Kym Whitley is funny and she’s a natural. The comedienne has just the right mix of artistry, wit and when she hits you with crushing zingers and comebacks you can’t help but say…”Oh no she didn’t!”
As a matter of fact while on the set of the film Harlem Nights, comedy icon Redd Foxx once told Kym she had “comedic goods” because she engaged in just a little verbal sharp-shooting with comic Reynaldo Rey. Kym was babysitting child actor Desi Arnez Hines II who played young Quick in the classic film. Rey, who was also a co-star made a lewd comment that was directed at Kym. Before she even realized it, Kym threw a verbal dart right back at Reynaldo that made Foxx holler with laughter, and film co-star Richard Pryor spit out his beverage.
Upon graduating from Fisk University, Kym first tried her hand at teaching in Compton, California. However, once she decided to put down her board erasers and give comedy a try; she never looked back. The Shaker Heights, Ohio native whose comedy style has never hit the crass ceiling has also appeared in countless television shows, and films. She even starred in her own reality show on the OWN Network, Raising Whitley, alongside her pint-sized partner-in-chuckles, 8-year-old son, Joshua, and her village of supportive and loving friends.
Unlike most comedians, Kym was not even crippled with self-doubt when she decided to write a novel that turned out to be quite the “get,” The Delusion of Cinderella. In the book, she explores the vagaries of love with all of its capricious meanders and abiding compulsions. Kym skillfully manages to capture her readers with perceptive writing which means you won’t be able to put the book down!
Kym opened up to 50BOLD about her life as a funny lady and catches us up on cutie patootie Joshua’s shenanigans.
50BOLD: I was a HUGE fan of Raising Whitley and was heartbroken when the show ended. It was a hit for the network! What happened to the show and why wasn’t it renewed?
KYM: You know I really believe…. There are definitely a lot of articles out here that mention how Raising Whitley saved the OWN network. I guess the show came on at a time when the network was perhaps losing ratings. OWN really only had the reality show Sweetie Pie and some reruns of the show; there was nothing else yet. Raising Whitley was fresh; it was new. The show was a hit, it had great ratings and everything.
I think what everything boils down to is that the network wanted the show to be more scripted. The producers of the show were dibbling and dabbling, and then when they got that big deal with Tyler Perry, you know, we became part of the casualties. Sweetie Pie remained on the OWN roster; it had a large viewership. So I really want to mention this fact. There was a changing of the guard at OWN as well. So it’s hard to say why my show was not picked up again. People loved the show and so many want to see it make a comeback! Folks want to know what Joshua is doing now.
50BOLD: Inquiring minds want to know how is Rodney Van Johnson doing? Where do you and Rodney stand? Are you still good friends and is he still in Joshua’s life as his dad?
KYM: Rodney is a fantastic father! A lot of people thought he was just playing a role for television. Not true! But we have to remember there were no cameras around when Joshua was born. Yet Rodney stepped up to the plate to take on the role of Joshua’s dad when my son was just two weeks old. Rodney approached me as I was gathering my village for help with Joshua. And Rodney stated, how he didn’t have a father, and how he wanted to make sure Joshua had one in his life. And he’s literally been Joshua’s dad! My relationship with Rodney is way better; we’re great friends, and we co-parent Joshua.
50BOLD: And speaking of the village, how is the fabulous Wendell James, you know we love him!
KYM: Wendell is foolish. (laughs) He is so foolish and fabulous! Wendell is still Wendell and is just fantastic. I talk to him and Harold all the time. Harold watches Joshua for at least every other weekend. Yes, he’s still around!
50BOLD: You have a village of babysitters.
KYM: I really do have great babysitters; everyone is just so wonderful and supportive!
50BOLD: You attended the prestigious Fisk University, and you taught school in Compton, California. How did you go from teaching to doing standup? What a transition!
KYM: It is all so weird! I always knew I wanted to be an entertainer. My second love is, of course, teaching children. So I just used my degree to sustain myself during the day as a teacher and then pursued standup at night. My experience as a teacher was hard work but also so much fun! Compton was in dire need of good teachers, and I was fortunate to have had such a great experience.
50BOLD: Really, teaching is a hard job! What do you think is harder, comedy or teaching?
KYM: Teaching is definitely more challenging than doing standup. I so believe that teachers need to get paid more money because their jobs are not easy at all. Yes, teaching is hard work.
50BOLD. You actually got to meet the comedy legend Foxx, and he once told you that you had “comedic goods.” How did you meet Fred Sanford (laughs) and what did he mean by ”comedic goods?”
KYM: I met Redd on the set of the 1989 film Harlem Nights. I was babysitting Desi Arnez Hines II who played young Quick in the film. So Desi’s dad was like, “Kym, I’ve got to work, and Desi has got this part. Can you stay with him on the set?” And I was like, “Sure, I’ll go hang out at the set.” I thought I was a star anyway (laughs).
So I would say, “Hey” to everyone and got to meet folks. One day, Redd Foxx, Richard Pryor, and Eddie Murphy were all sitting in those director’s chairs. Reynaldo Rey was standing up when I walked around the corner with my coffee and whatever. I said, “Oh, oh, oh, I’m sorry, I thought there were some chairs over here.” And Reynaldo Rey said, “As long as I’ve got a face you’ve got somewhere to sit.” I looked at Reynaldo without fear and responded, “As long as you’ve got a face like that I guess I’ll stand!”
Oh my God! What did I say???
