By K.S. Wang
Quick Stats: Loni Love comic/host The Real
Daily Driver: 2019 Lexus NX 300h (Loni’s rating: 9 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Favorite road trip: Los Angeles to Las Vegas
Car she learned to drive in: 1970s Chevy Impala
First car bought: 1993 Geo Spectrum

Comic and co-host of The Real, Loni Love is a long way from her 18-hour days at the General Motors factory, where she started working as soon as she finished high school.

“I have more respect for cars because back then when I was working at the General Motors plant, it was an assembly plant. This is before robotics; I used to have to build car doors. They called it ‘the tram,’” Love says of her job. “I can’t remember the car, it used to have carpeting, and you would have to put the trim in the door. It was a carpet, and you’d put the door handle, the window handle, you would put that in, and we used to do 500 a day.”

The Detroit native still recalls the long shifts at GM. “We used to work Monday through Friday 18 hours a day, 10 hours on Saturday, and eight hours on Sunday, and that’s what made me decide, ‘You know what? I’m going to college,’” she tells MotorTrend, with a laugh.

After six months at the plant, she went to college and earned a degree in electrical engineering. While she was in college, Love also had a summer internship with Ford in Flint. “I have a big respect for cars, and I have a love for them. People take it for granted when they look at the design and all the people that it takes to make it,” she says. “That’s why when I selected my car, I really wanted to select something that was about the design and the technology. That’s why I picked a hybrid, and this design is very sleek.”

Love did a lot of research before she bought her 2019 Lexus NX 300h hybrid, which she rates a 9 out of 10.

“I like that it handles like a smaller car. The drive is really smooth, which is what I need, but it still gives me the power of a luxury vehicle,” she says. “When you’re driving in L.A. the way I drive and because I’m a stand-up comic, I have to do a lot of road gigs. So it was best for me to invest in something that was comfortable, and it gives me everything that I need with the technology.”

This is Love’s first new car. “I wanted a luxury-type vehicle because ever since I’ve been a stand-up comic, I’ve always had used cars and your basic standard get-by type of car, and then once I got my TV show, I just wanted to treat myself and try something different,” she says. “I really liked what this car had to offer, with this being part hybrid and everything I needed. That’s why I decided to choose a Lexus.”

Car she learned to drive in

The first car Love learned to drive in was her uncle’s old Chevy Impala, which she says was probably a 1971 or 1972 model. “It was huge,” she says, laughing. “I felt like I was learning how to drive in a ship. It was hilarious. Once you learn how to drive in a car that big, you can drive a bus.”

She grew up in Detroit, and all her friends had cars, so she learned how to drive from them. “My mom was in a really bad car accident, and she never bought a car. She never learned how to drive after her accident, so I had to rely on my friends, my uncle, and my family.”

Love learned to drive early. “Back in the day, my uncle would let me just drive to the store,” she says. “I’m 13 driving to the store, while he’s on the side listening to music and stuff. It was just like, ‘OK, I’m going to teach you how to drive. Come one, let’s go to the store,’” she says, with a laugh. “So that really was my first experience, and that’s how I learned actual on-the-road driving: my uncle’s driving school, which was not an official driving school.”

It wasn’t until Love rented a car for a gig while she was in college that she first drove on a highway. “My uncle never took me on the freeway even after I got my license. So that was an experience for me, actually riding on a freeway when I rented a car. I thought it was the most exhilarating thing ever because it was like the speed limit was 55, and I’d never driven that fast before. I still remember the expression on my face; I just felt so free driving like that,” she says. “I don’t know why I still remember that.”

Love learned to drive a car with a manual transmission when she and a classmate drove from college in Texas back to Detroit for winter break.

“She had a stick shift. It was that new Dodge Neon, so I had to learn how to drive as we were driving. It took 36 hours from Texas to Detroit, and by the time I was done, I knew how to drive a stick shift,” she says. “It was just the two of us, so, pressure. I had to learn, I had to do it.”

