As Lousiana native Robert Powell contiues his steady climb in comedy he catches up with us here at Comedy Hype. Before he takes a trip to New York City February 13th apart of the 2015 Shaq All-Star Comedy Jam taking place during NBA All-Star weekend he opens up about his career. For our conversation, Powell explains growth into becoming a four time Shaq All-Star, Chris Rock’s divorce, admiration for Earthquake, criticism from Katt Williams, and advice for aspiring Shaq All-Stars.
COMEDY HYPE: YOU’VE BEEN KNOWN AS A COMEDIAN WHO HASN’T BEEN CHASING FILM OR TV CREDITS HAS THAT CHANGED?
RP: No it hasn’t changed yet. My manager and agent try to get me out of it but I’m still stand-up heavy. I still have faith that if I get great enough at this people will want to see me just do this. I’m praying that it works out. I have a bunch of comedian friends that want to do acting, but it’s just not in my bag. I’m a great stand-up comic. I’m one of the best of this class coming out, hands down, no questions about it. I want to be great at this. I don’t want to be a jack of all trades and a master of none. I want to be a master at this one. I want to be good enough that people know me as a great stand-up comic. If any other blessings come from that, then I’ ll take it.
COMEDY HYPE: IS THERE A PARTICULAR COMEDIAN WHOSE CAREER YOU SEE AS A BLUEPRINT?
RP: I’ve seen a lot of people do it, but not a lot of African Americans have done it. If you think about it, Earthquake got rich off of just doing stand-up comedy. It’s actually a lot of them that got rich off stand-up, no movies, and no major TV roles. Quake was so great at standing on stage, and it’s what you know him for. On the main stream side, a bunch of Caucasians guys have done it. Ron White.. Bill Burr, all those people have been able to just be good at stand-up. Its different for urban crowds, urban people pay for the name. In mainstream rooms fans go just because you are funny, like how Hannibal Buress did it. We only pay for names, it doesn’t matter how funny you are. They will go see an unfunny famous person. They’ll pay to go see Harrison from Scandal, before they go see a funny Robert Powell. I wish it was more talent driven, then fame driven. It’s the same with rap music. My culture in general just likes a name brand with everything. We like a name brand shirt over another brand even though they could’ve been made in the same exact sweatshop. With stand-up comedy it’s the same thing, we like the name before the no name.
COMEDY HYPE: HANNIBAL BURESS HAS BEEN MAKING A LOT OF NOISE LATELY. SOME PEOPLE CONSIDER HIM TO BE THIS GENERATIONS DAVE CHAPPELLE, THOUGHTS?
RP: When they say that, it’s because they don’t see a lot of smart African American comics, it’s refreshing to see one. Chappelle is so smart but he should because his mother and dad were brilliant, so he had no choice. When they see another African American comic talk about things other than Baby Mommas, gas prices, and other stock jokes they get happy and compare them to Dave Chappelle. It’s not fair to compare him or anybody to Dave Chappelle. If Richard Pryor is Michael Jordan, then Dave Chappelle is Magic Johnson or Dr. J. I wouldn’t compare Hannibal to him, it’s not fair.
COMEDY HYPE: HOW HAS LIFE CHANGED SINCE YOU FIRST JOINING SHAQ ALL-STAR COMEDY JAM?
RP: I went broke when I went to my first All-Star, I lived in my truck. Now they are paying me a sh*t load of money to come do the shows, so that’s one of the growths from a financial stand-point. I’m still like the rookie and vet, I’m still like the youngest person on, but this is my fourth one. I’m still the little brother, but they don’t have to show me around, I know what to expect. I’m still the same guy, I’m not going to change too much.
COMEDY HYPE: YOUR STYLE CAN BE CONSIDERED CONTROVERSIAL. HAS THERE EVER BEEN A TIME YOU FELT PRESSURE TO TONE IT DOWN?
RP: Yeah I have. A specific example is, Valarie Barney (our tour producer) who made you guys Comedy Game Changer’s list deservingly, use to be the tour manger of Luther Vandross back in the day. Now I have Luther Vandross jokes that are just vile and she does not like my Luther jokes. She loved this man but I have refused to stop doing my Luther Vandross jokes. I say 90% of jokes I tell are for the crowd and 10% are just for me. The Luther joke is just for me. So I get pressure to tone it down from all sides. My goal in stand-up was to become my favorite comedian. I’m an offensive comic, I’m not vulgar at all. I’m sure since me being an offensive comic there is some stuff you just can’t say on television, I wasn’t even able to do Comic View.
COMEDY HYPE: OUT OF THE ALL-STARS YOU WILL BE SHARING THE STAGE WITH ALL-STAR WEEKEND, WHO ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO PERFORM WITH?
RP: Earthquake! and let me tell you why. I’ve been working with Earthquake for three years, his daughter found me at a show at Grambling State University. I’ve been traveling with Earthquake doing a two man show for three years. We talked about this today, this is going to be the first time that Earthquake actually introduces me. Normally I do about 45 minutes before Earthquake then I bring him to the stage. This has never happened in history. This is why it’s a big night for me. He’s one of the greatest of all time. He’s so good at stand-up that he doesn’t want to do other stuff. Everybody knows you don’t want no problems with Earthquake. With him I get belly laughs. Simply one of the greatest. When you get rich making stand-up money it’s hard to go to these auditions. It’s hard to go to an audition and you’re selling out all these theaters.
