Like you, Khadijah Cooper spends a lot of time thinking and talking about sex. Unlike you, she gets paid for it.
Cooper, an MCTC grad and a program coordinator at Annex Teen Clinic in Robbinsdale, works with youth who have questions about what's happening to their bodies, and whether they're doing the right things at the right time, sexually.
(Bad news, youths: Those never stop coming. [Perhaps we should rephrase that.])
Once that work's done for the day, those awkward moments turn into material for Cooper, who moonlights as a stand-up comedian. As she recently told a crowd: "Basically, I know more about cum than anybody should."
Cooper serves up lines like that all over town (follow her Twitter feed for announcements), but it's at Al's Place, the speakeasy above Stanley's in northeast Minneapolis, where she's at her sultriest. This spring Cooper started a themed comedy night called "Harlem Nights," a reference to the glorious and glamorous Harlem Renaissance period of the 1920s.
Cooper seized on the classed-up joint's already existing Thursday date night ($49 for a three-course meal for two) and added her own sophisticated twist: Comedy fans are expected, nay, encouraged to dress up for the occasion. Dresses and suits will be worn onstage and off; your Twins hat might get you glared at.
On tonight's bill (click here for tickets), Cooper will be joined by the comic she knows and loves best: her mom, Cici Cooper, whose long career in comedy ensured Cooper grew up with a taste for raunchy fun.
City Pages spoke with Cooper about her always interesting days and always funny nights.
City Pages: Most people probably don't think their parents are all that funny. Did you think your mom was?
Khadijah Cooper: I knew she was funny just because we would always would laugh together. And then when I was 12, we had a cable access show together called The KC and Cici Show. It would air on Sunday mornings at, like, 7 a.m. I've been going to comedy clubs with her since I was about eight... even though I didn't understand her jokes.
CP: Was there material she didn't do around you because it was for adults only?
Cooper: She has a joke and sometimes she still tells it about her husband being impotent, that's about how "you are what you eat." The punchline is she's eating "nuts and raisin" every morning. As a kid I did not understand the comedy. She's always been 100 percent who she is, which was... very embarrassing for me as a child.
CP: What was your favorite TV show, and how did it influence your comedy?
Cooper: I loved Living Single. Queen Latifah played a character named Khajdiah. So when we talk about "representation," I had someone on TV with my same name, and who was super funny. In terms of standup I was watching Eddie Murphy's Raw—before I probably should have. [Laughs.]
CP: With your sex ed students, is anything off limits? How far can they take things before you tell them they took it too far?
Cooper: Anything personal. Those are questions we don't answer, like, "When was the first time you had sex?" or "What kind of birth control are you on?" They see us as, like, the experts on this stuff. But I don't answer those.
CP: What got you thinking about doing a "Harlem Nights" show?
Cooper: I was on Instagram and saw someone who does burlesque at Al's Place, and then I saw they do music and burlesque shows there, but not comedy. I wanted to start a comedy show that would have extra flair. I love getting dressed up, but never have the opportunity to do it, so this is my opportunity to get all dressed up and look really girly. We decided to have it on Thursday, when they have their date night, hoping people will come for that and stay for a comedy show.
It's a really great date night, and fits with the theme of speakeasy of that time. They weren't going out to Applebee's. They were getting dressed up, suited and booted, and Al's Place is the perfect place for that, this time we've added a trumpet player, Aaron Wiener. He's traveled the world. He has a master's degree in... I don't know, trumpet playing. But I thought, "what a cool way to open up a show, with some jazz." This show is like no other show in Minnesota. It's old-school, a "go out and show out" kind of feel, and you get to have a good laugh at the same time.