By LaToya Cross
From Corporate to Comedy
Cocoa Brown's existence as an actress and comedian was marked in an impromptu manner while working in Corporate America.
"I was working in Corporate America and a friend of mine from college, who always thought that I was a riot, knew a guy that had a comedy club," Cocoa begins. "So he set me up and took me to a party to introduce me to this guy.
"Not knowing that I was on some type of audition, I was just talking and he was like, 'You need to be on stage and be a stand-up comic. You have a natural ability. You're really funny.'"
The next thing you know, Cocoa found herself center stage in the spotlight with all eyes on her and not a clue as to what she was doing. Lest, she will tell you, it was not pretty.
"I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't know how to go up there and set up a joke. I just went up there and started talking and didn't have any rhyme or reason," she laughs.
Nevertheless, that did not discourage her from growing and learning what she needed to do on that stage. It wasn't new. She had been acting since the age of 10. But to be put on the spot like that, it was more of an adjustment and identifying whom Cocoa Brown was as a stand-up comic.
The East Virginia native shares, "The day I realized I was destined to do this, I was coming from a gig and had three of my girlfriends with me and I was telling them about this dude I was dating and I was just talking and they were really about to fall out the car. And I was like, I'm not trying to be funny and they said, 'Exactly, that's what you need to do on stage!'"
That's when it all clicked. It was her raw ability of being funny, standout personality, and serious training that sprouted and provided opportunities for Cocoa, born Farah Brown.
"The next day I went on stage and did that and the crowd was just laughing, and that's when it hit me that they just want me to be me on stage. Once I got the training on how to be a comedian, the segues and these different things that go with being a stand-up, that's when I knew."
Today, she can be seen on stage and on screen -- portraying dramatic and comedic roles while also writing and directing a few of her own.
Cocoa Brown as "Jennifer" in Tyler Perry's For Better or Worse
Currently, other than traveling and performing stand-up throughout the week at various venues, Cocoa Brown can be found on the TBS network as "Jennifer," the comic relief in Tyler Perry's For Better or Worse dramedy series. She says the direction from Perry allows everyone to really create their characters.
"It's an incredible environment. We did 10 episodes in a month and it went by so fast, it was like breathing because it was that natural. Mr. Perry's direction is just incredible the way he does it. It's an incredible experience."
The show, based on Perry's Why Did I Get Married? films, premiered on November 25 and drew 3.4 million viewers. Taking it's bickering couple from both films -- Angela (Tasha Smith) and Marcus (Michael Jai White) -- and focusing them as the center of marital dramas, the storylines center around multiple couples at various stages of their relationships, highlighting the ups and downs of marriage and dating.
Cocoa's character "Jennifer" is a recently divorced mother who works as a hairstylist in Angela's salon.
"Jennifer and Angela go way back. Jennifer is that ride-or-die friend. That one you can call at 3 a.m. and she'll hop in her car and swoop up in a du-rag, cause she got your back like that. She's educated, but she'll throw a blow at anybody at any given time in defense of her friends or family," says Cocoa.
Her actions may not always be tactful and appropriate, "but her heart is in the right place."
Her stage and set performance is identifiable, with relatable dialogue that can slap you in the face with its realness, make you laugh, and educate you at the same time. The same carries over in Brown's portrayal of Jennifer.
Cocoa informs, "Seriously, if you are a true comedian, then you know that comedy comes from truth. Comedy comes from pain. Comedy comes from experience. If you're a true comedian you hone that. You'll take acting classes and you'll learn how to find and become your character."
She adds, "You can have natural talent, but when you add training to that, you can take any role and make it your own."
Before entertaining the homes of millions of Tyler Perry fans, Cocoa had already carved a lane for herself. Leaving behind comparisons to notable comedienne and actress, Mo'Nique, Cocoa clarifies that she is a voice for all.
"When I'm in 'Cocoa Brown' mode, I can identify and be a voice for everybody in that room," she says. "When I go on stage, I'm not just talking to women, men, the big girls, skinny girls, Latinos, young or old; I am the voice of everyone. My mind is a melting pot of continuous knowledge and I just absorb so much, so when I'm doing my comedy, I speak for everyone."
And though season one went quite well for the cast, there's just one request that Cocoa asks of her character in possible upcoming seasons: "I'm praying that I get a man," she exclaims with laughter.
(Keep up with Cocoa Brown: www.cocoabrown4life.com; Twitter: @CocoaBrown22)