Arts & entertainment

gua: Despite acting accolades, Mo'Nique puts comedy first

Talk show host Rachael Ray, left, talks with Mo’Nique during the “The Rachael Ray Show” in New York.

The Associated Press
Published: Thursday, April 1, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 at 3:12 p.m.

She may well have piled up best supporting actress honors including an Oscar, Golden Globe, SAG Award as well as New York and Los Angeles film critic honors this year, but Mo'Nique foremost wants you to know that "I am a comedian."

That's why she's taken to the road with her Spread the Love Tour, which hits Los Angeles on Friday.

Of course, anyone who saw her performance in "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" may have forgotten - or have been shocked into forgetting - that the 42-year-old plus-size stand-up is one funny lady. In Lee Daniels' film she plays Mary, the horrifying mother of Claireece "Precious" Jones, the illiterate teenager who is the target for all of Mary's rage.

But in person, the real Mo'Nique is all sweetness - "I'm doing good sweetie. How you doing?" when she greets you, and "God bless you, sugar," when she says goodbye.

The comedian did little campaigning for the Oscar or other awards.

"The performance is on the screen. So at what point am I still trying to prove something?" she told The New York Times.

But her portrayal was so powerful, there was hardly a contest once awards season rolled around.

Instead, she put her energy into "The Mo'Nique Show," her Atlanta-based daily talk show on BET that began in October, and getting ready for this tour. And if that wasn't demanding enough, she also has a family - 4-year-old twins, a 19-year-old son, and her husband and manager, Sidney Hicks. (The so-called open marriage, which she talked about with Barbara Walters, was off the table in this conversation.)

"I think I'm the Energizer bunny," she laughs when asked how she keeps up. "I found out that if I work out and exercise and juice with the juicer, like with the fresh vegetables, it allows me to keep going."

That doesn't mean she's apologetic about her weight. As she notes in one of her routines, "Take the 'T' off of diet and you get die."

The Baltimore native first came to TV audiences' attention as Nicole "Nikki" Parker on the UPN television series "The Parkers," which ran from 1999 to 2004. She also has appeared in a number of movie comedies - "Phat Girlz," "Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins" and "The Queens of Comedy" - as well as taking on dramatic roles in Daniels' "Shadowboxer" and Tony Scott's "Domino."

But comedy has remained her first love.

In the Spread the Love Tour, audiences first will be greeted by DJ Ant, who will play music "to get the blood moving around." Then Rodney Perry, Mo'Nique's BET show sidekick, will host the evening, which includes a performance by comedian Tone-X.

"What we are asking people to do is wear their Depends," she deadpans, "because you are going to tinkle just a little."

While Mo'Nique has listed a number of comic influences on her career - Redd Foxx, Moms Mabley and Carol Burnett among them - she often leads off with the legendary Richard Pryor.

"He was free on stage," she says, "and he wouldn't waver from that and I absolutely adored him for that. I did have the privilege of meeting him, and he said to me, 'Don't you ever change." '

Mo'nique says that it's her faith that gives her inner strength.

"I believe God, baby. I believe God. And that helps me make it through, make it happen, have an amazing and beautiful family."

Because she hasn't been on tour in almost two years, the comedian has a lot of topics ready for Spread the Love.

Mo'Nique is the fourth African-American to win an Academy Award for best supporting actress. The others are Whoopi Goldberg, Jennifer Hudson and Hattie McDaniel.

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