Comedian London Hughes: ‘I made more money in one year in America than my whole life in Britain’ (2023)

“Let me think,” says the comedian and actor London Hughes when asked what she misses about living in the UK. “I miss my friends and family. I miss pickled onion Monster Munch, and Malibu and pineapple in a can. I miss sea salt and chardonnay-flavoured crisps from the Co-op. Do I miss working in Britain? After the way I was treated?” She lets out a throaty laugh. “Not at all.”

It has been three and a half years since Hughes bit the bullet and moved to Los Angeles in search of opportunities denied to her back home. A fortnight after she arrived, Covid-19 sent the world into lockdown. “Yet I still managed to end that year with a new TV show and a comedy special,” Hughes says. “I made more money in that first year of moving to America than I’d made in my whole life in Britain. I’m, like: ‘England! What is wrong with you? How dare you make me feel like I wouldn’t make it when I had all this talent in me.’ To this day, I tell anyone who is not a white man who is trying to make it in comedy in Britain to leave.”

Hughes, 34, has a string of TV and film projects in the pipeline, none of which she can talk about because of the actors and writers’ strikes. “Oh yeah, I’m picketing, babe!” she exclaims. “I’ve been in the streets dancing to Rihanna’s Bitch Better Have My Money. Kathy Griffin made homemade shortbread and gave it out to everyone. This is real. It’s a crazy time.”

What she can discuss is her new memoir, Living My Best Life, Hun, which lays out her boulder-strewn path to success. Hughes is talking from her LA home where it’s early morning and the sun is streaming through the windows. Behind her, she has assembled a small display area for the book, surrounding it with flowers and assorted bottles of spirits. “This is my party area,” Hughes beams, moving out of the way so I can get a better look. “I’ve put the book next to Kevin Hart’s own-brand tequila, just to show love to Kevin.”

Comedian London Hughes: ‘I made more money in one year in America than my whole life in Britain’ (1)

It was Hart who took Hughes under his wing when she first arrived in the US. After seeing a clip of one of her Edinburgh shows, he flew her to Las Vegas for a meeting where she told him she wanted to be “the comedy Beyoncé”. He replied: “OK, well I’m gonna drive this train. Just call me the captain.” He was as good as his word, executive producing her first Netflix special, To Catch a D*ck, a bracingly candid show about her sex life that was shown in 194 countries. The night the special came out, Hughes booked herself in to the presidential suite at the Beverly Hills hotel where Beyoncé filmed her 7/11 video. Comedy Beyoncé had arrived.

Hughes wrote her memoir over two months at the start of 2022. “I want to state for the record that I wrote every part of that book myself,” she confirms. “London Hughes had no ghost writer!” Funny, poignant and frequently enraging, Living My Best Life, Hun had been percolating in her mind for years, though she resisted writing it until now as “it needed a happy ending. If I’d written it in 2018, it would have ended with ‘… and one day I’ll go to America and I’ll have an agent, but for now I’m just doing me.’ But then I did it, I achieved my dream. So this book is really a pep talk for other people [in my situation]. I called it Living My Best Life, Hun because, as you can see, for most of it I’m truly not.”

The book recalls her childhood in Thornton Heath, south London, where she grew up on a diet of Fawlty Towers, Dad’s Army, Keeping Up Appearances and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Television was her best friend – quite literally, since at school she was mercilessly bullied. After Hughes’s parents split, she moved to Brighton with her mum, who ran a hotel by the seafront. At her new school, she “experienced more racism in the 2000s than [my dad] did in the whole of the 1960s”. Hughes was the only Black pupil and the white kids called her Golliwog – “And I let them,” she writes in the book. “I had no idea what a Golliwog was; when you go to a predominantly Black school, you get to miss out on all the cool new racism.”

But this was small beer next to the bullying she endured when she went to Kingston University, where her four housemates froze her out for being too flirty with men. Then someone made a Facebook page with a picture of Hughes declaring her to be the university’s “biggest ho” alongside quotes from people she was alleged to have slept with. “I’ve been in Twitter wars with racist Trump supporters who were kinder to me than that Facebook page,” Hughes notes. Writing about being bullied “definitely opened some wounds … It’s one thing thinking about it, but when you write it, you are back in that situation, so I was crying for most of those chapters. I was reading it and thinking: ‘This is deep. Like, how am I OK? How did I get through that?’ But afterwards it was cathartic. It felt like therapy.”

Comedian London Hughes: ‘I made more money in one year in America than my whole life in Britain’ (2)

Somehow, none of this distracted Hughes from her prime objective, which was to get on TV. Her earliest presenting job was on the late-night soft porn channel Babestation. There, a fully clothed Hughes would entertain viewers by joking and ad-libbing before introducing the steamy main event. Later, a boyfriend observed her comic chops and suggested she try out at The Sunday Show, a live variety event for up-and-coming singers, actors and comics. Right from the off, she killed it. In 2009, after just nine months of doing standup, she entered the Funny Women comedy awards where, arriving for the early heats as the only Black contestant, she was mistaken for the cleaner. She nonetheless made it to the final and won.

Winning the award led to her getting an agent, who sent her for an audition at the children’s channel CBBC. She got the gig and, much to her mother’s chagrin, dropped out of university. On her first day, Hughes went for hair and makeup where the white makeup artist began powdering her face with cocoa powder. “Yep, just me at work with hot chocolate on my face,” Hughes recalls, with a hollow laugh. “It’s never happened since. No Horlicks, no Ovaltine, nothing. I mean, at least it was Waitrose Organic and not Tesco’s own brand, so it could have been worse. She’s still working, that lady, and I wish her the best.”