First car bought

While she was in college, Love bought a four-door 1993 Geo Spectrum with money she’d earned from gigs. “It was baby blue, I’ll never forget, and I put tinted windows on it because I was in college. I started doing stand-up in school, so I had side money, and I used that money to help pay my car note. Back then my car was maybe $300 a month because it was basic; it didn’t have anything,” she laughs. “It was stick shift; it was just the car. It was so basic, but that’s how I paid for it. I wished we had had Uber back then, because I would have been Ubering for days to pay for it.”

At her Ford internship, Love would often talk to engineers around her. “The thing that always amazed me working at those companies is that they had these great concept cars. I thought it was amazing that these concept cars were really fast. I always asked questions of the engineers at the time. ‘Why don’t you guys build them?’ They said, ‘We don’t have the roads to handle them.’ I always thought it was interesting we have engineering minds that engineer things, but we don’t have the infrastructure to handle it.”

Love is thankful for that early experience in the auto industry that also gave her valuable skills. “I liked the fact I was able to understand cars. It really helped me out working in the auto industry early on because I was able to change my own oil, change my tires. I knew how to take care of a car,” she says. “So that did help me once I got into college. And it helped me to help my friends because they didn’t know about cars.”

She got the chance to go back to the same GM plant for a show on BET. “It was long hours at the General Motors assembly, and 20 years later they had me go back to the same plant, and the technology has changed,” she says. “I was fascinated at how now you have robotics, you have fewer people.”

She also noticed the work area had improved. “When we were there, even just painting a car, you had all these toxins. There was a lot of dirt. But I noticed when I went back it was a lot cleaner. I think that’s good for the workers. You had the paint area; you had to be in full hazmat back in the day,” she remembers. “Now it’s really changed to where they really progressed in 20 years with making cars. I find that fascinating.”

After college, Love worked at Xerox in Los Angeles. “Once I graduated, I had seven job offers. Of course, General Motors was one, but I ended up taking a job at Xerox because it was in L.A.,” she says. One day she went to the Comedy Store, where there was only one female comic, and that inspired her to get back into stand-up. She did it while also doing her day job for eight years, until she got her first deal.

The catalyst to becoming a full-time stand-up came when Love had the chance to save a co-worker’s job. “I was moving up in the ranks of engineering. I was a project engineer, but I had this deal with HBO. Then we had a layoff. I went to my boss, I said, ‘Please save somebody’s job and lay me off.’ So that’s how I got out of being an engineer and moved over into entertainment.”

Favorite road trip

“I love any road trip going to Vegas,” she says. “If I have a gig in Vegas, I like to drive. It’s a short drive, and I usually like to drive at night because it’s dead dark and then when you see the lights in Vegas, for me, it does something to me when I see the lights.”

Love usually starts the drive to Vegas at 10 or 11 p.m. “It’s like you’re driving through this darkness and you see all these lights, and it reminds me of the people and technology and how we’re living beings and stuff,” she says. “I know it sounds weird, but I love taking that trip, and I like to see the Vegas lights.”

Love got used to driving at night on those drives from Texas to Detroit while she was in college.

“You get a special type of relationship driving at night because you see the truckers. When I used to drive from Texas to Detroit and it was during the holiday break, it was December, the weather would be bad in some places, and I could remember you could get behind an 18-wheeler and it’s like you get this relationship where you start driving with somebody, and it’s like a special relationship,” she says. “It’s funny, it’s hard to describe, but it’s something that happens. You kind of protect each other when you’re doing long-distance driving. So I learned to adjust to it, and I like driving at night because you can think and listen to music. For me it’s therapeutic and I enjoy it.”

The Real on September 16 and “Café Mocha” on radio

Season six of The Real starts up again on September 16, but Love has been busy for the summer, including being the first female comedian hosting the main stage for the whole time at the Essence Festival in July.

“I really like the fact that on The Real we tape and we end right before summer. I have four months, I do different gigs, and I get to reconnect with my live audience. That’s what I like about the schedule I have, so I can do the old road trips,” she says, laughing. “I have so much going on. I have a weekly weekend radio show called “Café Mocha” radio. It’s every weekend and it’s music and I interview people. I’m a Weight Watchers ambassador. It’s just all happening.”

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