When these icons ALL heard me respond to Reynaldo, Redd hollered, and Richard spits out his beverage. Meanwhile, I was horrified! I thought to myself, “Oh my God, what have I done? Oh, my God!” Redd came up to me and said, “You’re funny. I’m tired of seeing these ugly B.I.T.C.H.E.S. trying to be funny and to see somebody who is pretty and funny, well….” He went on to say, “You get ten minutes of material together and I will help you.” That was history right there…. I never gave him my ten minutes of material because I was afraid and then, he died. Ironically though, the very day Redd died was the day I went out and did my first standup gig.
50BOLD: What a wonderful story!
KYM: Redd was special.
50BOLD: How is Joshua doing? How old is he now and what is he up to these days?
KYM: Joshua is now 8-years-old, and boy, he is a character. He’s in school, learning, laughing, and manipulating. Joshua is just a character and will cry at the drop of a dime. He is funny, and is into sports like playing basketball. You know, he really wants Raising Whitley to come back. He watches it and I can’t stop him. I try to stop him from watching the show on YouTube because of certain things that have aired that I don’t want him to learn about. But he loves it. Joshua will tell me, “I love it and I want to watch it again and again.” I will say to him, “Joshua, why do you like watching Raising Whitley?” And he’ll respond, “I like seeing myself as a baby.”
50BOLD: I know folks confuse you with the actress Jackée Harry and I’m sure you’re tired of it. I’m guilty! I actually used to confuse the two of you as well.
KYM: A lot of people think Jackée Harry and I favor one another and we do which is fine. But I think that Jackée and I are different. Our comedy styles are different. She’s a great actress, a great singer. I think I’m way more foolish then she is. I’ll do things that she won’t do.
50BOLD: Is there anything about you that our readers would be surprised to know?.
KYM: I bet your readers don’t know that I actually used to be president of the Who fan club! Yes, the rock band, the Who!
KYM: Honey, I used to love me some Roger Daltrey! I think my crush on Roger developed after seeing the rock musical film, Tommy.
50BOLD: You’re the total package–smart, beautiful. Have you found Mr. Right? We know how tough it is out here. Are you picky or do you feel you’re too busy with Joshua and don’t have time?
KYM: You know it is difficult being a mother. Adding motherhood to your plate, and trying to find that right someone is not easy. But I will say that I am definitely picky. Ok, well, not too picky, but brothers must have a job. Simple, simple things! I’m going to probably go the recycling route to find a suitable somebody which means reaching back to look for people I shared a history with even as far back as high school.
My time right now is split between Joshua and doing stand-up. You know having to give time to a man is necessary and is a job as well.
50BOLD: What is left on your to-do list?
KYM: I would love to travel the world with my son as my parents did with me; this is a big thing on my to-do list. And I’d like to fall in love again as well.
50BOLD: You wrote a book, The Delusion of Cinderella, and I love the title btw.
KYM: I looked at something I found about a month ago that was in my Bible and it was a raggedy piece of brown paper where I had written down the things I wanted to accomplish. And when I looked at that list and noted how I had wanted to write a book, be on a sitcom, buy a house with a pool, and so on. I stared with astonishment at that piece of paper that fell out of my Bible at church because I had literally accomplished everything on the list. When my book was released, I said to God, ”WOW, look at this!” My book was another reminder of an accomplishment.
50BOLD: So you’re definitely a spiritual person.
KYM: My mother was very spiritual. She didn’t drag us to church, my grandmother did. I know that God has been in my life. When you say that you want to do something, you put it out to the universe, you put it out to God, and then you put it in your Bible. There is some truth in that what you want comes back to you.
50BOLD: Tell us about your book, The Delusion of Cinderella.
KYM: I found a way to write a novel without it being preachy, or labeled as a self-help book.
My favorite author was E. Lynn Harris. I would read his books and be totally engrossed in them. If I can pick up a novel and read it from the very first page and not put it down, this is the kind of book I wanted to write. And people tell me that they pick up my book and can’t put it down because it is relatable.
The novel is a little racy, and a little crazy. The story centers around two women who are friends. One woman falls in love for money, and the other falls in love with love. The story is intense but is blended with humor, and it touches upon sex, drugs, alcohol, domestic abuse, self-hate, and mental illness. One woman suffers heartbreak while the other is abused. The stories intertwine and the women find that they have some serious life-altering decisions to make in the end.
50BOLD: You’ve done TV, movies, voiceovers, have you thought about directing or producing?
KYM: Directing and producing are on my bucket list as well; there’s so much to do. I’ve been producing, and I want to do more directing. When I worked with the playwright Shelly Garrett, I produced and directed a couple of his plays and then stepped away from doing this. I also produced and directed a couple of TV shows I created. I was also the producer of Raising Whitley, so I definitely want to get back into both directing and producing.
50BOLD: Comedians have addressed the self-editing factor because it can be a brutal world. Is there competition, comradery among comics and has comedy changed since you began?
KYM: Oh, it can definitely be a brutal world out here for a comic if we step out too far! Comics have to now edit/adjust themselves now, so oftentimes, audiences are not getting the unfiltered comedy version because everyone is afraid to offend. So I think the way comedy is perceived and delivered has changed.
Comedy is still very much all about, “I’m funnier than you, and I’m going to do better than you.” It is still very competitive!
Even though comedy has changed, the love and support we have for one another as comics has not. We’re still a close group. We help each other; I don’t think this has changed. We all have love for one another and stick together.