For Gary Owen his career in comedy looks to be going into overdrive; the stand-up comedian who has been telling jokes for over 18 years is starting to expand his reach. Just before he headlines Guy Torry’s upcoming PHAT Tuesdays show in Los Angeles at Club Nokia on Dec. 1, Gary talks with Comedy Hype to highlight where he started and his ride in comedy.
CH: What was the overall process of you finding your lane in comedy, and growing a particular audience that continues to support you?
GO: When I started doing stand-up, I was in San Diego in the military and I was telling my military buddies I want to be a stand-up. So I found an open mic night at The Comedy Store in La Jolla. Only problem with that place is they only had one night for open mic night and you had to call in at 2 o’clock and you found out at 5 o’clock that you was on the list. Me being the new guy I had to break in. I would get on stage once a month. A couple of black guys I was in the Navy with kept telling me about these urban spots. I could get up four times a week. I just had to go to where the black spots were. I didn’t care, I just wanted to tell jokes so I had to hit up all the black spots so I could tell jokes on stage.
CH: Has your comedy changed with everything being racial these days?
GO: Well if I’m doing Showtime at the Apollo I’m not gonna talk about Garth Brooks or Tim McGraw. And if I’m doing the state fair in West Virginia I’m not going talk about Lil Wayne. There’s a huge difference between playing and pandering the audience. You have to play to the people that are in front of you and talk about stuff that they’re familiar with.
I think a lot of the racial climate is media driven because I think people at the core know right from wrong and good from bad. I’d be naive to say a lot of people don’t judge people by the color of their skin or by saying I don’t see color. That’s one of the most idiotic statements I’ve ever heard. I see color, I just don’t judge people off of it. But I do see it but I’m not gonna assume you’re a certain way because of it.
I think that a better representation is at my shows to what the country says about it other than what the media says about it. Because I get all types of people coming. I’m sure there’s other comics that are the same way but everybody just wants to laugh and have a good time. It’s my job to make sure everybody’s comfortable while they’re there.
CH: New-found success: What do you think are those things that put you in a better position?
GO: Well it all started for me when I opened up for Mike Epps in Houston back in April 2010. And two days later his people called and said he’s getting ready to do this DVD called Live at the Nokia and they asked me to be on it. I had [another show] and I cancelled it on a week’s notice. I saw what Jeff Clanagan at Code Black Entertainment was doing and I was trying to get in his ear for a while. I was like if you guys promise me that Jeff will be at the show watching my set then I’ll do it. He saw me and we talked afterwards and I had a great 20 minute set that night and it was funny on TV. I was uncensored and it was unedited. Think Like A Man came less than a year later. Then I was asked to host the Shaq All-Star Comedy Jam’s DVD in Orlando and I’ve had a two 1 hour specials since then. When you get in movies, you get invited to talk shows and panels. Now people see me more. It’s not like Chris Tucker in Rush Hour, it’s more like there goes that guy again.
CH: Has the blueprint changed to making it big in comedy? Is it still just based off of getting that one big role?
Well I think it can. But I don’t think it’s the norm. Even like Katt Williams to some extent, when he did the Friday movie he was a pimp and when he did stand-up he was still the pimp. He stayed that guy.
CH: Talk about your new role in Meet The Blacks with Mike Tyson
GO: I’m not in any scenes with Tyson. When the movie comes out, a lot of my scenes are solo because I’m the killer. I’m like the Jason of the movie. (Laughs) So every time you see me I’m kind of chasing somebody. I’m talking, but I’m talking to someone through a wall or a door because they’re scared of me.
CH: You seem to always be in a positive mood, where does it come from? Was there a moment you were frustrated?
GO: I think that comes with age and you learn to laugh at yourself. There was a few [moments of frustration]…growing up in a trailer park…being in the military. My stand-up has always been fun for me.
Some of the best moments I’ve had in my life was just trying to make it.
I remember I was working with the Wayans Brothers and I had a scene with one line. I was so excited about that one line, when I got that call. (Laughs) One of my biggest disappointments was when Barbershop first came out. You know they had the role of the white barber. I had an acting coach and I had that character down and I didn’t have the right representation to get me in the room to get an audition. I could not get in the room. Even when I watched the movie, I felt like that was the one that got away. I tell Tim Story who directed me in Think Like A Man and Ride Along about it all the time.
CH: You’re featuring with Lil Rel on this upcoming Phat Tuesday show. What’s your advice on him and other people’s stand-up?
GO: Lil Rel has always had that it factor. When I been seeing him perform for over ten years; you know it’s something there. Some guys you see, and dont know what it is, but it’s something there that makes them stick out. As far as stand-up, I don’t watch stand-up because comics have this beef of who stole their jokes. I don;t think anyone has accused me of it but I can’t watch them anymore. I can’t watch stand-up anymore because I’ve seen guys take on mannerisms of other comics. They don’t take their jokes but they take their mannerisms, their delivery. I don’t want to be that guy. I want my jokes to come from me, plus when I see a guy on stage in front of an audience I’m like, “ugh I wanna be on stage right now.” I can’t enjoy the show.
CH: Advice to other stand-up comedians?
If you ask stand-ups we all give you a different story. Everyone has their own journey; It may happen two years for one guy and twenty years for the next guy. But you have to keep control of being funny. All those people who are originally funny, are not being hacky funny. They’re not just yelling, “Who likes getting their d*ck sucked, and who likes getting their p*ssy ate”, because everybody does! (laughs), that’s just too easy.
After Gary stops by Club Nokia at the top of December, he will make his was to a couple more cities before 2015 comes to an end.
- November 27 – 28 @ Funny Bone, Virginia Beach, VA
- December 10 – 13 @ Funny Bone, Newport, KY
- December 26 – 29 @ Carolines, New York City