Cocoa Brown is on fire. It’s a blazing hot July afternoon in Orlando and Brown is tooling around Gatorland with her family in the sweltering summer heat. She could pass for any single mom trying to keep up with her kids and nieces and nephews, gawking at the oversized reptiles and maintaining a constant head count.
When the sun sets, Brown hits the stage with her fiery brand of sharp-tongued comedy and she delivers with no filter and no regrets. Cocoa Brown appears July 27-29 at the Comedy Club of Jacksonville (www.jacksonvillecomedy.com). Brown has appeared in television and film including Ted 2, Psych, The Single Moms Club, Breaking Bad, 2 Broke Girls, Mr. Box Office, BET’s ComicView and Showtime at the Apollo.
As a female comic and single, working mom, Brown is all about finding balance in everything she does. “I’m a mom first so just as much time as I give to this business, I make sure I give to my kids,” she says. “It’s great because these kids are at the age now that they are self-sufficient. If the iPad is charged up, we are winning.”
There are undeniable parallels in her personal and professional lives. Both are challenging and unpredictable and at the same time, rewarding and fulfilling. Brown takes the pitfalls with a grain of salt, channeling the negative vibes into something positive. She has experienced the professional accolades that hard work can bring.
When Tyler Perry says that he “trusts your funny,” that’s some next-level praise. Brown starred as Jennifer on Tyler Perry’s For Better or Worse. “I think we like four episodes into the very first season and me and Tyler had spoken about a scene. I had suggested something and Tyler loved it and he said ‘I trust your funny. Just go with it’. He announced on set in front of everybody, look this woman gets paid to be funny I was like wow. To be given that kind of liberty out the gate I’d only done three or four episodes. I was really honored by that. He was like that the whole six seasons. He allowed me the freedom to create Jennifer the way I wanted her to be portrayed.”
“I was always one of them people who would try anything once. It’s both a curse and a blessing. I ended up trying it and got hooked. I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Brown never planned to enter the entertainment industry. She stumbled into the world of stand-up comedy by chance over 20 years ago and fate took over from there. “Comedy chose me. I didn’t choose comedy. I wasn’t looking to be a comic. It just so happened that a friend of mine saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. He introduced me to a guy who owned a comedy club and by the end of the night he invited me to do an open mic night. I was always one of them people who would try anything once. It’s both a curse and a blessing. I ended up trying it and got hooked. I’ve been doing it ever since.”
There is something to be said for being a strong female presence in a male-dominated industry, especially when you’re funny as hell. For Brown, she’s pushes beyond the boundaries of what’s considered safe, unabashedly unafraid to take it to the next level.
“We can be a lot harsher than the male comics can. We can talk about ourselves without looking like we’re bashing. It’s a double-edged sword. To this day, I still have men walk up to me after my show and say ‘I normally don’t like female comics but I liked you’. And I’m like ‘why don’t you like female comics?’ and they’re like ‘you’re always male bashing and talking trash about men’. So I’m like ‘you don’t talk trash about women?’ and they usually just sit there with a dumb look on their face until I’m like ‘get out my face’,” she says. “It’s still that unspoken rule that women should be seen and not heard in this business. A lot of us are still fighting to get past that ceiling. When you see one of us break through, it gives you hope.”
“It’s like a man can be mediocre in this business and they’ll give him the world and a woman can be exceptional and they’ll still find something wrong with her.”
That hope extends beyond women in the entertainment industry. It inspires women in all walks of life to stand tall, make noise, speak the truth and take risks. “I’ve seen both sides of the coin. I’ve seen women like Oprah win in this business and I’ve seen women get held back. It’s very chauvinistic and very sexist. It’s like a man can be mediocre in this business and they’ll give him the world and a woman can be exceptional and they’ll still find something wrong with her. They come for women all the time. But there are too many talented women and they’re just going to have to get over it,” she says.
“Lately, there’s been an influx of more females than I’ve ever seen. Which is a good thing but they all have the same stories. I’ve become kind of like a mother to a lot of these female comics who want to talk to me and ask my advice. They always say that I’m one of the few veteran female comics who talk to them. I just like paying it forward and giving them my wisdom and encouragement. Maybe some feel like if I give them my pearls of wisdom that you can take my spot. But you can’t take my spot if it’s mine. If you take my spot, it wasn’t my spot to begin with.”