Russell Simmons continues to play a vital role in launching the careers of the most prominent Black comics in the nation. With his Def Comedy Jam brand, Simmons’ HBO series served as an important starting point of success for comedians such as Martin Lawrence, Jamie Foxx, and Bernie Mac to name a few.
This Saturday, Nov. 12, Simmons will make his return to HBO with the “All Def Comedy special.” Hosted by Tony Rock with DJ Drama, “All Def Comedy” will feature comedians including Kevin Tate, Chris Powell, Zainab Johnson, and more.
Simmons recently spoke with rolling out to discuss the “All Def Comedy” HBO series and the need for comedy in this day and age.
You started with the “Def Comedy Jam” brand years ago. What should we know about the evolution of the brand with All Def Comedy?
This world of Def Comedy is interesting because of the social, political and edgy content. That perspective is mainstream pop culture. HBO’s Def Comedy gave them a pass. Hollywood finds these accessible guys who are not culturally alternative, and they don’t really stand out. They don’t speak to the community they way that Kevin Tate does or any Black man I chose for Def Comedy. What we want to do is make these people visible so they can get a break. That’s what the Def Comedy Jam has always been about. Giving a voice to people who might not have a voice otherwise.
Why was it important to have Tony Rock as host for “All Def Comedy”?
Tony Rock is ready at this moment. He’s charming, he’s good, he’s funny, and an amazing host. I chose him because he’s the best man for the job and there’s no way he isn’t gonna be a huge comedian, especially after HBO picks up this series. The night special, where a hundred people are able to get a break is enough to make 10 episodes. That is my goal, to get enough excitement around this so that you cannot ignore. I want to be a hit for HBO and I want HBO to reach out.
Why did you inspire the “All Def Comedy” brand to be prevalent on social media?
The millennials they have a couple of a hundred million iPhones. That is a huge thing, and that’s where stars have made their names. Even though Hollywood isn’t acknowledging people, there are ways to be visible and known through digital. We are using those ways every day. On All Def Digital, we are having a ball, working with young creative people. I don’t like sitting around waiting for people who live in gated communities to choose what I’m going to do. I’ve been successful since I was a child, but my brain is still in the hood. I feel connected and I feel like Hollywood is missing the money and missing out on the sensibility that they haven’t tapped into because they don’t get it.
You’ve had success with “Def Comedy” since the ‘90s, what made HBO the perfect fit?
HBO has been very supportive and generous of my move back to Hollywood. They’ve written many shows, many that will end up on other networks, but they wrote them. They have supported me in my growth back in Hollywood. It takes a couple of years to get moving. I have another scripted show, which I’m very excited about. They have a personal feel to me and I like working with them and I’ve been friends with them for over 25 years.
Check out “Real Talk,” featuring the cast of “All Def Comedy” and get ready to watch the premiere Saturday, Nov. 12 at 10 p.m..