Mo’Nique Talks To Comedy Hype: “Slavery Is Over”

Mo’Nique holds her first ever Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 2010 (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Back in January, Mo’Nique shook things up when she took to her social media and requested that her followers no longer support streaming service, Netflix. The call to action would receive instant criticism from many. It would slowly be revealed that the Oscar-winning comedian & actress was taking a stand against something she felt was simply unjust. According to Mo’Nique and her husband / manager Sidney Hicks, a negotiation process with Netflix for Mo’Nique’s comedy special went bad when she was offered a lower amount they felt her resume represented. The husband and wife duo would go on to call Netflix out for racism and misogyny.

Netflix has decided to not to publicly discuss this particular matter, but Comedy Hype was able to get a one on one with Mo’Nique and Sidney. For our discussion done by our creative director, Jon Williams, Mo’Nique and Sidney respond to critics and shared why they took their stance and what they’re truly after–respect.

*This interview has been shortened for reading purposes*

CH: So everyone is talking about your Netflix boycott but can you tell us what was the moment you told yourself that you needed to speak up publicly about the matter?

MO: I think that once the offer came back, and Netflix was not willing to have a further discussion. And once Sidney sent an email to almost let them rethink what they were saying and they still took the attitude of, “It is what it is, you can take it or leave it.“ So at that point, it had to be extreme because inequality is extreme. And there are people saying, “Mo’Nique don’t you think the boycott was extreme?”, you’re damn right, inequality is extreme. Injustice is extreme. We could always have done it another way but what way would you have me do it? Should I have written a letter? Should I have rode down the street with a bullhorn? How should we have done it? By me saying that word boycott has gotten me to you, it has gotten us to other platforms talking about it. This is not something that is new. This has been going on since the beginning since we stepped into Hollywood. The black woman has been the lowest paid on the scale. I think what is brand new is that you have a husband and wife standing side by side in a place called Hollywood and we’re unwavering.

CH: Did you happen to catch Denzel’s newest film, ‘Roman J. Israel, Esq.’? In the film, he says a quote about, “Drowning in the shallow end of the pool”. Through interpretation, the quote is highlighting how someone who looks to help disadvantaged people can end up a victim themselves for deciding to put themselves amongst the ‘have-nots’. I wonder have you gotten frustrated or have you come to tears when you see the people who you are standing for at times are not standing up for you?

MO: It has not gotten frustrating and it hasn’t brought me to tears because I understand it. When you know the history of us, when you know Harriet Tubman. Where were the people who said we got your back? When you know Ida B. Wells’ story, where were the people? The list goes on and on. When in history have you seen a black woman take a stand and you saw black folks say we’re going to stand with you? I’m not saying none did, but when did you see it in history? It doesn’t offend me, what it does do is show me is I got to fight harder; we got to fight harder for the little girls who are not here yet.

Sidney: However, humbly, we have been driven to tears but the tears we’ve been driven to is when people have said, “keep standing.” Not by the people that stand against us.

CH: If a Black American who didn’t support you was here, what would you tell them?

MO: I would tell them, “Slavery is over.” There was a woman who did all she could to get us to a place called freedom. Though we can’t see the chains, some of us are still chained. Some of us are still very afraid to know that it’s right, but then we put a BUT behind it. Anything after “but” becomes B.S. I would say to the little sisters after me, be unafraid to stand, especially when you know you’re standing in the truth. What we’ve seen often times in movies and books is of the person that everyone wanted to throw away, but that person wouldn’t back down. Didn’t we see a movie called ‘Hidden Figures’? Do you know how many hidden figures there are?

Sidney: You can’t be redeemed until at first you’re sometimes ridiculed. We would also tell those individuals, you don’t have to stand with us now but you will have to ask yourself who is going to stand with you?… What we have as our mantra is, “You will succumb to what it is you support, if what you support is wrong.”

CH: I’ll go ahead and put myself out there (as someone who didn’t support the strategy you took). We wrote an open letter and we were critical not on what you felt you were entitled to. My criticism came from the strategy, where’s your plan?

Sidney: That’s easy, we never stopped doing what we were doing. This is just a conversation. This is an equivalent to when Precious was over that’s when we did ‘Black Bird’ independently. In which Lee Daniels told Isaiah Washington, “Yeah it’s a great movie but it will never see the light of day.” What did he mean by that? We also did a movie called, ‘Interwoven’. ‘Black Bird’ was before ‘Moonlight’ and it’s on Netflix, where’s our money? The special isn’t going to come and we’re going to make it happen. In fact, quietly people are calling behind the scenes that are supporting us … in a few you will get an opportunity to see.

