David Peisner’s Homey Don’t Play That!: The Story of In Living Color and the Black Comedy Revolution is a thoroughly insightful look at the origin and aftermath of Fox’s landmark sketch comedy show. But as engaging and entertaining as it is, the book fails to mention one very important thing: In Living Color alum David Alan Grier has one heck of a voice.
“I just did Annie,” says the 62-year-old Grier, a three-time Tony nominee who played Daddy Warbucks during the Hollywood Bowl production. “A major comment I heard from reviewers and people was, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you could sing.’ I’ve done five Broadway shows, but I feel like a lot of people don’t know all of me. They have a part that they know.”
We’re guessing the other part, the side-splittingly humorous part, will be on full display this fall when the actor’s new show, The Cool Kids, debuts September 28 on Fox. Grier plays Hank, the geriatric general of a retirement community whose world is disrupted when a new rebel (Vicki Lawrence) moves in.
The Michigan native talked to Forbes Travel Guide about having on-set chemistry with Lawrence, looking for groceries in L.A., finding peace in Hawaii and packing the right books in his carry-on.
Where in the world are you?
I’m in glamorous L.A. doing a bunch of interviews and other work, but it’s home.
What makes L.A. so special?
To be real, this is where the industry is. This is where my business is. What makes it unique is that you have a conglomerate of stars, people in the industry, [in one place].
The road to L.A.’s bright lights started in Detroit for you. What’s been the best part of the journey?
I still get excited, I still get amped, whenever I perform. I can’t believe I’m here. I grew up as a kid watching comics on TV in the ’60s. I’ve been performing for 30 years, and I’m amazed that there’s an audience that still wants to hear and see me. I’m reveling in every moment. I don’t feel old; I just look old.
And you’re starting to play old people on TV.
I am. But I am not young, okay. You gotta get it in while you can.
What’s going to make The Cool Kids a hit show?
A couple of things make us stand out: the cast, No. 1. Martin Mull, Leslie Jordan and Vicki Lawrence have been around the block many times. They know what the deal is. We’re all on the same level.
And No. 2 is [program creator] Charlie Day from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. He’s a real young head but writing about old people. So, hopefully, that combination and the cast will create stories that will make people laugh.
When you travel, are you the kind of celebrity who hides behind a baseball cap and sunglasses or do you accept the fact you have a famous face and just deal with the consequences?
I try to roll like I am. The problem is that I do wear a lot of ball caps. That’s just my style. But if I’m wearing a baseball cap, [fans] will be like, “Oh, I see. You’re trying to be undercover.” I’m like, “I’m really not. This is just what I like to wear.”
I’m a regular guy. I want to be that person that I would want to meet as a fan. Nobody wants to meet a jerk.
When you’re not in the airport or on a television show set, what are some things you like doing around L.A.?
One thing I love about L.A. is the supermarkets. I like hanging out and shopping at Asian supermarkets. I’m burning up Koreatown. Love that!
And I just ordered a new barbecue grill for my backyard. Had to throw out the old one because it had rotted. I put it together. It came in all these different boxes. It took me forever, but I finally got it together. I feel so proud. I feel like I just bought a Ferrari.
So, you like supermarkets and grilling. You’re pretty handy in the kitchen?
Yeah, but I need to be handy in the gym. I need to be working out.
What are a few essential items that you travel with?
No. 1 has to be my headphones, man. I gotta have that. Okay, I’m obsessing.
I also take a sweater because it’s always cold. I know that’s really boring.
I always carry a couple of books because I feel like, if the plane crashed, I want people to see Shakespeare so they think that I’m smart.
Who are you listening to in those beloved headphones?
There’s this dude, [L.A.-based singer-songwriter] Moses Sumney. He’s amazing. I did Annie at the Hollywood Bowl and I thought he was going to come [to one of the shows]. But he was unable to come. I’d love to meet him. I’m a big fan of his.
Where are you traveling next?
I may be going to Italy in a week. I’ve been there before, but I may be going again to hang out.
There’s a work trip and then there’s a chill-out trip. If it’s a chill-out trip, I’m going to Hawaii. I’ll go to the Grand Wailea, chill and restore the battery.
Wherever I go, it must have great food. Cuisine is the first thing I ask about when I get off the plane. Where do we eat?