Baron Vaughn brings his stand-up act to ACM@UCO 

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Comedian, writer and actor Baron Vaughn was born in Portales, New Mexico, but grew up in Las Vegas, where he became enthralled with the ubiquity of entertainment in Sin City and throughout American culture.

“There are billboards everywhere, advertising comics, high kicks, guys who can make buildings disappear — We’ve got five of those! — so I knew pretty early I wanted to be in entertainment,” he said of the experience. “I wanted to see my name on a sign.”

At age 34, he has achieved that goal.

Vaughn rolls into Oklahoma City on Saturday to headline a stand-up at ACM@UCO Performance Lab, 329 E. Sheridan Ave., where he said he’ll also work through new material for an upcoming comedy album.

He’s a regular on the star-laden Netflix original comedy series Grace and Frankie, a story about affluent, white baby boomers (Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin) who discover their husbands (Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston) are far more than work partners. Vaughn plays an attorney who is also Tomlin and Waterston’s black, adopted son.

Color lines are fluid for Vaughn. In his stand-up comedy, he moves between jokes about race and jokes about everything else with ease and candor.

On his 2011 comedy album Raised by Cable, he tells the story of an argument over slavery’s origins that he had with his white stepfather while on Christmas vacation at his mother’s house in Las Vegas.

“My mother’s house was a microcosm of the racial tensions in America,” he said. “I was 22 or 23 at the time, and all I had to do to experience racism was walk into my mother’s living room. This man was not a stranger; he was in my home.”

For his new album, Vaughn intends to work through material that finds him “discovering and discussing [his] position in the world.”

“Things like race, mental health, depression — that’s something that people of color don’t talk about enough, I think,” he said.

Vaughn pays attention to the cultural climate we live in and said it reminds him of the racial tensions that led to and emerged from the civil rights movement of the ’50s and ’60s.

“We’re now in a place where horrible things had to happen to get us to have this conversation,” Vaughn said. “People were killed, and we were finally talking about it.”

Vaughn pointed to Jon Stewart, John Oliver, Amy Schumer, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as comedians who are finally talking about race, sexism and economics in addition to politics. Their approach is satirical: Place the real next to the ideal and mock the absurdity.

Vaughn has been writing consistently since the release of Raised by Cable, but he said there is little proof of it other than a few YouTube videos and late-night television routines.

His live weekend shows, arranged between shooting the second season of Grace and Frankie, help him shape material for his next album, which he hopes to release within the next year.

Saturday’s show will be his first in Oklahoma City, but not his first in Oklahoma. Not too long ago, he performed at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. While there, he learned his first lesson on how to pronounce the names of the state’s cities and towns.

“I was calling it Tuh-LEE-qua,” he said. “They told me that was a black girl’s name.”

Print Headline: Black power, Baron Vaughn blurs color, comedy and social boundaries with his distinctive brand of stand-up.

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