By LaShawn Williams, Chicago Defender Contributing Writer
T. Murph, who cut his teeth on Chicago’s comedy stages, is making noise in the world of television; with appearances on shows like “Chicago Fire” and “Key & Peele,” the Chicago-area native is now known for his scene-stealing role as Clovis on the hit Hulu sitcom “Woke,” which recently wrapped up its second season.
When the comedian and actor isn’t busy making people laugh, he is a devoted dad who enjoys the journey and joy of parenting. As we celebrate Father’s Day, we spoke with T. Murph about maintaining roots in Chicago, finding the funny in fatherhood, and his ideal Father’s Day meal.
Chicago Defender: You got your start in Chicago’s comedy clubs but before that, you were a full-time barber. Why did you retire your clippers for a career in stand-up?
T. Murph: I was a barber for about 15 years and all of my customers would always tell me that I missed my calling as a stand-up, mainly because I would spend more time cracking jokes than actually cutting their hair. They kept pushing me and telling me I should try it and one day, I gave it a shot, and now, here we are.
Chicago Defender: You maintain a Chicago residence and like the late Bernie Mac, you haven’t relocated to Hollywood. Why have you chosen to still live in the Windy City?
T. Murph: I’m a standup comedian at heart and I feel like Chicago just has one of the best comedy scenes. We [comedians] get a true and honest review of our standup while we’re performing here. It’s not one of those things where the audience is just laughing because you are who you are. They actually want you to be funny.
Chicago Defender: In your performances, you mention the stigma about living in Chicago. While you do acknowledge the city has its fair share of issues, you balance it out by presenting it in a funny and relatable way. Talk about your conscious effort to hold the city down in your stand-up.
T. Murph: I tour everywhere so I see the problems that plague other cities. I was just in Colorado and it was going down in Denver. To constantly hear that it’s so bad in Chicago—like, I don’t know what agenda the media has against Chicago, but I’m literally in a different city or state every week and it’s the same thing. The news doesn’t shine a light on these other places. Chicago is no worse than any of the rest of these cities.
Chicago Defender: Your comedy journey has led to you landing a co-starring role on the Hulu series “Woke.” How did you become part of the show?
T. Murph: My manager and my agent [at the time] sent me the script and they wanted me to initially read for the role of Keef and when I saw it, I didn’t really identify with that particular role. My manager then asked, “Well, what about the best friend?” They sent it over and I said, “Yo, this is me.”
Chicago Defender: You star alongside fellow Chicago native Lamorne Morris, which puts you in the club with him and other funnymen like Craig Robinson, DeRay Davis and Lil’ Rel, who have all made their mark in television. How does it feel to belong to this Chicago comedy fraternity?
T. Murph: It’s surreal at times to just be able to talk to these brothers. It’s very dope to be a part of all of this and to have that camaraderie with them.
Chicago Defender: Father’s Day is coming up soon. You’re a dad of children with an age gap between them—what is parenting like in this regard?
T. Murph: It’s different trying to navigate it all—that’s why I was late to this interview! I was putting my one-year-old down for a nap! [Laughs]
Chicago Defender: Babies can be pretty incredible and can surprise their parents with their innate abilities. Has your one-year-old amazed you with anything yet?
T. Murph: Yes! Just watching how children are with technology; for him to only be one and already navigating cell phones and iPads and all of those things is crazy!
Chicago Defender: You mention your children in your stand-up routines; as you know, not all comedians go this route. Talk about why you incorporate your kids into your act.
T. Murph: Well, I spend a lot of time with them. But when you think about relating to the audience, especially people who have kids, we’re all going through the same thing with TikTok and Instagram and YouTube. I feel like it’s just one big group therapy session because we all gotta get some stuff off our chest when it comes to these kids!
Chicago Defender: What has been one of the funniest things your children have done that made you laugh?
T. Murph: My oldest sons—them trying to skip school—that’s the thing that gets me. I’m like, “You do know the school calls home and lets me know that you’re not there, right?” And then they try to act like I’m the crazy one and say, “No, I was there!” The teacher looked out at the class, but didn’t see them. And what’s crazier is that they’re twins—that means there are two of them—so he didn’t see either of them? And they’re in the same class? Come on, man…
Chicago Defender: Has your father influenced your parenting style at all? Have you taken any lessons from your dad now that you have children?
T. Murph: Just being present and available and making sure they know they can depend on you, regardless of the situation, is probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned.
Chicago Defender: What would be the perfect Father’s Day for you?
T. Murph: I just want some baked jerk chicken. That’s it for me. I don’t need much.
Chicago Defender: That’s an easy request, but can your [older] kids cook, though?
T. Murph: No—but their mama can! So, if the kids can put in the request that I want baked jerk chicken, that’s all the Father’s Day I need.
For more information on T. Murph, visit his website.
LaShawn Williams is a Chicago-based writer. Follow her on Twitter @MsWilliamsWorld.