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It wouldn’t be the last time that Hughes encountered blatant racism in her career. At a BBC radio gig, a producer asked her not to do “any Black material”. In 2013, after complaining to her co-agent that she wasn’t getting many auditions, he told her: “Black people just aren’t in this year.” They parted ways soon after. For the next five years, Hughes’s career reads like an endless game of snakes and ladders. One minute she’d be on the brink of breaking through, the next she was back at the bottom of the heap. Meanwhile, her white male contemporaries soared, appearing on the TV panel shows that kept turning her down.

In her book, Hughes states that British comedy and entertainment is “systemically racist”. While she tells me the landscape has changed since she was trying to break through – “We don’t need the people in charge any more. You see TikTok stars and Instagrammers doing their own thing, paving their own way” – she still despairs at seeing the same white, male faces in senior roles: “The Oxbridge lot – it’s so boring. It’s like, I get it, hire your friends. But what I really don’t like is when they assume [they know] what the audience wants. Not everybody’s a middle-class white guy from Tunbridge Wells.”

Comedian London Hughes: ‘I made more money in one year in America than my whole life in Britain’ (3)

What, I wonder, was the final straw that made her move to the US? Hughes doesn’t hesitate: “It was the Whoopi Goldberg moment.” By this point, Hughes had pitched eight TV series, all of which were turned down; she had taken two shows to the Edinburgh fringe, performing to near-empty rooms. And so she changed tack, and decided to become a reality TV star. “That way I would get a following, get people to notice me and then pivot back to comedy,” she explains. The plan worked. After she appeared on the series Celebs Go Dating, where she stole the show, she was suddenly deluged with offers. “I was having all these meetings with E4, ITV, the BBC. Everyone wanted to know what I wanted to do next. And so I suggested a travel show, because I’d seen all these white dudes on TV travelling all over the world with their white friends and their white fathers and uncles. And God bless them, white men deserve a holiday. But why is it when you see a woman travelling on TV she’s always selling houses?”

So Hughes said she wanted to travel around the US with Whoopi Goldberg. To her amazement, when her people contacted Goldberg’s management, the word came back: Whoopi was on board. “So now we’ve got one of the biggest comedians in the world who is Black and female and an Egot [Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award] winner – like, who’s going to say no to this show? Let’s go! And then everyone said no. After that, I was like: ‘Nah. I’m out. This is stupid now. See you later.’”

Since moving to the US, Hughes hasn’t looked back, though if there’s one thing she struggles with in Los Angeles, it’s dating. The more successful she becomes, the harder it is to find a man whose ego can cope with it. “My options are to date no one or lower my standards,” Hughes says, “and I refuse to lower my standards.” She has noticed that where British men are upfront about their flaws, American men just talk rubbish “to cover the fact that they haven’t got their stuff together. Like, I went on a date with a guy who told me he was a director. And it turns out he was the director of a funeral home.”

Luckily, disastrous dates make for terrific comedy, so Hughes is busy funnelling her experiences into a second book – “and I can tell you, already, the drama in it is just insane,” she grins. She is also launching a production company with Hart, through which she will work on her own projects and unearth fresh talent. “I’m trying to be the Black girl that I never saw on TV growing up,” Hughes says, “and the work I have in place will solidify that dream. My plan is to advance Black British culture and help funny, talented women from the UK overcome systemic racism and patriarchal nonsense. I want to say: ‘Hey, you’re talented, I’ve got you, let’s do this.’ I don’t want anyone else to feel like I felt. That is the dream for me.”


Is London Hughes her real name? ›

London Dionne Micha Stacey Stephanie Estina Knibbs-Hughes knew her name was a joke. In her 2020 Netflix stand-up special, “To Catch a D-ck,” the boisterous British comedian hits voguing poses that not only punctuate each part of her uniquely long moniker but also ensure the audience will never forget it.

What is London Hughes famous for? ›

London Hughes (born 1989) is a British comedian, television writer and presenter. She wrote and starred in Laughter Shock, a comedy for the BBC which piloted in 2010.

How old is London Hughes? ›

Is Carol Hughes married to Ted Hughes? ›

Carol Hughes wed the poet in 1970 after the suicides of his first wife, American poet Sylvia Plath and the woman he left her for, Assia Wevill, and they remained married until his death from cancer in 1998.

Who is Alex Hughes? ›

Alex Hughes – Author of the Mindspace Investigations series – Author of Mystery, Science Fiction and Fantasy.

How old is London Brown? ›

Who is the comedian called London? ›

Comedian London Hughes: 'I made more money in one year in America than my whole life in Britain' “Let me think,” says the comedian and actor London Hughes when asked what she misses about living in the UK.

Who is the presenter called London? ›

Award-winning comedian, presenter and writer, London Hughes is a familiar face on children's television, as the presenter of CITV's weekend breakfast show, Scrambled! She began her television career presenting the morning show on CBBC whilst also presenting live links on BBC1 and BCC2.

Who is the black lady named London? ›

London Hughes was born on 7 June 1989 in Thornton Heath, London, England, UK. She is an actress and writer, known for Beyonce Wants Groceries (2011), At Home with Beyonce (2011)

Who is Jeremy London's brother? ›

His brother Jason stepped in for Jeremy for the final episode of the show. In 1995 he played T.S. Quint in Kevin Smith's second film, Mallrats.


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