "Okay, this could work." But they had that digital laugh.
Yeah, it's weird. It's weird getting used to. I remember hearing that on the one session we sat in on, and even listening to the album. But, I think it's important, especially for you, for someone who ... hell, we talked not too long again about your last album. You're consistently putting out work. It's like looking at the different chapters in your life, and how you're still doing it, even during a quarantine. It's an interesting thing. But would you say that was hard to get used to? The weird robot laugh coming through?
Yeah, it was a little bit. But let me tell you, when you've been off stage for a month, or even a couple weeks, I'm starving. I'm like, "Bro, that was the crumbs I needed." Matter of fact, it was like the bread. And then I just turned that bread into a sandwich. I was like, "Okay, I can eat off of this and I can survive. I can save my mental health. I can save my passion, and not just feel like I'm just sitting there doing nothing, not accomplishing anything, or just getting out there." And definitely getting some type of joy, my form of protest, I think. So it was good to where I adjusted to it. And the only adjustment I made was just basically the time. Wait. I had to trust the audience, because technology is definitely very advanced and awesome going fast, but I got to throw a joke, then it got to go through a mic. It got to go through a cable. It got to go through Wi-Fi. I got to go through a satellite, and go to you. You laugh, and then come right back to me.
Yeah, and you need it to happen like that [snaps fingers].
Bam. I mean, just like how we're communicating right now. This shit's all very fast.
Shouts out to the ISPs out there that doing their job.
Yo, shouts to all ISPs and engineers out there making this possible.
We're not even talking about the fact that your shows would have ... I mean, because of Zoom, you could have a whole DJ on another channel doing a quick 5, 10-minute set to hype up the crowd that's in there. You had a whole opening comedian. It was a legit standup show. But just looking at the way you had it set up, can you talk about the ... It seemed there was a lot going on behind the scenes.
The thing about it, had to set that up because Zoom is such a dry boring-ass app, right? It's so awkward. Any type of silence feels like two years. You know what I'm saying? So definitely have to set the tone on this very... symmetrical program, very square. Very nerd-ass program. So it's just like, "Yo, we got to get this shit popping, bro." So I had a DJ. I wanted to have a DJ spin for 10 minutes. My boy DJ Ace. And then when he would spin, he would get people going and they would hear music, because hearing music is always a great vibe of just setting the tone of the show, even at a real comedy show. So then after that, I would have a featured act come out. They would do 10 to 15 minutes, tell some jokes and people can get the rhythm of what the show actually is on Zoom. People forget about the reality that they're sitting on their couch or their bed, or they're in their bathroom on their headphones, and they're watching a show. And then I will come out, and then just perform for 30, 35 minutes. And from there, from March, all the way up until probably May, or beginning of May, that's where I built this album. And only material that's from outside quarantine, before quarantine, was probably three big jokes. Probably three jokes. Everything else was built in quarantine.
There are also some special moments. I was thinking the bit with Dustin eating the apple, and my man is in the audience was just like, "He said he had no teeth." That was one of the best moments of the whole thing.
Yeah, I agree, man. After that even happened, it was just like, "Oh, that's great, man," because I love my people, man. I love us. When we give you that type of co-sign, like, "Nigga, I ain't laughing. This nigga said he ain't got no ... " I was like, "That's all I ever needed. That's all I ever needed." He could've just said that. He could've said that for every joke. I would've been good.
You got Frank William Miller Jr. back for the cover.
The Goat. The Goat Frank, yes.
Talk about the process in nailing this album's cover, and then go into how that played a part in the album in its totality.
As I mentioned earlier, I went through a major breakup through the quarantine. So I moved out during the whole pandemic. And then I stayed in Brooklyn at Marcus Russell Price's studio. I hung out with him and I was just crashing with him. I was already planning to do the album, but then within there, he was like, "Yo, you can do it here." And I was like, "Really? All right." And then he started suggesting, "Yo, what about the American flag?" I was like, "Okay." I sketched some things out on my sketch pad and I came up with a sketch, and we got inspired by Richard Pryor's American flag photo, which is pretty classic. He loves that picture, so Marcus Price brought that to me, and I was like, "Oh, really? You want me to do that? don't even feel like I'm that type of dude." He said, "Nah. This is you, I'm telling you, man. This is you." Marcus had that vision, so he put the flag up, and over a couple of weeks, we did the photoshoot. My label, they have a great relationship with Frank, as do I, so I just hit Frank on the DM. He's one of the niggas that will answer my DMs, and be like, "Yeah, no doubt. I heard. Send it over." And then that's it. And then he knocks shit out, and then he's gone. Then he goes back to his protesting tweets.
