During an interview this week with Variety at their NATPE event, Russell Simmons had some words regarding Hollywood’s dealing with black talent. In his interview Simmons revealed a project with J.B. Smoove, and later explained how he felt that the black comedians today getting opportunities aren’t really representing the roots of black culture.
Simmons lamented the fact that a group of comedians who broke out in part through his Def Comedy Jam series — including Smoove, Mike Epps, Bernie Mac, Martin Lawrence, Chris Tucker, Kevin Hart and Dave Chappelle — saw their careers stall about 15 years ago through lack of opportunities in film and TV. He cited the problem of executive “gatekeepers” who chose to pick “more accessible” African-American talent rather than those comedians whose material is more rooted in the specific black experience. He cited the duo of Key and Peele, stars of the Comedy Central sketch series, as an example.
As far as his project with long-time friend J.B. Smoove, Simmons revealed it will be a film with J.B. as a man who travels to Sweden who ends up becoming the monarch.