An Interview with Two Queens: Brandi Denise and Kellye Howard Open Up About Their New Comedy Series Two Queens, One Mic with Chicago Literati

Mike Jue (c) 2017

Revered comediennes Kellye Howard (NBC’s Last Comic Standing, OWN Network) and Brandi Denise (TBS Just For Laughs) have collaborated together on an exciting new standup/sketch comedy show called Two Queens, One Mic The hotly anticipated live series which premieres tomorrow night at The Revival Theater (1160 E 55th St, Chicago, IL 60615) at 9:30pm boasts an awesome comedic lineup including Jeff Nominated Actress, Lisa Beasley, as well as Kristen Toomey, the producer of Comedians You Should Know, among others.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Kellye and Brandi about the series, as well as what influences them, how their comedic styles play off each other, and who they’d love to see at their show. Interview after the jump 

Two Queens, One Mic (c) 2017

What inspired you to create Two Queens, One Mic?

Kellye Howard: As much as I’d like to take credit for this union, it was all Brandi’s idea. Her and I have been friends for a few years now but last year we started to see the true value in one another on a different level. We are both driven and have the training and talent to do anything comedy related, it just made sense, once she suggested it to me I was all in.

Brandi Denise: I really wanted to create a show that I would want to see. For me that was a show hosted by strong hilarious women with diverse lineup as the supporting cast. I have watched Kellye sharpen all her comedic skills over the past couple of years and it was a no brainer to ask her. I wanted to work with someone who was as dedicated as me as putting out good content and someone that I enjoy working with. Our writers meetings and brainstorming sessions never feel like work.

From what I gather your show will blend standup comedy with sketches, which sounds incredibly fun, tell us a little more about your outstanding lineup of comedians.

KH: I don’t know any of them. Ha, JK: Marc and I have known each other for a very long time, at least 8 years maybe more, he is one of the best writers I’ve met on this journey. He takes his reality and forms it into a beginning, middle, and end of a story well told. I’ve always admired that about him. Sometimes I can’t figure out how to end a joke. He also has some of the best tags to other comic’s material. That’s always a great quality; makes sense he’s on tour with Rodman and Deon Cole, he deserves every bit of success he gets. Lisa and I just met recently; I’ve heard so many great things about her over the last month, I was elated to know she was joining us. She’s well known in Chicago and was even nominated for a Jeff Award. Talented black women are rising up everywhere, I’m just happy to be apart of it all.

Sam Norton and I are also good friends and have something very funny in common. He has an Asian wife that is the breadwinner in the house, and I have an Asian husband who also provides most, okay all of our financial means. We often get together as couples to chat about how lucky we are to have found someone who believes in our artistic visions so much, that they work hard so he and I can stay home all day, play with the dogs, and occasionally clean. Kristen Toomey our headliner is hilarious, and I think we clicked instantly because we both have a love/hate relationship with our children…mainly hate! (Smile) She’s one of the producers of the nationwide showcase CYSK (Comedian You Should Know); she has a unique perspective of feministic expectations. I can appreciate this as I too am not your typical “female” comedian, whatever that means. So I’ve heard, eh!!!

BD: Well everything Kellye said! I feel very lucky to have such a great lineup! Aside from them all being great people they are truly some of the best talent Chicago has to offer. I have been here for 5 years and they have all moved me with their comedy and masses of other people, check their track records!

How do your comedic styles play off each other?

BD: I think the best partnerships on stage come from truly knowing your partner. I can tell by the way Kellye enters a scene which comedy route she is going to take, which lets me know to play my character up or down! We trust each other so riffing is also fun and fun for the audience to watch as well. We definitely wrote a lot for this show but there will be some moments of us just playing on stage and enjoying the scenes.

KH: We are so much alike and so different that the contrast just works. I love the fact that she’s younger, she’s more socially involved than I am, which balances out our take on things comedically. We both have high energy, but we are both great listeners and performers that it doesn’t crash or overlap in a way that’s harmful to the performance itself.

Who influences you?

KH: I’ve always loved Bernie Mac, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, and Lucille Ball. Unfortunately all of whom are deceased. They were great at what they did; Lucy, her high energy; Bernie Mac and his ability to be himself no matter what; Richard Pryor came from a line of pain and disappointment and found a way to comedically transform that into a career; I can personally relate; and George Carlin filterless take on the world we live in, he spoke the truth; which was not common for white men during his time. Overall I truly valued their authenticity; which is why I strive to be just as authentic in any performance I give.

BD: My first comedy encounter was an Adam Sandler Comedy album when I was about 13. I was amazing by how he made silly yet hilarious songs. You will see some musical bits in the show Two Queens, One Mic as well. I guess he was a bigger influence than I ever really thought about. I love Whoopi Goldberg and how she redefined comedy special with her one woman special. Dave Chappelle is my all time favorite he bring realness in his humor, you will see some social issues touched throughout the show too. So basically the influences of the these people will be shown Friday night! I can not wait!

What is your favorite comedy sketch of all time?

KH: Fire Marshall Bill was the shit…hands down, but my most recent favorite sketch would have to be “FOOT FIVE” the Saturday Night Live rendition of what happened on the elevator with Beyonce, Solange, and Jay-Z; Maya Rudolph plays Beyonce; only she could have pulled that off.

BD: Anytime Dave Chappelle enters a scene, haha! And all the Obama impersonators making parodies on YouTube! Shoutout to James Davis He has one of the best ones. “Head of the State” a parody of a Waka Flocka Song.

When did you know you wanted to go into comedy?

BD: I remember I was about 6 years old in a German school. (army brat here) My teacher called a parent-teacher conference with my mom saying that I was dyslexic. My mom frankly told the teacher I wasn’t because she has seen me write well! The teacher then asked me to write my name. I wrote my name perfectly for a 6 year old. My teacher then asked me why I had been writing it backwards before! I looked up at her and said because I thought it was funny. I started standup the next year at 7 years old. JK, kidding about the 7 years old part, I began 2 weeks after graduating college with my political science degree. I was always a funny kid and now I’m just a funny adult. I made a hobby a career. Scary, I know right?

KH: I don’t think that I do know. I just enjoy performing, and comedy happens to be the avenue that works best for me at this time; who knows, that could change.

If you could have anyone come on your show, who would you choose and why?

KH: My deceased grandmother. I come from a family that didn’t believe in much change, and I’m damn near completely different from who I was when my grandmother was alive. I’d love for her to see my growth as a woman with a strong point of view and the confidence to express it, but not in a way that puts others down, I can appreciate that part of myself and my ability to work on that part of myself daily. It translates well on stage.

BD: Michelle Obama with Sasha and Malia. That is all! Best Show Ever!

Don’t miss Two Queens, One Mic tomorrow night at The Revival Theater in Hyde Park! Tickets are $5 online or $10 at the doorGet tickets! 

Photo Credit: Mike Jue (c) 2017 |