D.L. Hughley, one of the Original Kings of Comedy, is looking for a new type of throne. Craig Kilborn's old desk chair at CBS's The Late Late Show is still up for grabs. This week, Hughley has returned for his national callback, following his well-received guest-hosting stint in September. But the comic — who's best known for his ABC-turned-UPN sitcom The Hughleys — isn't sticking to just lighthearted material these days. Hughley recently shot his first dramatic role in an intense, as-yet-untitled prison drama to be released next year. It appears that any way you look at it, it's good to be a king.

TV Guide Online: How badly would you like to make this guest-host gig a permanent position?
D.L. Hughley:
Well, I've always wanted to do late-night, and I'm confident I'll do late-night whether this is the gig or not. No matter what happens, the powers that be are going to decide what they decide for any number of reasons, but I'm going to make sure that I work as hard as I can and, hopefully, people will enjoy what I do.

TVGO: What you are willing to do to win this job? Are you ready to take on your fellow guest-host Michael Ian Black in some bare-knuckle boxing if necessary?
If I can't whup Michael Ian Black, I've got a whole bunch more problems than this show. (Laughs)

TVGO: What the dumbest thing someone has said to you on either of Bill Maher's shows?
There've been so many things. A black conservative on Politically Incorrect said, "I bet I've been to more black churches than anyone on this panel." Then, there was this pause, and he looked at me and went, "OK, maybe not."

TVGO: You just finished playing a teacher for prison inmates. Did you have to fight for that dramatic role, considering your comedy background?
The writer said that my comedy came from such a place of anger — I don't know how great that is — that I was automatically the first person he thought of for the role.

TVGO: And you filmed in a real prison, right?
It was real prison. I remember when I was a kid, when you got in trouble, they said they were going to send you to Nelles [Youth Correctional Facility in Whittier, California]. I used to be in trouble all the time, so Nelles was always in my consciousness. It was surreal that I actually went, but it was for a different purpose than I ever imagined.

TVGO: Was the prison still in use?
It had closed a month before we started shooting there. But I'll tell you a weird thing that happened on the set. We were shooting a scene and an office phone was ringing, [so] I go, "Man, would somebody get the phone?" Everybody was looking at me like I'm crazy and they go, "There's no phone." And I thought they were f---in' with me, and come to find out that there was no phone in the place, but I'd heard it just as clear as day. The deputy came over and said, "You know, people say all the time that the place is haunted, and one of the things they say is people hear a ringing phone."

TVGO: Wow. I just got a little chill there. Thanks a lot. Anyway, when's the last time you and your fellow Kings of Comedy — Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer and Bernie Mac — all got together?
Cedric and I get together all the time. Our wives are best friends. We get together and compare department-store bills. And Steve and I get together a lot. I haven't seen Bernie in a while because he's been busy doing the show and working.

TVGO: Before you got into show business, you were a telemarketer.
Uh-huh, and one time, I called Jay Leno and he all but cussed me out. I said, "I'm with the Los Angeles Times..." "Geez, geez, geez! You guys call all the time and I'm tired of it!" We had to take a complaint and put his name on the "Do Not Call" list.

TVGO: Has he apologized to you since?
He doesn't admit that it happened. But it did. (Laughs)