These past 2 years have been harsh and will be ingrained in our minds forever. Images of people without masks will take awhile to dissolve, images of protestors fighting climate change, Black Lives Matter, Indigenous Children, Police Violence, etc. There is strength in numbers and we still live in a country where 1 voice can make a difference. That voice can lift us up in times of doubt and despair, in tragedy and loss. Before you start thinking about religion, I’m talking about comedy and the words of comedy genius, Darryl Lenox. Unlike many of us trying to forget those tragic images of hate or destruction, Darryl doesn’t have to, because he is blind. When many of us wear those emotional images like a heavy raincoat, Darryl relies on the energy and conversations around him to feel those same emotions, but without the horrible pictures. Instead, Darryl walks to the mic… and in one breath, he changes the temperature of the room. That’s power and that’s optimism.
Darryl Lenox was born with bad eyes, as he put it. He’s also a Black man but says that being blind has taken the fear out of being Black. It catches people off guard but maybe it’s because we’ve never worn his shoes. When he was only 5 years old, the doctor told his parents that it would be a miracle if he still had full sight by the age of 10. Darryl says he did alright. I would certainly agree because he found comedy through his pain and loss. He’s been performing stand-up for 30 years and he’s in high demand, especially given the current times. Comedians are as essential as the vaccines and there doesn’t seem to be enough for all of us. Darryl has developed his super power and his reach, so we can all be saved through laughter, with incredibly funny stories and encouraging life experiences and philosophy.
Darryl’s latest comedy album entitled Super Bloom launched on Dec. 17 and is available worldwide! His newest album follows the hugely successful Blind Ambition album and special. The California wildfires followed by weeks of torrential downpour resulted in fields of beautiful poppies on the state’s hillsides. Lenox sees the parallel to his own life. Good can follow tragedy. Lenox is never far from his core belief that life is incredible, in every sense, nor from his daily affirmation, “I’m health. I’m wealth. I’m success. I’m love.” In his career, he’s gone from notoriety from his fear of blindness to becoming, as he describes it, a “more whole” human being albeit without his sight.
He’s been described as always having that Yoda-like wisdom, doling out advice to young comedians like Seth Rogen, who included Lenox’s words of wisdom in his book, entitled Year Book (the audio version includes Darryl himself reciting those very words). He still considers Vancouver his hometown after living there over a decade before returning to Tampa, St. Petersburg, Florida. Where it’s warm right now.
I had the outstanding privilege of meeting and speaking to this super hero of comedy and everything funny. He is incredible, he’s inspirational, honest and absolutely encouraging and calming in a time of unrest and panic. Turn off the TV and put on Darryl’s album, Super Bloom! Be sure to turn up the volume, so the neighbours can appreciate it too. He was a marvelous guest with some very personal stories. Roll the tape!
HNMAG “When did you start to lose your sight?”
DARRYL “I was born with very bad eyes. I remember having to wear glasses from the time I was 5. My mom told me a story some time later, about what the doctor said… that it would be a miracle if I still had full vision by the time I’m 10 years old. I think I did pretty good – I lost the left eye in ‘96’… I got into a bar fight and didn’t see a doctor afterwards. The right eye began to deteriorate when I became allergic to glaucoma medicines in 2018. I finally succumbed to blindness last June, so now I’m at zero vision.”
HNMAG “Have you always been funny?”
DARRYL “I did a lot of funny acting; I was a high energy kid. I was very introverted but one day I was walking to school in 6th grade with a couple buddies and I started telling them about my dream. Half way through, I started making stuff up and they started laughing. Everyday, they’d ask – did you have a dream… and I’d start making stuff up. That was the moment I thought I might be funny. I never thought of it as a career, until college.”
HNMAG “Was it after college that you took the leap into comedy?”
DARRYL “It was in the middle of it. I was transferring schools to continue to play basketball and I’d started dating for the first time. My first ever girlfriend and true love, Margaret from Seattle told me that all I was doing was dreaming… and what happens if I don’t make it to the pros? She said I needed to think about what my life might look like… and I took it to heart, but she was right. Instead, I chose a harder path to navigate; I called up the newspaper – The Comedy Underground in Seattle and they told me to come down on Monday. I walked onto the stage and made up a story about a scene in the film called, Betrayed – starring Debra Winger and Tom Berenger. I tore that place up and they invited me to audition for the Big Seattle Comedy Competition and I never looked back.”
HNMAG “That’s incredible – you were an instant success?”
