The Game Show Network hopes to wring some laughs from the old standby: Men think like this; women think like that. "Mind of a Man" debuts January 8 and is hosted by stand-up comedian DeRay Davis, who told me he had to adapt his R-rated instincts for basic cable.
"It's almost like going to meet a girl's parents for the first time, every time," the Chicago native said when I reached him at home in Los Angeles. "You have to be funny and keep them entertained, but not go left."
Go left? I needed that one explained. "It's like, blue. Or outside-of-the-box. And our show is really left. We go deep."
Two women compete to see who can guess what most men are thinking in a given scenario. "The questions would be something on the level of: After making love to his wife, what do you think a man wants first? Sleep, a beer or watch TV?" A panel of three comedians then chimes in with their own ribald opinions.
Many of the comics featured are from Chicago, including Damon Williams, Corey Holcomb and Deon Cole, the latter of whom is a writer for "Conan." "I made sure I reached out to the people who were my homies, who I could alley-oop to and they're gonna dunk it. We taped 40 shows back-to-back, so we had every-damn-body on. Everybody except Jesus."
They were given free rein, Davis said, "until close to the end when people were going crazy. Everybody was going a little bit too far. So I had to let everybody know, say what you want to say, but just remember, if you want it to air, say it differently."
Though based in LA (where he is better located to land roles in films such as "21 Jump Street"), Davis still maintains a house in Chicago. "I wanted to have something just in case it all ends one day, and Hollywood's not my friend anymore."
He returns to town next week to spend the holidays with his family, including his 12-year-old daughter, Brooke. He also will headline the annual New Year's Eve comedy show at the Arie Crown Theater.
I asked if Dec. 31 shows present any unusual challenges. "Oh, yeah! People are drunk before they get there! They've already told all their jokes in the car. They got the tickets before they knew how drunk they'll be."
And what kind of material is he working on? "You never know, because I'm so off-the-cuff. But definitely my family's involved. They're in more of my act than they used to be, because now I can actually handle the lawsuits. I have a nice legal team to handle that now. Freedom of speech!"
That sounded like both a joke, and not a joke. "Let me put it this way," he said, "my act is never fake, so some of the things I say, my family is like, 'Why would you say that?' I'm like, 'Cuz it happened. You really did come to my house and try to steal the TV.' Stuff like that. It's a lot of embarrassing moments, but I feel like people are ready for it."
Davis has been upfront about his childhood, which frequently comes up in his act. "My mom's been on drugs since I was 8 years old, swear to God, so there weren't no damn holidays" goes one bit, with the punch line: "My mama told us Christmas was a rumor!"
Things with his father weren't easier. He bounced between homes in Robbins and Dolton. "I lived every-damn-where. My address was Section 8 Illinois."
He has 11 brothers and sisters and said he randomly met one of his brothers for the first time while playing a game of pick-up basketball. "I would live the least possible (amount of time) with my dad, because he lived with women. He was one of those kind of guys: 'You can't be drinking all of Diane's Pepsis! You gonna get us put out of here!'"
Most of his family is still in Chicago. "All my free tickets to the New Year's Eve show are gone. I'm already getting the calls and just organizing who can sit by who, who gets along with who, who just got out of prison. That kind of stuff."
It was a family member who inadvertently introduced Davis to comedy.
"My uncle was a bartender at a comedy club called TNT's Comedy Hook in Lansing, Ill. He was in the back and he didn't even know I was watching the comedians, but I got the passion to do it out of no where. Like, I need this. I saw a comedian on stage and I thought, I can do this."
Over the years Davis has made some high-profile friends, including Kanye West and Rihanna, the latter of whom he joked about in his act shortly after her violent run-in with Chris Brown. I asked if there was any fallout from that.
"Um, it was touchy. It was weird. (The incident) was still fresh when it happened and it just came out organically on stage. I probably should have waited a month. And now, I look at it and think, I probably shouldn't have even done it. But, those are the things that set me apart from a lot of comics."
Would he think twice about making fun of Kanye?