Brandi Denise - Master Manifester

August 6, 2023

Photo Credit

Andrew Max Levy - @JustOfftheSix


Valerie Lopez


Valerie Lopez


George Clin­ton thinks you’re fun­ny”.

Not many comics can claim that a world famous musi­cian thinks they’re fun­ny, but Bran­di Denise is one such com­ic. Clin­ton’s not the only one, by the way.

Grow­ing up in a mil­i­tary fam­i­ly who moved a lot, Denise’s abil­i­ty to make peo­ple laugh was the gold­en key to help­ing her cope with the fre­quent moves. I real­ized that at a young age mov­ing around a lot, that being fun­ny, kind of helped me accli­mate myself in new envi­ron­ments.”

Denise’s par­ents were very encour­ag­ing of her dab­bling in pageants, doing poet­ry, host­ing tal­ent shows, being a gym­nast, singing .. she was always on some type of stage, so it seemed inevitable for her to decide to give com­e­dy a try. It was­n’t until years lat­er when she reflect­ed on the par­o­dy songs she used to write as a teenag­er, or her col­lege friends urg­ing her to be a com­ic, or even the time where she live tagged a standup show at a table with her friends that she real­ized that com­e­dy was an innate part of her life patient­ly wait­ing for its prop­er expres­sion. With­in two weeks of grad­u­at­ing col­lege, she began per­form­ing standup. The cre­ative out­let was ready for its release.

She did­n’t study to become a com­ic, she stud­ied polit­i­cal sci­ence and began work­ing in the ardu­ous field of social work, an expe­ri­ence she still refers to in her standup. Not only does her time as a social work­er cre­ate con­tent for her standup, in Denise’s mind, it serves to cre­ate a par­al­lel between being a standup and being a social work­er: It’s one of those jobs or I feel like even with com­e­dy, … you go in, you do as much as you can, and then you leave it on stage. You just come back the next day and revis­it what you left.”

With only a year of standup under her belt, Denise moved from Tal­la­has­see to Chica­go. Not on a whim, but with a mis­sion. What we haven’t revealed yet, is that Denise is a self-anoint­ed mas­ter man­i­fester’. She knew she want­ed to pur­sue com­e­dy and researched the LA, New York, and Chica­go scenes exten­sive­ly. (By the way, she con­sid­ers her­self a researcher, even going so far to say that she research­es every­thing to the 10th degree, ana­lyz­ing, break­ing things down, fig­ur­ing out her path. Once some­thing is crossed off her goal list, she’s moved on to the next goal. She is an object in per­pet­u­al motion.)

I realized that at a young age moving around a lot, that being funny, kind of helped me reacclimate myself in new environments.
Brandi Denise

Denise chose Chica­go, not just because Chica­go is home to an incred­i­ble sketch and improv scene, but because Sec­ond City had a Diver­si­ty and Out­reach Schol­ar­ship and she knew she could land it. FYI — it was dur­ing the film­ing of her audi­tion sketch that she earned the praise of George Clin­ton, who had opened up his stu­dio to her. Despite not land­ing the schol­ar­ship, she packed her bags to move to Chica­go and under the guise of find­ing out why she was­n’t select­ed for the schol­ar­ship, her gump­tion helped her land an intern­ship instead, work­ing with Dion­na Grif­fin-Irons. It’s here that we pause to share a real­ly great insight Denise offered about work­ing through chal­lenges as illus­trat­ed by the out­come of not win­ning the Diver­si­ty and Out­reach Schol­ar­ship: Every­thing does­n’t hap­pen to you, it hap­pens for you.”

She trained at mul­ti­ple clubs in Chica­go (Improv Olympics, Annoy­ance The­ater, as well as Sec­ond City Con­ser­va­to­ry). It’s an under­state­ment to say that Denise is a hard work­er. With the time and expe­ri­ence of per­form­ing in Chica­go, she knew anoth­er move was immi­nent. As a researcher, she also knew that once Laugh Fac­to­ry Chicago’s Jamie Masa­da passed her at his club, she could move to LA with her foot already in the door at LA’s Laugh Factory.

Los Ange­les was her next des­ti­na­tion and upon her arrival, Denise wast­ed no time in tak­ing Lev­el One class­es at the famed UCB. Not because she need­ed a refresh­er (see pre­vi­ous para­graph for her train­ing), but because she saw the pow­er of net­work­ing. She also did­n’t rest on her lau­rels about the Laugh Fac­to­ry: she per­formed 6 nights a week at open mics at the Improv and oth­er clubs around LA. Before she knew it, she start­ed land­ing act­ing roles. Not quite ready to label her­self as an actress, it took being a series reg­u­lar and relo­cat­ing to shoot before she was ready to wear the label.