MO: If I can piggyback, you like a lot of our young brothers and sisters said the same thing. Quite a few babies have said we have to apologize because we made a judgment before we knew the whole story, we already assumed. Like when you say what’s next? What’s the plan? You already assumed that there is no plan when there is always a plan. Before we can start assuming and passing judgment as journalists, we must get the complete information.

The one thing we took pride in was when we did the Monique Show. We always asked the talent what do you want to talk about? When they talk about what they want to talk about you have a better conversation, it’s not a Q & A.

CH: The fact that I have you here, I have to ask, what happened to ‘The Mo’Nique Show’?

MO: That’s a great question Jonathan, we’ve never gotten an answer. We’re like the little girl on ‘Family Matters’… we went upstairs and never came back. Because the third season was picked up, it was picked up.

CH: People loved it

MO: People loved it and just so you know the facts, it was the #1 show in that time slot and had the highest numbers in the history of BET’s network during that time slot. We never got an explanation as to why ‘The Mo’Nique Show’ went away. When you start connecting all the dots, ‘The Mo’Nique Show’ went away right when I said, “Guys I cant work for free.”

CH: When I look at the history of stances you’ve taken, I don’t see the angry black woman stereotype from you; it appears that you plain and simply want respect. Do you feel your respect has to be comprised to come up in Hollywood?

MO: It’s crazy that you even have to ask that, “Are you trying to get respect in Hollywood?” That’s a crazy question to ask. The subliminal message you’re saying is that “We know you don’t get respected, so what are you asking for?” Is that what you’re saying?

CH: As far as, I can tell you value respect. But when you play in Hollywood’s backyard, it appears they will disrespect you, and that you have to kind of take the hit.

MO: That’s where they’re able to get away with it. You have people that feel like you have to kind of take the hit. That’s why those women had to go to those hotel rooms. When you have Lee Daniels saying “She didn’t play ball”, that’s saying you got to kind of take the hit. After you’ve been in the business for almost 30 years, how many hits do you keep taking? How do you tell your child to not let anyone bully you but they find out that everyone was able to bully you?

CH: When your comedy special does arrive, what can we expect from it? Will you be talking about Netflix in your comedy special now?

MO: I always tell people, if you want to get to know me, come to a show. You don’t have to read it in anybody’s article or in a blog. You will get it straight from me. My comedy show is simply what is going on in Mo’Niques’s life. Is that what’s going on in my life? Then that’s what we’re going to talk about. If you want to know, you can get it straight from me.

CH: Everyone is rebooting shows now, has there been any conversation about The Parkers coming back?

MO: It was a while back. For me, you can’t reboot something if all the players aren’t there. Her name is Yvette Wilson, who was Andell on the show. I’m a believer in that it was special in its time. If they would do a Parkers reboot, it would have to make sense. Who’s going to be Andell? I’m appreciative of that moment in time.

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CH: Baltimore To Hollywood, How would you describe it?

MO: Baltimore To Hollywood [smiles]. An amazing journey. I don’t regret one second of that journey. I’ve made some mistakes, some bad choices, some horrible decisions but all of that got me to sitting right here today. I wouldn’t change not one piece of it.

CH: I’ve watched old clips of you at the old Uptown comedy club in New York, the vibe that I got from interviewing people of that era is that you guys were just having fun. It wasn’t so money-driven.

MO: We weren’t chasing the bag. It was a community. Those times back then, all we were trying to be funny. We weren’t on did you see my Maserati? And we did not have any problem with helping anyone out.

CH: Lastly, if someone was to hand you the amount of money you were seeking for your special right now, what would be next?

MO: It’s what I do. I’m a stand-up comedian. People are asking me that question as if I’m a different kind of comedian now. I do the same thing Kevin Hart does, the same thing Amy Schumer does, same thing Chris Rock does, it’s no different. When you say what’s next, I hope tomorrow. But the next time I’m on stage, for Mother’s Day, let me say this… I’m starting to feel that nervous energy…That Mother’s Day show [smiles], if they think I said some spicy shit last Mother’s day [Laughs].