'90s sitcom star, standup comedian to headline Comedy Night on Friday at Patriot Hall

BY KAYLA ROBINS
kayla@theitem.com
Posted 4/25/19

She loves an audience, a live audience, and after 33 years in entertainment, Sumter has the chance to laugh with her on Friday.

Kim Coles, best known for her lovable role as Synclaire James-Jones on FOX's groundbreaking mid-'90s comedy series …

This item is available in full to subscribers

'90s sitcom star, standup comedian to headline Comedy Night on Friday at Patriot Hall

Posted

She loves an audience, a live audience, and after 33 years in entertainment, Sumter has the chance to laugh with her on Friday.

Kim Coles, best known for her lovable role as Synclaire James-Jones on FOX's groundbreaking mid-'90s comedy series "Living Single," will headline Comedy Night at Patriot Hall at 7 p.m., bringing her standup to the Sumter stage before sticking around to meet fans following her performance.

"One of our goals is to bring people together through the arts," said Melanie Colclough, executive director of Patriot Hall and the Sumter County Cultural Center. "We thought Kim Coles would be a perfect fit for our community because she does clean comedy, is very funny and appeals to a wide audience."

Coles countered slightly in that her comedy can be naughty but that it is inclusive and "comes from a place of joy."

"I laugh at myself, with you, about life's ridiculousness," the Brooklyn native said.

She said she doesn't just perform her bit and leave. Especially if she is doing two shows at the same venue, she'll edit it as she goes along, homing in on what the audience responds to and always trying to personalize her connection to where she is and who she is performing for.

"I try my best to learn a few things so you see I see you," she said. "I'm going to do my act, but I will learn something about the town or the food. Or that "

Can't give her act away. Guess you'll have to see for yourself what she was talking about.

Coles started her career as a standup comedian before auditioning for "In Living Color," a sketch comedy series that ran on FOX from 1990 to 1994 and centered on the Wayans family of comedians with a goal to produce a variety show similar to "Saturday Night Live" but with a cast largely of people of color.

Coles said the show, which also starred rising actors Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx, David Alan Grier and Jennifer Lopez, was groundbreaking in that it harkened back to the '70s variety show format that people "hadn't seen anything like that ever or in a really long time" but with a multicultural backdrop.

"It was the perfect storm of talent, timing and tenacity," she said.

The most difficult part of being on "In Living Color," she said, was how competitive it was. While the working atmosphere was competitive and not inviting - she only stayed on for a year - it was her first lesson in show business that just being talented won't get you the whole way.

It also taught her to appreciate when the opposite came along.

"'Living Single' was one of my favorite experiences ever," she said of her next venture, another FOX show, which aired from 1993 to 1998 and showed the lives of six friends living in Brooklyn, becoming one of the most popular black sitcoms of its era.

Here, Coles said, she did not have to audition for the show and was not forced to perform in a competitive environment. Instead, she excelled in the role of Synclaire James-Jones, the funny, fun-loving aspiring actress and receptionist at the show's Flavor magazine. Synclaire was also the cousin and roommate of Khadijah, played by Queen Latifah, Flavor's editor and publisher.

Coles said working with the show's cast of strong and talented women created a positive energy and that she felt a difference in the show being created and led by a woman.

"This was where I found my family. And to be able to spend five years on a show was a chance to really stretch out and make an impact," she said.

Coles also fondly remembers stints on shows like "Frazier" and "Six Feet Under." She went on to appear on talk shows and reality TV and hosted BET's game show "Pay it Off," becoming the first black woman to host a primetime game show.

She has since added three bestselling books to her resume.

Her connection to the audience is what she loves most about being a performer.

Whether she's filming in front of a live studio TV audience - she said most of her gigs have been - or doing standup in a theater or making her family laugh at home, the live aspect is what she strives for.

"I seek that connection," she said, "to look out into the crowd and see people's faces and to connect to them."