Monday, February 3rd, 2014
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Black Larry King (Isn't Any Of Those Things)

A friend of mine suggested that BuzzFeed deputy editor-in-chief Shani O. Hilton was harboring the identity of the genius behind @BlackLarryKing, the quietly funny, under-the-radar account. “I think Shani knows but she refuses to admit it,” she told me a few days ago. My editor, when we talked about interviewing Black Larry King, wrote back: “Shani claims not to know but I dunno if I believe her.” Others think Ms. Hilton might actually be BLK. “We are onto you,” tweeted Anna Holmes last summer—and "not even trying to hide you're the same person anymore,” tweeted Aminatou Sow.

I assumed it wasn’t Hilton—who’s got that kind of time?—but I was awfully curious, more than I expected to be about a gag Twitter account that’s been around since early 2012 and still has under a thousand followers. But BLK’s voice is so pitch-perfect, so sweet and funny (“You never meet people named Porgy anymore”), it seemed worth inquiring.

Well, it ain’t Shani.

How did @BlackLarryKing come about?

A. I have been obsessed with Larry King for a very long time. As a media personality, he’s just an incredible throwback. I’ve always been a news junkie and would read whatever I could find. In the mid-eighties, you could only get three newspapers where I grew up, in D.C.—Washington Post, Washington Times and USA Today. He had this column in USA Today called “King’s Things” or something like that. It was a series of disjointed thoughts connected by ellipses. And even then, it seemed ridiculous to me that this was a thing. Of course, he was on TV. He was a little harder then—Get to the point, caller!—and he’s a little softer now.

C. Like A., I read the USA Today column and I, too, found it ridiculous and somewhat intoxicating. So I’ve always viewed King as a comic character. It’s like seeing the world through the eyes of a six-year-old, almost. Everything is just Wow! That’s the best grape juice I ever drank! And it’s been therapeutic for me to do this, because I’m typically sort of a negative and critical person. This has brought out a positivity in me. I think it’s made me a somewhat nicer person.

A. We’d been making Larry King comments to each other for a little while. And I believe we were texting and making "Good Times" jokes. Esther Rolle is a damn fine actress or something to that effect. And two or three days later, we started @BlackLarryKing.

C. We were inspired by an actual Larry King tweet, about Sanjay Gupta. He said: “Sometimes I wish I could have brain surgery just so @sanjayguptaCNN could be my doctor.” The best part was his apology: “Didn’t mean to offend, I just really like and admire @sanjayguptaCNN he’s the best!” We’ve worked apologies into our routine.

Tell me about yourselves.

A. I’m a forty-year-old man, married with two children. I’m an American of Middle Eastern descent. I live in Atlanta. I’m a former journalist and I now work for a large charity in its communications and marketing department.

C. White man, 43. A journalist, and a native Atlantan. I went USC film school and now I’m paying that off. We’ve been friends for seven or eight years.

A. We were both reading each other’s blogs. We had an instant rapport.

Was there any hesitation about adopting the voice of an elderly black man?

A. If there was any hesitation, there wasn’t very much. We talked about it and theorized about it. We talk about him like he’s a person—he’s become a person to us. It’s very much a parody of Larry King. The premise was, let’s take Larry King and his obsession with B-, C-, D-list celebrities, and his positivity, and just shift it a little bit, and take in a little more black culture. Instead of Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé, it was The original Drifters! All fifteen of ‘em in the studio tonight!

C. If it was White Larry King, it would just be Larry King. So it was really just a device. It could’ve been Brazilian Larry King…

A. Except we can’t think of any Brazilian cultural references.

C. My great friend Pelé.

Is there a routine or a schedule?

A. Not really. Sometimes we’ll tweet at celebrities. It’s all very tongue-in-cheek. It’s not supposed to be mean. For instance, when “Accidental Racist” came out, we tweeted at LL Cool J. @BlackLarryKing loves “Accidental Racist.” Two things that disappoint him about the Grammys: Number one, they can’t all be winners. Number two, this song wasn’t nominated.

Anyway, here’s what happened with LL Cool J: It was around the time of the whole Paula Deen thing. I said something like Sources tell me LL Cool J is doing a guest chapter in Paula Deen’s new cookbook. LL replied, “Sources told me you'll be sucking my dick.”

C. We’re still great friends!

A. That’s one of the things we love about this character. It’s not that @BlackLarryKing is forgiving. It’s that it wouldn't even occur to him to be upset.

How has the account evolved? When did you hit your stride?

A. Like any fictional character, I think you get to know it. At first we were trying to do it, and now we know him. Now we can watch the Grammys and we know exactly what he wants to say about everything. He’s really positive and he’s 60% informed. He vaguely knows who people are, but he constantly misspells their names. He’s constantly getting facts wrong, which is something he shares with the real Larry King. (There are compilations on Youtube.)

C. There is a downside to getting to know the character—having to watch awards shows. But we feel obligated, because obviously he loves awards shows. But I hate the Grammys. The Grammys are painful.

What’s been the response to @BlackLarryKing?

C. Not as much as we want!

A. But at the same time, we keep doing it because it is total enjoyment.

Larry King is 80. What will you do when he dies?

C. We’ve not thought about that. But @BlackLarryKing will outlive Larry King.

A. We didn’t think we’d be doing it for as long as we have. There’s only so many things about "Good Times" that we can remember.



Editor’s note: We agreed to let them keep their names out of it because, come on!

Elon Green is a contributing editor to Longform.

1 Comments / Post A Comment

stuffisthings (#1,352)

I hope I'm not the only one who read this whole thing going "Wait, where's B.?"

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