BT Kingsley has been around the country to almost every major city making audiences laugh and come back for more. This week he will be performing his unique brand of stand-up at the Comedy Store in L.A. on Tuesday Aug. 11th for Laff Mobb’s ‘Black Out’ Tuesday. In an interview with Comedy Hype’s Amber Bolden, see how he got his start, what keeps him going and what’s next.
CH: YOU’VE DONE BOTH ACTING AND COMEDY. WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO DO EITHER ONE OF THOSE AND DO YOU PREFER ONE OVER THE OTHER?
BT: Well when your young you know what you want to do and then people say ‘I wouldn’t do that if I was you,’ or ‘you should go get a real job’ and eventually those opinions weigh so much on you as a little child … and I just decided nope I’m going into entertainment. Keenen Ivory Wayans said, “when you’re living a life and doing something that you love to do, you don’t see what everybody else sees”. But I’m a stand up comic though [acting] is not a way in… Stand-up is the way and it probably always will be.
CH: DO YOU THINK YOUR STUDYING OF ACTING HAS INFLUENCED YOUR COMEDY?
BT: No…. because I don’t blend the two worlds. Stand-up is an art form and a language that you have to learn. You have to be dedicated to it and you can’t really cheat your way out of it and it’ a live performance. I’m not super fond of stage acting, so comedy gives me that void I need to fill for that live performance. In actuality most of the stuff that I’ve acted in has been more drama than stand-up, sometimes it’s even like a dry comedy but it’s nothing like who I am on stage – it’s weird but it makes it very hard for casting.
CH: WHEN YOU SAY IT’S HARD FOR CASTING, WHAT DID YOU MEAN?
BT: I mean I get called for the stuff that comedians get called for – which isn’t what I excel at because I’m a serious actor. Imagine being Jamie Foxx and only being called for comedy stuff when you want to do “Ray,” and you want to do “Law Abiding Citizen.”
CH: DO YOU FEEL LIKE THERE IS A BOX PEOPLE CREATE FOR YOU AND YOUR RANGE OF TALENT?
BT: Absolutely but it’s not their fault it’s what I’m putting out there so their familiar with the comedy so if it doesn’t make sense [to them] then okay but if it does then I do it.
CH: WHAT LIMITATIONS AND OPPORTUNITIES DO YOU SEE WITH YOUR WORK?
BT: The limitations… There is always going to be an integrity to the brand of who I am…like I have to sleep at night. So for me personally it’s not about money for me. I just want to live comfortably doing something I love to do and be really good at it; and hope that people get enjoyment out of it. So it was never about money, so I won’t make it about that. But the thing I’m going to excel in is that I know I go great with all crowds and I know that acting-wise I do it more seriously than most people.
CH: WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR YOUR CRAFT? WHAT DO EXPECT TO SEE FROM YOURSELF?
BT: I don’t know if you know this or not but I’m not a businessman but I’m a business man… so I know that I can take a little and turn it into a lot and I’m very very very pro-helping people and very pro investing in self. So I’m only going to do such sitting around talking about the moves that could be made or should be made. So for all the great spoken word artists, R&B singers and all the great comics – if I can give them a platform or I can get to a place where I can help then that’s the goal.
CH: WAS YOUR FAMILY INITIALLY SUPPORTIVE OR WAS THERE SOMEONE WHO WAS ESPECIALLY SUPPORTIVE ON YOUR DECISION TO BE A COMEDIAN?
BT: My mother was always very serious about school but she gave me a lot of freedom at a very young age. From a very young age I’ve had my own independence, my own space – I mean I’m an only child – and her doing that for me really helped me to make my own decisions. My humor is really based on me saying stuff and hoping – and from being an only-child – and hoping that people are entertained by that but it’s really for my own amusement. Like when I was a child and grown-ups would ask ‘what do you want to be when you grow-up’ other kids would say things like doctor or lawyer, I would say ‘I want to be a woman beater,’ and I knew it was wrong but the reaction on grown-ups face was hysterical to me.
CH: YOU’VE BEEN DOING THIS FOR A LONG TIME. DO YOU EVER GET DISCOURAGED? WHAT DO YOU DO TO CONTINUE TO MOTIVATE YOURSELF?
BT: I’ve never really doubted… Sometimes comics take breaks but I’ve never really done that. Since the day I’ve been on stage – I’ve been on stage and that’s God; him telling me what I need to be doing and people getting enjoyment out of it. I’ve been tested too many times. I know what I need to be doing… I went on a comedy tour and decided I was going to drive the country on this tour. I got a bunch of comedians’ information and I went to almost every major country. In between Houston and El Paso is 13 hours of nothingness and eight hours into the drive I rolled my car over seven or eight times. So I totaled the car and figured well I guess I’ve got to fly everywhere – so I flew, but that was a conversation I had with God.
CH: YOU WERE ON LAFF MOBB’S WE GOT NEXT ON THE ASPIRE NETWORK, WHAT’S YOUR THOUGHTS ON WHAT THE LAFF MOBB BRAND IS BUILDING?
BT: Bob [Sumner] is like one of the seven wonders of the comedy world. I see Bob working all the time and if I don’t see him working I see on Facebook that he is working. He’s very very serious about this. This is a movement, I really appreciate what they’re doing. They gave me the set I needed to have on “Who’s Got Next.” Bob is five steps ahead of everyone else. So everyone has to catch up to him.
CH: WHERE DO YOU PULL YOUR INSPIRATION FROM FOR THE TOPICS IN YOUR SET?
BT: I’m very observational… I’m a point of view comic. I like to think of things and scenarios that are really obscure and really dissect them. As a comic you start to learn who you are. For example you can say something on stage about something that bothers you and you learn that it bothers everybody.
CH: WHATS NEW THAT WE SHOULD BE LOOKING OUT FOR FROM YOU?
BT: I’m working on a dramedy called “Joke Thief.” It’s a short film that I did and it’s about a comedian who decides he’s going to steal his way to the top. It’s funny but we, in the comedy community, we don’t find that funny. I’m also working on a feature film called “Muslimah.” It was really cool, I had to learn Arabic… it was a way for me to test out my acting chops and still be a comic. I also have a short film “She Wins.” But you’ve got to make sure you see me live. If you see me live it will all make sense
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