If you’re not yet familiar with comedian Lil Rel Howery, there’s a good chance you’ll get to know his work soon. 2017 is shaping up to be a breakout year for the comedy veteran. Lil Rel takes after his idol, Eddie Murphy, priding himself on being a versatile comedian who has roles in hit movies, who stars in popular TV shows, and who has edgy, hilarious comedy specials. Lil Rel played Rod, the fan-favorite TSA agent in Jordan Peele’s surprise blockbuster Get Out, he plays Bobby Carmichael on NBC’s The Carmichael Show, and he has a stand-up special on Netflix called Kevin Hart Presents Lil Rel: RELevant.
BY JAKE LAUER
Lil Rel is blowing up. Following the success of Get Out and it’s release to DVD (Available now), he says movies are now being developed just for him. But he has broader horizons than just focusing on big-screen performances. He’s also excited for you to see Season Three of The Carmichael Show, and he’s doing stand-up with legends like Kevin Hart and Chris Rock, who’s comedic mastery inspired Lil Rel to “step (his) game up.” Lil Rel “has everything (he) could ask for,” and he has the career he’s always wanted.
We spoke with Lil Rel about Get Out, The Carmichael Show, and what he learned from performing stand-up with Chris Rock.
CH: What have you been working on recently?
REL: The Carmichael Show’s third season just started. It’s an amazing season, and I’m very excited for people to see what we did this year. It’s one of my favorite seasons of television, so I can’t wait for people to watch. It’s on NBC every Wednesday night all summer long.
CH: What can viewers expect from this season of the show?
REL: The topics we’re touching on are very deep. The first episode was about the issue of consent. That’s a conversation that happens all the time about who has consent or not, because it keeps changing, in some people’s minds. One of the great things about our show is that all of our characters have different opinions about everything. You get different perspectives about what consent is and what consent isn’t. This year, we’re talking about the military, suicide and mental health–we’re really going there, man. I’m really excited for everybody to watch this season.
CH: You’ve worked with Kevin Hart doing stand-up. What do you think about his approach to comedy, where he balances touring, movies, and TV all at once?
REL: (Laughs) It’s funny that we call that the “Kevin Hart approach.” Eddie Murphy did that first, too. But I believe it’s a part of doing well. If you love the art like I do, you want to do well in more than just one part of comedy. I love to act, and I love stand-up. If you look at my career, I’ve done movies, TV, stand-up, everything. One thing I’m going to do more of is directing producing. That stuff will come soon. My approach is to do everything that I’ve always wanted to do. My idol who I look up to is Eddie Murphy. He did everything, and I’m trying to do the same thing.
CH: When Get Out came out, people took notice of Jordan Peele’s directorial work. Why do you think his work resonated with people so much?
REL: It’s because he wrote original content. The problem in the movie industry right now is that everything is getting rebooted and remade. The audience gravitated to an original idea and an original script. He took a risk by doing it. It’s a horror film that made $200 million on a $3 million budget. Man, you make that green you’re going to be elevated.
CH: Why do you think people were so happy that the alternate ending wasn’t selected for the film? (SPOILER ALERT: Some light Get Out spoilers)
REL: At the end of the day, we know what happens realistically. In comedy, not everything has to be so dark. Sometimes happy stuff can happen. You want people to leave the theater smiling and cheering. I thought Jordan Peele was smart by changing the ending, because he understood what people needed to see. People needed a hero, and he created a hero in a regular person. It wasn’t a superhero, it wasn’t Spider-Man, it was just a good friend who cared about his friend. I think that was so smart.
CH: How would you define the overall message of Get Out?
REL: The number one thing is as simple as this: Racism is horrific. That’s why we were able to make a movie about how horrifying racism is. That’s the key to anything. Racism is horrific, people. It’s messed up. It’s been happening, and it’s never stopped. We got a black president, and that didn’t mean racism was over. And that’s what made Jordan make this movie.
CH: You recently joined Chris Rock on his stand-up tour. What was that experience like?
REL: It was one of my favorite weekends I’ve had doing stand-up. It was cool just talking to Chris by the pool for hours. We were talking about everything, comedy, life, marriage, divorce, kids. That was one of my favorite moments in my life, just having this “grown man” conversation with this legend. Then once we got to the shows, I saw how Chris prepares and how smart he is strategically. It made me step my game up. I was like, “Alright, I thought I was doing some dope stuff, but I’m not. I got to step it up.” I don’t play around when I go onstage; I bring it. To have a comic who embraces that and cheers you on is cool. I was humbled to be with that legend, man.
CH: You mentioned looking up to Eddie Murphy. For up-and-coming comedians who look up to you, what do you hope to embody as a role model?
REL: The biggest thing is being yourself. For every young comic who watches me and thinks I’m dope, if you want to take something from me, it’s knowing to be yourself. There’s no point of trying to be something that you think the industry is looking for. It might take a long time for people to find you, and you might need to wait before you get stuff, but you can do really well if you’re yourself. I’ve been myself in my stand-up. I have a TV role where I’m basically being myself. Being myself has gotten me everything I could ask for and then some.
CH: What do you hope the next few years look like for you?
REL: I’ve been looking at a bunch of scripts and movies that were developed just for me. I’m guest starring on TV shows. The next special is going to be crazy. The next movie is going to be dope. I hope no one gets tired of me, because you’ll be seeing a lot of me in the next few years. It’s going to be so much fun to watch audiences take this ride with me.
Get Out’s DVD is now available everywhere. If you want to check out the film’s highly discussed alternate ending along with more insight, then this might be a purchase for you.
BY JAKE LAUER