Even now, as violence among young men of color in Madison seems on the rise, Denzel Irby just wants to make people laugh.
“When you laugh, you ain’t thinking about putting your hands on nobody, you just feel good,” Irby tells Madison365. “So I’m just trying to a little bit of feel-good to the city and just remind people that, you know, we just need to laugh. Laugh and love each other and be supportive and I’m definitely excited to have a group of young men of color come in and show Madison that you know, we can get past all of this if we just stick together.”
Irby, who is heading to Los Angeles later this month to pursue a show business career, will perform tonight at the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, 4619 Jenewein Road, with the MLKs of Comedy, the performance collective he helped form while a student in the prestigious DePaul University theater program. Doors open at 7 and the show will begin around 8.
He’s also bringing dancers, spoken word artists and musicians from both Madison and Chicago for a variety show he’s calling “Dennypalooza.”
Irby, who now performs as Denny Love, is a southside native, Madison West grad and 2012 Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year.
“Everything has come full circle,” Irby says. “It’s really exciting for me to know that I’m going back to my roots, you know, I’m going back to the place that gave me my start. That’s why I chose to do the show at the Boys and Girls Club because that’s where I got my foundation, you know, it matters in a place that raised me and I started on in my comic, my voice in places like the Boys and Girls Club and around my family and it wouldn’t make sense for me to not come home and do a show for the people who got me to where I am today.”
It’s a sort of farewell performance for Irby, who appeared in the NBC television show Chicago PD and earned a degree in one of the most competitive acting schools in the country. He’ll be in Hollywood by the end of the month.
“I just got to get out there,” he says. “My agents keep tryin’ and tellin’ me like, “’yeah it’s time, you got to go.’ So my momentum is there. I’m about to start a brand new journey. For me it was, I needed to come home and get my foundation, get my footing, so I can go out to LA knowing who I am, knowing all the support I got from home. And you know, Madison will carry you. It’ll hold you up at home, keep giving love and giving back to the city.”
It’s also a farewell performance for the MLKs of Comedy, who are going on hiatus with Irby’s departure. The group’s “Be Right Back” mini-tour has included performances around the midwest, including Milwaukee and Chicago, and will end in Madison.
“This is the last stop on the tour and obviously for me it’s the best stop on the tour,” Irby says. “It’s only right that it was the last one ’cause this will be the one that sends me off to LA. Shortly after this I’m headed to the City of Angels.”
The show was scheduled months ago, but Irby finds special relevance now, following a series of shooting incidents in recent weeks.
“I’ve been hearing that there’s been a lot of violence in Madison, which is just something that I’m not use to hearing,” he says. “Especially of among young men of color, so that is literally the opposite of what me and my comedy collective fight for. We’re all young men of color, who came together to do something positive and our weapon of choice is comedy. We decided to use our light in a positive way and you know, give voice to the people who don’t usually get heard. So I’m coming to show the city of Madison that, this is not who we are. Let’s come, let’s be together, let’s get the community together, let’s laugh because as you know, laughter is healing, man.”
Tickets are $10 at the door, with just a few $25 VIP tickets available, which include preferred seating and a t-shirt.