COMEDY HYPE: YOU RECENTLY WENT TO DUBAI FOR A PERFORMANCE. HOW ARE THE CROWDS DIFFERENT OUT THERE?
RP: Everybody in the audience is smarter than you. Every single person in the audience out there speaks 2-3 languages and you only speak one. Everybody in that audience watches CNN as much or if not more than you. I don’t know why they tend to watch more news than Americans, they are just a smart crowd. Some jokes you can say here that you can’t say out there for legal reasons. You can talk about drugs here but you can’t do it openly out there. But as far as the crowd you would think you were in America, nobody had their hair wrapped up, it was very Americanized.
COMEDY HYPE: CHRIS ROCK RECENTLY GOT A DIVORCE. KEVIN HART, EDDIE MURPHY AND A FEW OTHER COMEDIANS HAVE ALL ENDED THEIR MARRIAGES IN THE PAST. DO YOU THINK DATING A COMEDIAN IS HARD?
RP: To date a comedian it takes a very special girl or a bunch of regular ones.If you can’t find you a very special girl then go get you a bunch of regular ones. When Chris Rock married that woman 19 years ago he was at one level, now he’s at another one. I feel that his bank account should allow him to date something better than what he got. All Chris Rock is doing is upgrading. That’s what comes trying to pretend monogamy is a real thing, when we get rid of that life will be better.
COMEDY HYPE: INTERESTING.
RP: Monogamy is a myth, it been pushed mostly by Americans. A lot of the world doesn’t try to pretend monogamy is real. I think it’s because our culture is ran by women. 97% percent of the mammals on earth are not Monogamous. If I made you sandwich that was 3% percent ham and 97% sh*t, would you call it a ham sandwich? I don’t think you would. It’s just not a natural thing. If Martin Luther King had h*es, do you think your boyfriend is better than MLK, Jesse Jackson and Bill Clinton? All them had h*es. If you don’t want to deal with that type of a man chances are you will be by yourself. It takes a really special women to date a comedian because we don’t think straight. Same thing that makes us great on stage makes us horrible at home. Every genius is sick. Every genius that I’ve every studied had something clinically wrong with them. Eddie Murphy was great, Richard Pryor was genius, and they both were sick. Bill Cosby, is one of the greatest to walk the earth but clearly something is wrong there. Michael Jordan had one, he’s was a womanizer. Tiger Woods. Basquiat killed himself. Edgar Allen Poe. It’s a lot of pressure that people don’t understand because they are not geniuses.
COMEDY HYPE: SOME TIME LAST YEAR KATT WILLIAMS MADE HEADLINES CRITICIZING PEOPLE OUTSIDE OF COMEDY LOOKING TO DO BUSINESS IN COMEDY. HE WENT ON TO MENTION PEOPLE LIKE RUSSELL SIMMONS, AND EVEN SHAQUIELLE O’NEAL, WHO IS BEHIND THE ALL-STAR BRAND. WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE?
RP: Well not that I need Suge Knight to call me. It wasn’t a stand-up comic that gave Katt a shot. If it wasn’t for Ice Cube then Katt Williams wouldn’t be Katt Williams. What’s the difference between Ice Cube and Shaq? They are both using their celebrity to shine light on stand-up comics. Katt Williams was homeless, when they were filming (Next Friday), he lived in his trailer, he said that with his own mouth. Just because people use another celebrity then the one you used, they are wrong? Get out of here. Shaq has done a great job. Shaq has been very instrumental in the elevation of Kevin Hart, myself, Corey Holcomb, Michael Blackson, and Gary Owen. They will tell you themselves that the Shaq brand has reenergized their careers. This is why we are the Super Bowl of our brand. This brand has been crafted, it does well everywhere we go, its consistent. We give you a great show every time like the one February 13th in New York. Shameless plug.
COMEDY HYPE: THE TOUR IS HAVING IT’S FINALS FOR THE ANNUAL NEXT ALL-STAR COMPETITION WHICH YOU ARE HOSTING. WHAT ADVICE DO YOU THINK COMPETING COMEDIANS SHOULD KNOW?
RP: Yea were looking for my replacement right now (laughs). It’s going to take something spectacular because the judges have seen comedy for a number of years. Its easy to trick crowds, but its hard to trick comedic professionals that have been in the game 20-30 years. You have to be original. Since Kevin Hart is the thing a lot of people come and bring their best Kevin Hart impression and think that’s what the judges want to see. A lot bring in the same jokes we heard for 50 years. The best thing is to be original and have a style about yourself that they want to see more of you.
If you happen to be in Los Angeles January 8th – 11th, Powell will be hosting at Inside Jokes Comedy Club apart of the tours Next All-Star competition finals. And just before stopping in NYC with fellow comedians DeRay Davis, Bill Bellamy, Earthquake, and Michael Blackson on the 13th of February, he will be on the season premiere episode of Aspire TV’s ‘We Got Next’ stand-up series, Feb 3rd.