Comedian Bill Bellamy is performing at Atlanta’s Uptown Comedy Club in Atlanta this weekend and is set to appear at Shaq’s All-Star Comedy Jam in New York City on Feb. 13. The veteran funnyman spoke to rolling out about his career, how the state of Black comedy has changed over the past couple of years and why he’s better now than he’s ever been.
“I feel like my fans have grown up with me,” Bellamy says. “That’s one thing that’s so dope — we came up together. I feel like right now, I’m in the prime of my career as far as my talent and what I’m doing onstage is crazy. I thought I was always funny, but right now my perspective is so dead-on and it’s resonating with the people. It kinda reminds me of my Def Jam era. When you really make people laugh, it’s euphoric.
As a stand-up, Bellamy believes that he’s sharpened his skills over the years and understands the art in a much more complete way these days.
“I think as you practice and work at anything, you get better. With comics, we’ve got the third eye. We’re able to grasp things the common person might not even be seeing. Comedians have a way of doing everything that we do and making it hit home. You have to put a spin on it so that people go ‘I never thought of that,’ or ‘Oh, that’s me!’ ” he says.
The 1990s saw a boom in high-profile platforms for Black comedians. TV shows like HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam,” as well as the popular sketch series “In Living Color” gave African American comedians, actors and writers a chance to showcase their talent for comedy in high-profile places. Bellamy admits that it’s not as easy now.
“[There are] just not enough outlets for the talent that we have. You gotta figure — in the ’90s when we all came up, my class was the dream team. There’s never been [a group] like that — from Martin, to [Dave] Chappelle, to Chris Rock, Cedric [the Entertainer], D.L. [Hughley] — we was [sic] like the Avengers! And Hollywood was open to it at the time. Almost all of us had a chance to become a star. That’s what’s lacking for the next generation; how many cats are going to get the chance to do a movie? Or their own TV show?
“They’ve got social media — we didn’t have that. You’ve got to do it in a different way. Cats are using YouTube and Instagram and Vine and using other opportunities. I think I came up in a sweet spot in the ’90s. The right place at the right time,” he says.
“There are different roles for a White comic as opposed to a Black comic. Seth Rogen doesn’t have to appeal to Black folks. He just has to appeal to White America. Guys like Mike Epps, Katt Williams, Kevin Hart — I think they get a chance to do their thing, but are they able to do it on a consistent basis? I don’t know.
“Dave Chappele had an opportunity to do it in his voice, but it seems like he lost control of his voice. So that’s why he stopped doing it. That’s why for me my stand-up is my voice. I don’t have to tweak or adjust my voice or attitude onstage. When I do a movie or a TV show, I’m always censored,” he continues. “To me, that’s what’s so liberating about doing stand-up. You can talk to the people and be you, 100, unfiltered. Say the stuff you can’t even say on the radio. And I think people love that.”
Bellamy believes that that connection is the essence of good comedy and he has never taken it lightly.
“It resonates, people know real, recognize real. The freedom of it is amazing but you’ve got to be good at it. You cannot cheat it. You’ve got to do the work. You’ve got to be onstage. You’ve got to write. You’ve got to commit to it. It’s a real craft. Not a flimsy thing,” he says.
And Bill Bellamy has dedicated so much of his life to his craft. Looking back at his younger days and his first burst with stardom in the mid-1990s, Bellemy laughs at how much his lifestyle has changed over the last two decades.
“I [was] doing ‘MTV Beach House,’ I’m interviewing Snoop and 2Pac and I’m going to the crib, spiffing up, hitting the club, got about 30 chicks coming by,” he reflects with a laugh. “That’s what I was doing then. Now, 2015, I’m taping my TV show, I’m taking my kids to school, I’m picking out furniture. I’m doing rock star shows and producing.
“My family [adds] so much more flavor, it’s stuff I didn’t have before. It gives me a lot of balance. Back then, I was just so career-driven. I didn’t have to sacrifice anything but my time for that portion of my life. Now I’ve got my kids, my wife. I’ve got games to go to! I’m a grown man.”