Speak­ing of labels, Denise shared an insight about being a black female com­ic, a label she does­n’t care for. As a per­former used to per­form­ing in white envi­ron­ments, Denise admits she’s always had to work hard­er to stand out, which meant writ­ing more, per­form­ing more, but belief in her­self is not a skill she’s short on. The chip on her shoul­der to be seen as the fun­ni­est per­son on stage (not just the fun­ni­est female on stage, and cer­tain­ly not just the fun­ni­est black female on stage), pro­pelled her for­ward. And for­ward, she has pro­pelled. Whether it’s land­ing the BET game show Games Peo­ple Play, on Starz’ Pow­er, her first Com­e­dy Cen­tral spe­cial (filmed in Austin, Texas) or even a guest role on Abbott Ele­men­tary, she’s mak­ing a name for her­self as your soon-to-be house­hold name favorite com­ic. Full stop.

Everything doesn't happen to you, it happens for you.
Brandi Denise

With all these ris­ing star accom­plish­ments, it still felt good to land JFL New Faces in 2022. Hav­ing tried out unsuc­cess­ful­ly for the recog­ni­tion in the past, her ini­tial reac­tion was I’m not gonna give you anoth­er oppor­tu­ni­ty to tell me that I’m not good enough”, but at her man­ager’s urg­ing and armed with a real­ly cute out­fit, she land­ed the cov­et­ed recog­ni­tion in 2022. She acknowl­edged she was­n’t ready when she had orig­i­nal­ly tried out in 2014. But in 2022, it sig­ni­fied the momen­tum of her career pick­ing up even more speed.

In 2023, she gets to add land­ing an LMAOF debut and the lib­er­ty of get­ting to do a set that she might not have been able to do for Com­e­dy Cen­tral or late night TV, where clean­er, more main­stream” mate­r­i­al would have been called for. Only Fans being what Only Fans is, she was able to let loose with her mate­r­i­al, admit­ting she got a lit­tle dirty, a lit­tle nasty.” She even let that cre­ative out­let chan­nel itself into cre­at­ing and host­ing a new month­ly show­case in Los Ange­les called Dirty Sets which includes ice­break­er games with the audi­ence, pass­ing out mas­sage oils for prizes, and of course mate­r­i­al that is a lit­tle dirty, a lit­tle nasty.”

Con­tin­u­ing on her path of man­i­fest­ing great­ness, Denise shared the excit­ing news that she’d been select­ed for the reboot of BET’s Com­ic View which com­plet­ed film­ing in Vegas in July. With Kevin Hart as pro­duc­er, the reboot of the clas­sic 1990s show­case which ele­vat­ed the careers of Cedric the Enter­tain­er, Bruce Bruce, and so many more, is guar­an­teed to bring Denise even more man­i­fes­ta­tions of recognition.

When asked if black women had more spot­light moments in the 12 years since she’s been per­form­ing com­e­dy, she did­n’t men­tion house­hold black com­ic names, she men­tioned names like Michelle Oba­ma, Car­di B, and Kamala Har­ris. One bold obser­va­tion I can make based on my brief con­ver­sa­tion with her is that Denise is not going to lim­it her­self to just com­e­dy and act­ing. I’m will­ing to bet, her man­i­fest des­tiny is infi­nite­ly greater. I feel like we’re wit­ness­ing a moment in time just before she ris­es to promi­nence. A word she prophet­i­cal­ly chose as her word to describe her future. Giv­en her always look­ing for­ward men­tal­i­ty, we hope she remem­bers to take moments to reflect on her accomplishments.

Thank you to Anjali Iyer of Metro Pub­lic Rela­tions for arrang­ing this interview.

Fol­low Brandi

Bran­di can be seen and heard:

  • LMAOF Los Ange­les Spe­cial — released August 2023, avail­able on OFTV
  • Com­e­dy Bar, Chica­go — Head­lin­ing Sep­tem­ber 15 – 172023
  • BET’s Com­ic View — Reboot of the clas­sic com­ic show­case, expect­ed Fall 2023
  • Dirty Sets, Los Ange­les — host of month­ly showcase
  • Com­e­dy Cen­tral Spe­cial
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Brandi Denise