David Otunga, 34, is a Harvard Law School graduate, a professional wrestler, motivational speaker and now, a standup comic. How’s that for an unconventional career path?
The World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) superstar, who made his comedy debut at the Chicago Improv on Friday, Dec. 5, said he’s always been in the business of making the least anticipated move.
“This is another one of those things where people did not expect me to do this,” he told AlwaysAList.com via telephone from his home in Chicago.
Otunga, who appeared opposite Halle Berry in the movie “The Call,” said exploring comedy was a natural extension of his acting pursuits. The wrestling star names Kevin Hart, Dave Chappelle, Steve Harvey, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David among the comics on his list of favorite comedians.
The youngest of three kids, Otunga is father of David Daniel Otunga, Jr., 5, his son with longtime fiancée, Jennifer Hudson, 33. In addition to his comedy debut, AlwaysAList.com also spoke to this former WWE tag team champion about his law degree and his future in professional wrestling.
Tell me about this new venture into comedy. Was this your first time onstage performing standup?
This was my debut. I’ve always been interested in acting and I’ve been taking acting classes for years and years. I still take them here in Chicago. People were always like, man you should do something with comedy because you’re really funny. I’ve never really considered myself a comedian. Granted, I think I have interesting stories. A pretty unique life I’d say. There’s not too many people who’ve graduated from Harvard Law School to go into pro wrestling, reality TV, acting, you name it. So I had this opportunity to do this program where I met with this standup comedy coach a couple times. I met with the guy like three times and I got to do my own set. It was pretty crazy man, but it was really fun. Leading up to it you’re really nervous because it’s just you and a mic – that’s it! Just up there with a mic entertaining people. As soon as I started and I got that first laugh, I was like this is awesome. With WWE, I have so much experience talking in front of crowds. Usually I’m trying to get people to boo me, but here I’m trying to get people to laugh.
Tell me about your comedy. Does it consist of real stories, other peoples’ experiences or jokes you make up for the routine?
Real life stuff! I don’t really tell jokes. That’s not me. I tell a story in an entertaining and funny way. I’m clever and witty and all of that so I don’t necessarily get up there and tell jokes. I use my real life. There’s nobody who has the background I do, so nobody has used that material before. I have my own niche.
Now that you’ve done it once, will you go on the road and perform shows at other comedy clubs?
That wasn’t my plan. I always try to challenge myself and I always try to do stuff that people don’t expect me to do. When I left the law firm, people did not expect me to go on a reality show. They did not expect me to go to WWE. I read one comment and the headline was: ‘David Otunga, of all people, does standup comedy.’ I was like, yes, I’m going to retweet that. That’s exactly what I was going for. At this point you could expect anything from me. I told my mom I was doing it and by now, she’s heard it all. She was like, ‘you’re a standup comic, oh okay.’ Totally normal! But I booked another set at another local club in Chicago right after I got off stage. My manager has also gotten calls from other local clubs looking to book me. It was fun and I’d love to do it again. I didn’t plan this to be a career change.
That’s something I’m really passionate about and I’d love to do something like that actually.
I’ve seen you do legal commentary for networks like HLN. Is that something you’d like to do more of?
I really enjoy it. I got to cover some of the biggest cases from Jodi Arias to the George Zimmerman trial, Oscar Pistorius and Michael Dunn for HLN. Pretty much all of the major cases last year. It was cool. I think what people enjoy about me is that I have the education to back it up, but I’m not your typical legal analyst.
Do you get a chance to practice law much at all now?
I’m actually working with a partner and I’m thinking about starting my own law group. That’s actually what’s taking up some of my time and focus now too. I don’t get to practice law nearly as much as I’d like to though.
Your last appearance on WWE was during the pay-per-view Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 30. Are you done with professional wrestling? Have you hung up your trunks?
No not yet. I’m still with them. I’m focusing on some other stuff, but I’m looking to get back there. I’d like to win a singles title. But you haven’t seen the last of me.
When you return to WWE, who do you want to work with? Any particular wrestling star you want to contend with?
Whoever is the champion at that time. Whoever is in the main event is where I want to be.
Otunga will be part of WWE’s annual “Tribute to the Troops” broadcast. The special premieres on the WWE Network on Dec. 17 and re-airs on NBC on Dec. 23.