Mike Epps’ style of comedy has a Bone Crusher-like quality. It’s big and brazen enough to push your buttons and dare you to do something about it. The actor/comedian is currently sharing his no-holds-barred humor with audiences across the country with his “After Dark Tour” and this past weekend, Epps performed to two packed houses at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
While Epps’ set made the audience double over in laughing fits with jokes about his hating ass grandma and the real reason Janay Rice did that infamous interview, he noticeable never uttered a single thing about the allegations swirling around embattled comic legend Bill Cosby. For a man who will crack a joke about anything, that omission raised a few eyebrows of audience members waiting for him to go in about Cosby’s rape allegations. This is a man whose faced Lady Of Rage and Terry Crews in a battle. He even had the gall to slap around one of Whitney Houston’s daughters in the moive “Sparkle” and not one peep about Cliff Huxtable’s supposed indiscretions.
After tearing down the stage, Mike Epps invited WatchLOUD backstage for a conversation about preparing to embody the spirit of his idol Richard Pryor in the upcoming biopic, why he kept Bill Cosby’s rape allegations out of his routine, and if the fourth “Friday” is getting the Dr. Dre “Detox” treatment.
WatchLOUD: Are you playing Richard Pryor in the Nina Simone film and the Richard Pryor biopic?
Mike Epps: Well, I don’t think the Nina Simone movie is coming out [anymore]. But I am playing Richard Pryor in his biopic.
What is that like? How do you get into the mindset of your idol?
First of all, you have to be in tune spiritually with something like that-when it comes to embodying somebody who was such a great like that. I think there are so many steps to the preparation. It’s time combined with a lot of studying and a lot of understanding who he was as a person. That’s pretty much my approach to it.
One good thing that I do have on my side is that I do stand-up comedy. I really do that and that’s a connection to Richard Pryor because I have lived that life.
In your stand-up routine, like Pryor’s, you touch on topics that are sensitive to the public like the Ray Rice situation. When you’re writing your jokes, where do you draw the line?
I don’t really draw a line because humor is what lightens things up. I enjoy the fact I can talk about something so sensitive and make it funny. In life, you know, you have to laugh to keep from crying. There are subjects I won’t touch on, but stuff that’s in the news is public and everybody is talking about, I gotta crack a joke about it because the audience wants to hear it.
How do you go about cracking a joke about the Bill Cosby allegations?
Well, I didn’t really go at Bill Cosby because I’m a comic and it’s so fresh. Ray Rice has got some months on it. Bill Cosby is fresh. So I tried to stay away from the Bill Cosby jokes.
Out of all of the roles you’ve played, it seems as though Uncle Julius on “Survivor’s Remorse” is the closest to who you are in real life. Is that a true statement?
It is. That’s me. I’m just playing myself.
With you being so comfortable in the role and basically playing yourself, are you improvising most of your lines?
No. Mike O’Malley is a great writer and I don’t know how, but this guy has a connection to Black people’s language that’s crazy. Some of the stuff is improv, but most of it is just really, really good writing.
One of the more memorable scenes on show is when you’re taking a dump while dishing out life advice to your character’s nephew. Have you done that in real life to your family?
Of course I have! [laughs] That’s why I did it so good!
You’re also doing a web series called “That’s Racist.” What is that about?
“That’s Racist” is a TV show I’m doing with AOL that’s based on racial stereotypes. So many races have stereotypes about each other and it explores why do we laugh at each other’s stereotypes like why do Black people eat chicken and why Chinese people can’t drive.
The idea was I went and interviewed everybody from every race about why every race has jokes about themselves and each other that may be funny to you but not to other people.
You also give back to the community through arts and sports programs with your foundation The Michael & Mechelle Epps Foundation. Can you tell us a little bit about that because the people don’t really know that side of Mike Epps.
I’ve been doing it for years. I do outreach programs with kids considered to be at-risk youth. I work with kids who don’t know themselves and are trying to find themselves. I was once an at-risk teen and with all of my success God has given me, I use it to help them do better. I try to give them information and knowledge that they don’t have or wouldn’t normally receive.
For the at-risk youth who are naturally funny, where do they go to hone their skills since arts programs are dying in schools?
Being successful in comedy is like being successful in anything else. You have to start at the bottom and work your way to the top. I started making people laugh at open mic nights. A lot of kids think it comes easy but I’ve been doing comedy for almost 20 years and I can remember going on stage for the first time and not getting a big laugh but getting enough of a laugh that made me say, “This is what I want to do!”
Is the “Last Friday” movie ever coming out?
Man, I don’t know. I just talked to Cube the other day and he said, “We gotta find something to do!” They [the film’s producers] know that information and all I do is show up and do my thing. Hopefully, it will come out because I know the audience wants to see that.
I want to see how Day Day and Smokey interact with each other. Those two smoking weed and acting a fool together sounds crazy!
Man, that would be insane!
Get tickets for Mike Epps comedy tour here!