Super Bowl 51 kicked off its star-studded lineup Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017, with the Comedy Bowl Explosion at Texas Southern University. The Super Bowl 51 kickoff prayer was delivered by Pastor Ellis D. Powell of The Daily Bread Church and Rickey Smiley followed as host of the evening, introducing performers Ali Siddiq, Billy Sorrells, Tony Roberts, Michael Blackson and Earthquake.
Mayor Sylvester Turner, who acted as host for the VIP red carpet pre-party, had this to say about the comedic entertainment and its importance in the city: “When you have Rickey Smiley, Earthquake and our local talent on the campus of TSU to kick off the Super Bowl, where else would I be? We all deal with crap every day, seven days a week. We need a release valve! The talent that we are showcasing tonight can deal with some serious issues by putting a laugh on it. We have got to balance things off! In our city alone we have Super Bowl 51, travel ban protesters and Donald Trump backlash. With so much going on we have got to laugh. I’m ready for somebody to help me laugh!”