DARRYL “I would say so… until the very next night.”
HNMAG “I’ve heard, when you lose one sensory – your other senses get stronger. Did you find that with your blindness?”
DARRYL “Because I’ve always had bad eyes, I’ve relied on my ears and my intuitions. Those senses have heightened but not as much as someone that may have been born blind or further down the road blind. Over the last year or so, I’ve picked up a lot more intuition.”
HNMAG “You’ve had some tremendous success and Seth Rogan even quoted you in his book. Have you ever considered writing a book?”
DARRYL “No, but the universe keeps sending me people that keep telling me that I should write a book at some point. I think everything comes down to trusting a ghost writer to help me corral all these thoughts that I have. I don’t know if the ending is there yet, but I certainly have enough stories that I think could be compelling.”
Darryl told me about a time when he had caught a cab in Toronto and the driver told him to get in. Believing he had opened the back door, he continued to sit down and inadvertently sat on the driver’s face. Life is not always predictable but Darryl can always find the humour, where others might find an old French fry.
HNMAG “What would you say inspires your comedy the most?”
DARRYL “Previously, it was reading. I would try to write something as inspiring as the book that I’d read. Sometimes, it would come from watching incredible hour-long episodic television. I learned to put together an hour of comedy from watching The Sopranos. I’ve studied a lot of classical music, so I could listen to it to determine how they can make a piece last 20 minutes. I would then attempt to make a comedy routine/story last 20 minutes. Now that I’m at zero vision, I rely on the people around me. If I’m sitting in a bar somewhere, I can hear all the dialogue going at the same time. People have become my news source and when they speak passionately about world issues happening around them, I trust it completely and accept it for what it is, but then I also have to determine how I feel about it. It’s much like having a weather vane for all the energy around me.”
HNMAG “Do you find that you’re able to find humour in even the darkest moments?”
DARRYL “I try to find a true emotion first – they say that we’ve only got 5 of them. Wherever you find those emotions, you’ll find the humour. If somebody’s really mad, I’ll see if I can find the humour in that. That person is really sad, the opposite of sad is laughter. I try to find what the core emotion is before I try to find the funny, otherwise it comes across as contrived.”
HNMAG “What’s your take on improv? Do you believe it makes your comedy better?”
DARRYL “I’ve never taken an improv class in my life. It’s a different skill from doing stand-up and being a monologist. When you’re working a crowd over and talking to them, there’s some improv but I have no formal training.”
HNMAG “What would you consider one of your biggest lessons in life, having been through some of life’s biggest pitfalls?”
DARRYL “There’s been a lot. This one time, I had just gone through a divorce and I’d just arrived in Canada. All I had was a duffle bag and I was sitting on a bus heading to a club called The Silver Buckle in Red Deer, Alberta. I remember a voice asking, ‘what do you have?’ To which I replied, ‘all I have is a duffle bag and jokes.’ The voice said, ‘You better act like it.’ That was the moment I had decided to treat everything in my life with the same love as I have for comedy. If you love comedy, how do you respond to being blind? If you love comedy, how do you respond to being kicked out? If you love comedy, how do you respond to being divorced? If you can be better at comedy, you can be better at everything. That was probably the number 1 lesson.”
HNMAG “I had read about your first divorce and that she later committed suicide. That must’ve been so painful to experience.”
DARRYL “Yep, that was a couple of years ago… that was Jill. It still is painful. We knew each other for 4 months and the marriage only lasted 4 months and I was just beginning to learn who I could be. She was giving me a lot of tough love because she had been through a lot of pain in her life. We divorced and I ended up in Canada; I had started to reinvent myself. We eventually became friends a few years later and I started finding more success. I wanted to thank her for helping me in the short amount of time we were together. She had really been kicking my ass and she did appreciate it but her life had gotten really tough. She called me a couple years ago to tell me that it was too much for her and that she felt really disconnected from her children. She said she couldn’t do it anymore. It really bothers me that I had taken that brief time that we were together and turned it into so much. However, what she had gotten from me – was all the bad parts and she wasn’t able to participate in the good parts… because I’d since gotten married. I feel a lot of remorse that I wasn’t able to give her back as much as she’d given me.”
HNMAG “Is it complicated to get bookings or do you have a manager that takes care of that end?”
DARRYL “I’ve gotten lucky enough in my comedy career, that the phone just rings or people will send me emails asking if they can book me for a certain date to work some clubs. I don’t have to chase work anymore… but I do need administrative help and I do have an assistant in Florida and one in Vancouver that help me read my emails, so I can respond accordingly.”