Were you recording every set that you were doing on Zoom?
Yeah, some of them. I was recording some of them. And definitely had the audio on voice memo. Plus, I had this constant set list when I was doing Zoom shows of, keep it in this order. So I had the jokes in my brain already. I knew where I was going to go, and what works, what doesn't. So with about, I don't know, I would say less than 30, 35 shows, or probably way less than that if you think about the span I did, I would say about the 20 Zoom shows I did, to get it tight. To get it right. When it came to the taping—which felt perfect, because right after the taping, man, that's when George Floyd happened and all that. I wouldn't've been able to record anything, because the climate just changed. It just-
It shifted so much, and I think the universe and timing was just on my side. And I am so blessed for that, because right after that, we would've not been able to record at all. And I probably wouldn't have felt like it.
Was the album the only thing you've really been working on during the quarantine?
Maybe some small other comedy shows, but they weren't really stand-up related. I mean, they're stand0up, but you can't hear the audience. So it was more monologue stuff. But other than that, yeah, no, that was it, bro. That was really it. The industry kind of shut down. Maybe one or two self-tapes. But other than that, yeah, the album was definitely the crane to carry me out of all my misery, and it was beautiful.
I know you're a movie guy. Tenet is still set to be released in August. Are you trying to go to the theaters opening weekend?
Nah. Nah, I don't think I'm fucking with movie theaters. I think we adjusted to seeing movies at home now. I think they really took that shit out of us. I watched Da 5 Bloods at home. I think what I'm saying is that, socially, we adjusted to, "All right, yeah, I can watch a movie, anything at home," but when I'm outside, let's do some outside shit. Let's hang out. Let's drink. I don't want to be outside, and then go back inside and watch something. I can do that shit at home.
If your home setup is nice enough, you could make it so a movie could really bang on a home system, if that was your thing. If you really wanted nice sound, you could get soundboard or something.
Yeah. I mean, we all got a nigga in a man cave or some shit. Or, my homie got a good setup. I don't know. But other than that, I can watch it on my phone right there. It really, not dumbed us down, but it definitely took away our privilege, our spoiledness of, "Let's see this big theatrical in the theaters." It's the same movie on there with everything else. Sit down. So now when you outside, it's special now. Now, let's do some outside shit.
Do you think about how much longer you're going to be in the house on quarantine? Where are you at mentally?
Mentally, right now, I just know that some comedy shows are outside. I could go see my homies, and if there's three of us in the room social distancing, that's fine. It's good. So I'm not really scared about going back in the house. I'm fine. I just know that, as a country, if people really don't take this serious, then they'll probably lock it back down again. And then from there, I'll just start writing some shit again.
Did you cop anything during qurantine?
I think I did not. Yeah, no, I didn't cop anything, because there's no income. What the fuck am I going to cop? The only thing I copped was the Lysol and StockX. That's a joke. But yeah, no, I've been looking to see if anything goes down. I've been staring at some Retro 4s. But since The Last Dance, it went up for no fucking ... I was like, "Dammit, I should've copped before, because it was two something, but now, it's at three something." The market.
But other than that, yeah, no. It really had me appreciate the collection I do have. And I do wear those, because I'm the type of sneakerhead who cops and I wear my shit. I just don't want it to be background. I think this is a time for every sneakerhead in quarantine to exercise every pair. Give every pair some air. Give every pair some fresh air, man. Just don't keep that shit on ice the whole time.
It feels good, man. Because even during the Comedy Trap House, I did take some pairs of sneakers I had on ice, like my Retro 6s—the Infrared 6s, I haven't wore those at all. They're clean, brother. I was jumping on the couch with them, they were so clean. I said, "This feels good." I would get dressed, and I would put them on. I would perform on Zoom in them, but nobody could see them. But I felt new and fresh. Because we couldn't get any haircuts, so it was the equivalent of having a brand new haircut, putting on brand new sneakers in the house.
Nore Davis' Live from the Comedy Trap House is out now on Blonde Medicine.