Mo’Nique has moved on. After calling out Netflix for lowballing her during negotiations for a proposed comedy special, not only receiving backlash but support from Black women who also know what it’s like to be lowballed — since reports say Black women are paid 63 cents to every white man’s dollar — she’s still enjoying her legend status.
After writing her name in the history books by being one of few Black actors to win an Academy Award, earlier this month Mo’Nique became one of the few Black comediennes to secure a Las Vegas residency as she’s currently onstage at SLS Hotel’s Sayers Club.
The comedian tells ESSENCE that she stands on the shoulders of Black comediennes who came before her, including Lucille Bogan, Moms Mabley, Thea Vidale, and Marsha Warfield to name a few.
“It’s so many that have gone unnoticed and unnamed,” Mo’Nique said with a sigh, “but because they kept inching forward, I’m able to have the residency.”
Mo’Nique said that although she’s winning, she doesn’t feel like it’s getting revenge on all those people who doubted her.
“It doesn’t feel like revenge because I’m not out to get anyone,” she replied. “This is a part of what I do. I never stopped. Because people didn’t see me, they thought I had stopped, but I’ve never stopped being a standup comedian. Through all of this, I was still traveling the country, going to this city, this city, this city, this city because that’s my passion. That’s my baby. That’s my love.”
“When the residency came, my husband and [comedy club owner] Tommy Thomas, they worked out the deal. It just felt right because the universe was saying, ‘See, baby? You kept going. We were just getting you ready.'”
Mo’Nique began her run in Sin City earlier this month. The Baltimore native compared her first show to being “a kid in the candy store.”
“It was Snickers and Hersheys and Milky Ways and Twizzlers and Jolly Ranchers. It was absolutely beautiful,” she reflected. “It was everything that I thought it would be. Then it was even more.”
And you’ll never guess which one of her famous friends wished her well before she stepped onstage earlier this month: Roseanne Barr. The two have known each other ever since 2011 when Barr stopped by her one-time late night talk show, The Mo’Nique Show.
“My sister Roseanne Barr called me. She said, ‘Hey, baby girl. Go kick them in the a-s.’ We laughed,” Mo recalled. “She was like, ‘I’m just so proud of you, baby.'”
Barr has been largely hidden from the public eye ever since losing her eponymous ABC reboot after calling former Barack Obama advisor Valier Jarrett an “ape” in a tweet back in May. In the months that followed, Mo’Nique was one of the few to defend Barr, calling her a “sister in comedy” back in June.
“I could not throw my sister under the bus because I know her when the cameras aren’t rolling,” Mo’Nique explained of why she stood by Barr. “I know her when there’s nobody watching and there’s nobody listening.”
“We get fearful of losing out, so we just keep accepting. When people say, ‘Mo’Nique, what’s wrong with you? Don’t you know what’s going to happen?’ Well, baby, I’m going to have to deal with that.”
She continued, “A racist would not have pulled me up after all the cameras stopped and said, ‘Listen here, baby. Don’t you let them use you up. You better know your worth, but don’t you let them take advantage of you.’ Now, I don’t know a racist that would do that. But that woman called me up. Yes, ma’am, she did.”
Mo’Nique is referring to Barr’s support of her when she faced backlash from some in the Black community for speaking out against Netflix, who infamously offered her $500,000 for a comedy special. Reportedly, the same streaming service offered Amy Schumer $11 million, with Chris Rock and Dave Chapelle, earning $40 million and $60 million respectively.
The comedian said she learned “patience” from sounding the alarm on the lack of pay equity in Hollywood, especially for Black women, because she “understood” where many were coming from.
“We get fearful of losing out, so we just keep accepting. When people say, ‘Mo’Nique, what’s wrong with you? Don’t you know what’s going to happen?’ Well, baby, I’m going to have to deal with that, but hopefully the little girl who’s not here yet, she won’t. If I don’t do my part, then the ones that came before me will look at me like, ‘What [are] you doing? You know the a-s whuppings we took for you?'”
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Mo’Nique has already gotten rave reviews from audiences who’ve seen her set at The Sayers Club.
“It’s something different because people laugh. People cry. People listen. People are shocked,” she said, noting that she does have a few of those R-rated jokes she’s known for.
“They’re not d-ck jokes,” she clarified. “They’re d-ck truths.”
For Mo, getting on that stage, holding the cold microphone and speaking her truth is a version of therapy “because it allows you a freedom that most people never get,” she explained.
“When I’m on that stage, I feel like I’m in the living room and we’re just talking. We’re going to laugh out loud. We might cry a little bit. We might even get real up in each other’s face, but that’s what it is for me.”