HNMAG “I’ve heard that you consider Vancouver your second home?”
DARRYL “Yes, it’s not where I was born but it’s where I grew up and it’s where my heart is, always. I was there from ‘94’ to 2005 and I came back (Tampa, St. Petersburg, Florida) in May of 2013. I still have a place there and that’s where I became a man.”
HNMAG “Where will you be performing next?”
DARRYL “I’ll be doing New Years Eve here at the beach in Florida. My next Canadian date will be in Victoria, BC in February. I believe it’s the third weekend. I do anticipate a bigger tour once my comedy album, Super Bloom is released. It’ll be turned into a comedy special with a much more publicized tour.”
HNMAG “I really love the name of this album and the meaning behind it. How long is the album and what can we expect from it?”
DARRYL “I believe it’s in the neighbourhood of 55-60 minutes. It’s the sequel to the album, Blind Ambition – which is about the premise of being afraid to live and being totally blind, in Blind Ambition – to feeling fully invigorated by being totally blind and feeling almost like a superhero. When I look in the mirror, I no longer exist anymore, so there’s no more selfishness. Everything about me is based upon the energy and everyone around me. It gives me a different level of understanding about life, power and introspective. I made the album about that premise and I think I did something special with it.”
HNMAG “Apart from comedy, have you ever considered motivational speaking or Ted Talks?”
DARRYL “I’ve always considered those things as more of a bi-product of the success of comedy. I would never say ‘no’ to a charity event and if someone thought I had an interesting enough story for Ted Talks or inspirational speaking – I’d never say no. It’s not about me anymore, it’s about the people around me feeling something.”
HNMAG “Would you consider your comedy show G rated, PG or R rated?”
DARRYL “Probably all of those. There are some parts of it that are simple and easy but then there are other parts when I want to get a point across… and I can shout a line between profound and profane pretty easily, but that’s just how I speak. When you’re doing television or radio – you know how to stay within those necessary margins.”
HNMAG “How supportive is your family with your comedy?”
DARRYL “It was a slow axis, the more television coverage I got, the more supportive they became (laughing). In the beginning, my mom didn’t think I was funny. Fast forward a few years, she was shopping in Walmart and had on one of my t-shirts. The cashier asked if she knew Darryl Lenox, to which she replied… I made Darryl Lenox! They were impressed and gave her the groceries for free. Now she always wears my merchandise around (laughing).”
HNMAG “On the new album, can you touch on some of the subjects you discuss?”
DARRYL “I explain the way Super Bloom impacted me the way that it did. I discuss how going to zero vision has affected me. I’ve talked about not being able to see the world changing by the pandemic. I also talk about how being blind has diffused the scariness of my Blackness. That one really catches people way off guard. I’ve got some childhood stories in there, some philosophy, some commentary on how the media manipulates the masses, without any disrespect to anyone. I’m not a big fan of it. I have a little bit of everything and I try to ensure that all human emotions are felt through my work… and I believe they are on this album.”
HNMAG “Do you still get nervous or the butterflies before stepping out onto a stage?”
DARRYL “Nope. The best way I can explain it, is if someone came up to you after being in a 30-year marriage and trying to give you advice on marriage. I’ve been doing this for 30 years on a microphone and I’m just going to tell them my perspective on my life story. How can I get nervous again – about the first time I kissed a girl, or how do I get sad again – about the time I got divorced? All I can share with you is my experience and my perspective. There’s no nerves or butterflies to that at all.”
HNMAG “Given your acute hearing, would a heckler in the audience stand out quite easily?”
DARRYL “I’ve never really had many hecklers and I get even less now. If somebody doesn’t like what I’m saying, they are more opted to leave as opposed to voicing their displeasure because they’ll look like the A-hole for yelling at a blind guy.”
Darryl Lenox is outrageously funny, honest and a much-needed booster shot in the Ass. Go buy his album and start laughing. Your doctor would give you the same prescription, so I’m trying to save you the trouble of a visit.
Darryl Lenox has appeared on Starz, A&E’s “Evening at the Improv,” BET’s “Comic View,” “Best of BET’s Comic View Special,” “Best of Just for Laughs Comedy Festival New Year’s Eve Special,” Comedy Central’s “Jamie Foxx’s Laffa Polooza,” and Comedy Central’s “Live at Gotham.”