Comedian London Hughes on seeking success in America and her new memoir


London Dionne Micha Stacey Stephanie Estina Knibbs-Hughes knew her name was a joke. In her 2020 Netflix stand-up special, “To Catch a D-ck,” the boisterous British comedian hits voguing poses that not only punctuate each part of her uniquely long moniker but also ensure the audience will never forget it.

And then she does it again for good measure.

In her new memoir, “Living My Best Life, Hun: Following Your Dreams Is No Joke,” the 34-year-old actress from South London shares how her delusional childhood confidence led to her lifelong quest for fame, heartbreaking run-ins with haters who tried and failed to dim her light, and scandalous sexual exploits.

The former TV host spent most of her life trying to get people to like her. When bullies at her all-girls school were too busy vibing to Sean Paul songs to give her the time of day, she practiced dance hall moves to impress them. Hughes would go on to hone her humorous gift for a decade to break into Britain’s White, male-dominated comedy scene. Years of being told she wasn’t funny enough led her to Los Angeles, and ultimately to her new book. Hughes said the story she tells in it is “part-memoir, part self-help, part-Beyonce in book form.”

Hughes spoke with The Washington Post about learning how to laugh at herself, finding Black female representation in comedy and what’s next.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Why did you dedicate your book to your 14-year-old self?

Because she was right! In her mind, she was the best thing since sliced bread. She’s really confident, really talented, and one day she’s going to be a successful star in America. That’s who she thought she would be on the inside. On the outside, she was really sporty, had mild eczema, extreme acne, asthma. She didn’t find herself attractive, wasn’t popular, massive nerd, used to write “Frasier” fan fiction for fun. I dedicated this book to her because she was right. She was right to believe in herself all along. She was right not to let the world affect her judgment of herself. She’s a hero. I love her.

Your book mentions how difficult it was for you to find Black female comedians on TV in Britain. Talk to me about the two women who stood out to you — Gina Yashere and Whoopi Goldberg.

When I saw Gina Yashere — she was on this BBC comedy show — I was like, “Oh my God, there’s a Black woman on TV being funny, and she’s not American!” Because she exists, there’s space for me. If I hadn’t seen her on that show, I don’t know who I’d be right now, because she really lit the fire in me that this is something that was achievable. I didn’t have to go to America to do it. Whereas Whoopi Goldberg just made me want to be a household name. She made me want to be a legend. She kind of transcended race. Her films weren’t called “Black films.” “Sister Act 2” is a Black film. It’s 80 percent Black people in that film, and it is not considered a “Black film.” I think she was one of the first female Black stars to really do that. Watching her films as a young Black girl in Britain, I was just in awe of her. I wanted to be everything that she was.

Well, “if you want to be somebody, if you want to go somewhere …”

“You better wake up and pay attention!” So that’s what I did!

You wanted to see Black women on screen, but in real life your bullies in school were Black girls. How did that affect you?

It still affects me to this day. As a Black girl, I found myself seeking the validation of Black girls more than the other races because you want to be loved by your own people. But they were the people that hurt me the most when they cut me because they would cut me deep. Being bullied by Black girls in school went on into my adult life. When I was doing stand-up, I was on the Black comedy circuit in Britain, I would step out onstage and the Black women would turn their back or leave or just boo me.

Were you trying to make a statement by leaving Britain?

I remember watching all my White male British comic friends go on to be famous in Britain, and I wasn’t. I knew I deserved the attention and celebration and the opportunities that they had. It’s because I’m a Black woman that I’m not getting them. Everyone told me I was overreacting. I got told that I just didn’t have what it takes. So I was like: “I’ll show you. I’ll go to America, a country that many a British comedian has tried and failed to crack. I will go there, and I bet you I will be successful. And when it happens, you’re all going to have to apologize to me.”

My story is not unique. I watched it happen with people like Nathalie Emmanuel, John Boyega, Daniel Kaluuya, Damson Idris. These are all Black British people that get more love in America than they ever did in Britain. Britain has a very big problem with supporting and uplifting its Black British talent.

My thing is to be the funny Black British girl in American entertainment. While there’s loads of Black female actors that do American accents and star in American films, you never see an authentic Black British character who is female in films. Rebel Wilson can be Australian in everything and nobody seems to mind. I’m trying to do the same for Black British culture. Me and Kevin Hart are working together. He’s executive producing my next TV series, which I can’t talk about because of the strikes. But he’s trying to take over the world, and I’m right behind him. We want to bridge the gap between African Americans and Black British culture. Movies, TV shows, a production company, another book probably, another special or seven. The sky’s the limit. London Hughes is here to stay.

Following Your Dreams Is No Joke

Grand Central. 304 pp. $29

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