Living off of Laughs: ComedianCP
words: iman n. milner
Comedians are the mirrors of society. They internalize all the things about humankind we are blind to, turn them into humor and show us ourselves, in all our glory or disappointment, on stage for our amusement. It was this that first caught our attention about Chris “Comedian CP” Powell when we first saw his “S*** Detroit N**** Say” video circulating on social networks. His honest yet hilarious depiction of the mindset of the inner city was the stuff of comedic greatness and what he’s done with his character, Reggie Bo, is iconic. But talking to him opens up another layer of the man because his mind is already ten steps ahead what we can see. Powell is looking at the crown while we’re all fixated on the throne.
When did you start comedy?
I started comedy at a really early age. Probably around 8 or 9. I was in to comedic acting. I was always an honor student so teachers would kind of let me cut up. That was my way or breaking the ice. I knew I wanted to be a professional comedian even back then but it was always such a far fetched idea for me to actually say that to people. I stuck with it. I didn’t let that change any of the plans my parents had for me, like graduating from college, but I still never lost sight of my dream for myself.
What did you got to school for and how is it helping you in your comedic pursuits?
I got my degree any additional media arts and what I do with that is all of my own promotions, filming and editing, writing, anything that you can name from a production standpoint—I do it myself. I’ve been able to create my own fan base just by being able to put my work out there as often as I want and not having to wait on anyone else to give me a chance. 20 years of hard work but I’m just getting started.
So what were the first steps to making comedy your full time job?
After I graduated college, I started writing commercials for an advertising company, that was my life. I always wanted to get on to the stage but I was so green, I had no idea how to make that happen. One day I was driving home from work and I heard on the radio that Foolish was doing a comedy show for unknown comics, I immediately got off the freeway and went to the venue. I got there way early, found the owner and I was just telling her that I wanted to go up that night. I had no idea that that wasn’t the right protocol. She liked me though and told me to come back to meet Foolish that night. I came back to meet with him and brought about 5 or 6 of my homeboys with me because if anybody would’ve said no they were getting banged on right then and there. I was standing between a crackhead and a jukebox…I was ready for whatever. Ha. Naw, but I introduced myself to Foolish and told him that I wanted to go up that night and he said he would give me 5 minutes. I get on the stage, I roast him a little bit, and I killed my 5 mins. Foolish invited me to come back every Tuesday and do a couple minutes for a few months. Once his set closed down, I just took what I learned from that situation and just auditioned for other comedy nights around the city. Before I knew it, I had to quit my job because I was booked every night.
How did you make the jump to the internet? What was the impetus behind that move?
Honestly, I hated the thought of doing YouTube at first. I felt like everybody was getting their 15 minutes of fame by just doing some stupid stuff on YouTube. That’s not what I do at all. I’m not trying to do something just for the sake of getting attention, that’s not what I do. But eventually I saw it as an opening to get myself out there to more people, it’s a smart business decision.
Which comedians would you say inspire you the most and why?
I love this question because I think my answer will shock most people. Of course, I’ve taken from all of the notable comedians the way anybody would but three really stand out to me for different reasons. Off top, this isn’t the surprising one by the way, Eddie Murphy. Eddie was fly. He was a phenomenon. He had women thinking he was sexy and he had men wanting to be him because he was the funniest dude alive. It wasn’t easy to follow Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor and the style of comedy that they created. Eddie stepped up and branded his way. That’s where I see myself. I hate that everybody else says that too, you know? Dude will be the wackest comedian ever saying Eddie Murphy is his inspiration and you want to be like “n***, shut up!” but whatever. Then there’s Richard Pryor. Pryor personified everything. A dog can talk or a door will creek or he’ll be talking to a turd. It’s about giving life to everything. He didn’t have videos and special effects…he was doing it all with words. He would take you to whatever world he wanted you to be in. That lesson is invaluable for all comedians. You have to study those two guys especially. They raised the bar to a point where no audience is going to accept less. Lastly, a person who too many people sleep on, Tommy Davidson. He’s like an octopus with his jokes. He’s got so many different legs that can go any way when he’s setting up a story. He’s so free with his body. He squeezes the laugh out of you. I feel like he’s one of the best and to see where his career bottomed out, it lets me know that I can’t take anything for granted. You have to kill it in every aspect of your career. I have to be smart about my life and my business. Tommy shows me that. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves though.
What advice would you give to aspiring comedians?
Don’t be bigheaded. Pay attention. Realize what you want and then don’t settle for anything less. My biggest desire is to always have creative control. This ain’t rap. I don’t have a producer or a writer telling me what I need to sound like or what I need to say to make people like me. Hell naw, this is comedy. I’m here because I’m funny. All of this stuff is coming from my brain. I have to take full responsibility whether good or bad. For me, having creative control is so important. But also, aligning yourself with other people in your industry who are doing it on the level that you want to be doing it on. I just did a deal with Shaquille O’Neal and if you’re paying attention, that’s the hottest comedy brand right now. There is no Comic View or Def Jam these days so getting on that tour has been the fire for a lot of rising comedians. Having an opportunity to get on a national stage with my brand and be around someone like Shaq who is rich, flat out, he’s about to show me how to get rich too, shit. Just make sure everything you’re doing is going to put you where you ultimately want to be.
Let’s talk about Reggie Bo.
Ha! Reggie Bo is my guy. Sticky green. What’s crazy is that I have all these different personas that I absorb from people and I just keep them until I find a way to use them. I can hear somebody ordering food in Popeyes and I’ll create a whole life for that person from that one moment. Reggie Bo came from every old Black man that I’ve ever met. How they like at the new generation and how they don’t respect where they came from. Old Black men have stories for days…for some of them that’s all they have. Reggie Bo is a lot of our grandfathers. It’s about yesterday being over and today being a new beginning. A friend of mine got kicked out of his apartment and he needed me to come help him move and get his shit off the grass and when I got there I saw this green puppet. I asked him what he was doing with a reggie nugget and he told me I could have it. I took it home and it literally just sat there for months. I didn’t even think about it. After I did a couple of videos, I knew I wanted to push the envelope and do a little more. I came across the puppet and started playing with him. I started making him lick his hand and slick his hair back like the old cats in the hood. With his voice, I wanted it to be known that he was a kingpin—everybody know Reggie Bo. I called my manager and told him I had this puppet and this idea. He wasn’t feeling it at first but I went over to his house with the puppet and started doing the performance for him. I set it up as an interview so that people could get to know his issues with not being the best weed anymore. All those thoughts and feelings are Reggie Bo. Reggie Bo is more popular than me. I get calls for him to show up places, he’s a big deal.
What is something that a lot of people don’t know about you?
My level of intelligence shocks people. I don’t know why because every good comedian is smart in some way, shape or form. People don’t expect me to know as much about business as I do but in my eyes it’s bigger than comedy. I’m trying to come from nothing and get everything. I want it all. I do a lot for my community. I do a lot of motivational speaking at high schools. They don’t know there are other ways to get ahead than rapping or selling drugs or even the other professions that we get fed as kids. Everybody’s not going to be a doctor but you can find something you’re good at it and make it work for you. I’m a father. I’m a husband. I’m a real person. People see my videos and think that’s me but I’m not living at home with my mama, eating Coney Island and smoking…not all the time.
What do you want your legacy to be?
I want my legacy to be that I built it myself. I want it to be know that myself and my team didn’t rely on the industry to get us where we are. I can’t stop until I’m the best. I want to be world renowned for not just comedy but also for being relentless. I want to be a voice for my generation. Not just a funny voice but someone who has something to say who people want to listen to.
Photos by: EJ Burney
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