Luenell Campbell is a jet-setter who checks out everybody on her flight.
“The first thing I do when I get on the plane is, I stick my head in the cockpit,” the star headliner at Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club says. “ ‘How’s everybody doing today? Did you get enough sleep? Nobody arguing with the old lady, nothing like that? Right? Right.’ ”
Luenell uses that bit at the Kimmel club, where she headlines at 9:30 p.m. Sundays and Mondays through February. It’s a funny routine, and the funny thing is, you can actually imagine Luenell doing just that.
The veteran stand-up and actress has pushed boundaries for decades. She is currently the only Black female comic in residency on the Strip. She also appeared in a limited engagement at The Sayers Club at SLS Las Vegas (since renamed Sahara) in February 2019, just after Eddie Griffin and Mo’Nique opened as the club’s primary resident headliners.
Luenell’s breakout film role was as the prostitute (with a heart of gold, of course) invited to the elegant dinner party in Sasha Baron Cohen’s 2006 comedy masterpiece “Borat.” She appeared for two years on tour and DVD in “Katt Williams American Hustle,” the action thriller “Taken 2” with Liam Neeson, “That’s My Boy” with Adam Sandler,” “Dolemite Is My Name” with Eddie Murphy, and “Coming 2 America 2” with Murphy and Arsenio Hall.
She’s especially pleased with her recurring role as Miss Loretta in the HBO series “Hacks,” which revolves around Las Vegas comic Deborah Vance, played by Jean Smart. Luenell says, “It’s not like I’m Viola Davis, but I’m happy with a lot of things I’ve done. I’ve had a lot of prideful moments, and I’m very proud to be affiliated with ‘Hacks.’ It is so well-acted.”
More from the 63-year-old entertainer:
Johnny Kats: You’ve really taken to Vegas, and you seem particularly fascinated by magic. I see that you’ve been to a lot of shows. Why is that?
Luenell: Las Vegas is magic to me, and magic just blows my wig back, I swear to God. I’ve seen Mat Franco, I’ve seen David Copperfield, I’m going to see Penn &Teller, Criss Angel. This is part of why people want to come to Vegas, whether they are entertainers or tourists. I’m hooking it all up.
When you’re on stage, you seem to have as much fun as anyone in the room. It still feels good to perform, right?
More than ever because I am more popular now, I have a bigger fan base now. I’m in Pittsburgh now, at the Improv. All of my shows were sold out before I got here.
That’s the key in Las Vegas, isn’t it? It’s sales over everything else.
You have to have the numbers behind you. You have to have the name, as well. You know, you have to be somebody. This is not the time or place where they experiment with you. You have to already be bringing something to the table. Vegas is not an opportunity town. It’s a business town, and they are in the business of making money. It’s not about how cute you are, how fun you are, or any of that if you can’t make the money.
I’ve seen you twice at Kimmel’s club, both on Sundays, and the place was packed both nights.
I have a team that was able to bounce off of the first residency I had in Vegas, at the SLS with a guy named Tommy T, who got me there. They had me on Sunday nights, which I was scared of but turned out good for me. It was Eddie Griffin on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Then it was Mo’Nique on Thursday, Friday, Saturday. I was doing Sunday, and I was doing good business there, which is what they looked at before I was able to come to Kimmel’s.
This is the cliche question for you, but is it a challenge today to perform comedy in Las Vegas as a Black woman?
The challenges are just to get in. You have to be so many things. You have to be personable. You have to have material that resonates with all people. Those are the important things, as far as how you perform your act.
You just launched an OnlyFans page. What was the motivation for that?
OnlyFans was developed, I believe, to showcase content that you would not normally be able to access freely on any platform. That could have been your art, your decorating. It could be anything. But it has turned into sort of like a porn site. I did not go into the OnlyFans world to be a porn star. I just had a plethora of photos, which were never exposed, when I was a model for Savage X Fenty, lingerie ambassador for Rihanna. I said, “Well, what are we going to do with these pictures?” So we posted them, and every time we posted them, a big to-do was made. Women see them and feel good about who they are, and we got the men excited.
There is definitely room for the Luenell look on OnlyFans, yes?
Well, to be my age, and to be my size, and have anybody interested in me in this day and age is a huge thing. I’m no spring chicken (laughs). I don’t consider myself to have a great body, but maybe in a plastic-built world there’s a market for what real women look like.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.