by Ryan Meehan
Xavier Lamont has become one of Chicago’s best known comedians. His edgy style of storytelling has made him a crowd favorite at comedy clubs in Chicago’s amazing comedy scene and around the country. In 2014 the comedian turns actor in the film “Killing Poe”. The Dark Comedy, set for release in April, will be Xavier’s big screen debut. However, XL can be seen regularly as part of Mancow’s Morning show, the WGN Morning News, and in various web series like: Clunker, My Roommate the Puppet, & Cop Drama. Other comedy career highlights include: headlining The Edge Comedy Club’s final show before the closing of the historic Chicago Performing Arts Center, returning as a repeat feature at The World Famous Comedy Store in Los Angeles, and featuring for Chicago comedy vets Natasha Pearl Hansen, Alex Ortiz, Dwayne Kennedy, & Tim Meadows. The 6’7” comedic giant can often be caught sharpening his saw at Chicagoland clubs Riddles in Alsip, Zanies in Chicago, or The comedy Shrine in Aurora, IL. He’ll be at the Saturday Night Blacklist show “Shots and Giggles” on the 4th at the Speakeasy in Rock Island, and he’s our guest today in 7 questions.
RM: You started off in the field of marketing where you would do public speaking engagements all over America…How were you able to take the skills that you developed doing what were essentially corporate gigs and apply them to a much looser club environment without sounding uptight?
XL: Our environment was loose, we tried to keep things light, we joked around all the time. Even though I wasn’t doing stage quality material, the atmosphere was very conducive to my development as a comic. I learned crowd control, how to handle hecklers, how to tell a story & get to the point as quickly as possible; all of which help me on stage today.
RM: Which venue in Chicago do you consider to be your home club? What is it about that particular place that makes you feel so comfortable?
XL: I’m lucky enough to have two! The Comedy Shrine in Aurora, IL, owned by Dave Sinker, was where I 1st got to stretch my legs as a comic. I’ve opened for Dwayne Kennedy & Tim Meadows there. Plus Dave has been a great mentor, giving advice, & helping me punch up material. Riddles Comedy Club in Alsip is also like a home club. The owner Ken Stevens gave me my 1st stage time in a real club, 1st headline spot, and introduced me to a couple of my best friends in comedy. Both places are like home, from the staff to ownership, quality places & people.
RM: What do you feel is your biggest strength as a comedian? Where do you think that comes from?
XL: I try really hard to connect with the crowd. Plus hey, I’m 6’7″ & 300+ lbs, how many times do you get see someone that looks like me tell a joke? People want to see that, if for no other reason to go tell their friends “Hey I just saw this giant dude telling jokes, it was crazy!”
Seriously, having a sales background (door to door sales) really helps. I learned how to get people engaged, get them to buy in & then all I have to do is deliver.
RM: On the Morning Would Facebook page about a month and a half back, you posted something about the N-Word and that you wanted to hear what people had to say about it. The first poster had an telling comment, saying that “It’s just a word until it isn’t just a word” – Do you think that there is some truth to that? In other words, do you believe that there is a clear line drawn as to where actual hate starts; or do you think that there is this sort of no man’s land where the seeds of hateful action have already been planted but since there is no visible signs of harmful behavior it’s hard to really nail down? Do you use the word on stage?
XL: When someone is really being racist I think it’s a very hard thing to quantify. It’s very similar to that old quote about obscenity “I know it when I see it” I personally don’t care about the word. I am very well versed in my cultures history and the pain associated with the word. I am also a child of an era that gave birth to NWA. I grew up with a different connotation than my parents. When my parents were children, if they heard a white person say that word, it meant something bad to them. It meant they may be in danger or at least under verbal attack. In my lifetime, if a white person says that word, it means bad stuff for that person. He’s going to get his ass kicked, fired, ridiculed, or social ostracized. Does that mean I think white people should say it on a reg, hell no! (Read the previous sentence) But do I think we sometimes make way too big of a deal about, yeah we do. If it’s good enough for Jay Z, it’s good enough for me!
RM: You are a frequent guest on Mancow in the Morning…Is his personality pretty much the same off the air as it is when he goes live? How did you meet him and what are some of the things that he’s done to help you get your name out in the comedy community?
XL: Mancow is incredibly professional. How he runs that craziness every morning with few if any glitches is beyond me! Another comic, Aaron Foster, got me booked for the show. My 1st time on I drove 6 hours in the middle of the night to get to the show because I was coming from a gig in northern Wisconsin. I was a zombie. I got one hit, I made Jeff Garlin laugh, & that made Mancow laugh. It was a bloop single but a hit nonetheless. Mancow’s team invited me back. Just being on the show is huge. Getting that platform to get my name out there and getting a chance to be funny on national TV & radio at this stage in my career is huge. I don’t play the show as much now that I host my own show on Know 1 Radio but I’m sure I’ll be on a few times this year.
RM: What’s the biggest mistake that you see inexperienced comedians make the first few months that they’re on stage? Why do you think that’s such a common pitfall amongst open micers?
XL: Newbies should get out on stage as much as physically possible. If you’re serious about it get on stage, A LOT. My 1st year I’d do 3 open mics a night 4 night/ 5 night a week because I wasn’t booking shows yet, so I had time. Yes it sucks, waiting to go up & yes you see all of the same people doing the same jokes; but that time is precious. It helps you develop, it helps your stage presence, your demeanor; we all need that early stage time. You also develop relationships with fellow comedians, which I think is highly underrated. One common pitfall is not doing mics because you are trying to work on your material 1st. The mic is where you work it out. Plus, where is better than a room full of comics to find out what’s funny. As much crap that can be said negative about open mics I will say this one thing about them: If it’s funny, you’ll know it! One of the best bits I’ve written, the 1st time I performed it, got a room full of comics to look up from their phones and notebooks, laugh and applaud when I was done. I knew that shit was gold right then.
If I could add on about making relationships with other comics: Having good relationships with your peers is very important. Your peers are the people that get you work. Bookers, agents, show runners, EVERYONE works off of word of mouth. They ask around about who’s who, what’s what. If no one has anything nice to say it really doesn’t matter how funny you are. No one wants to work with a dickbag! Many of the best opportunities I gotten thus far have been from fellow comics recommending me to other people.
RM: What is the best thing about living in Chicago? The worst? If you had to relocate to any of the other American cities you’ve visited, which one would it be?
XL: The best thing about Chicago is everything Chicago! LOL. I’ve lived in LA, NYC, Miami & I love Chicago the most (Miami is amazing too). In regards to comedy it’s one of the best, if not the best, training grounds in the country. Chicago gives a new comic the best of all worlds. A tough, competitive place to learn comedy, meet incredibly talented people, and NOT have the pressure of some network exec popping in on the night you happened to try your new stuff out that didn’t go over so well. The comics here care about being comics. They aren’t dancers/ models/ actors/ playwrights/ whatever that are just “Adding comedy to the resume”. If you ask most Chicago comics they really just want to do comedy (no one’s turning down a sitcom or anything but…) It’s not like that everywhere. Being great at comedy is an end goal here, not part of a step to get to something else.
I’ll probably end up in LA. I lived in LA for years before I did comedy & still have quite a few friends there. I also have industry friends LA that could help me out if I moved there. It would be a no brainer choice. I’m not moving anytime soon.
RM: What’s up next for you in 2014? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
XL: The feature film Killing Poe will be released in April, and a couple of small tours are being finalized with details to come (Me, Jay Washington, Bobby Hill will tour as 2 &1/2 Black men) & (Laughing Insanity Tour)
Come on down to the Speakeasy at 1818 3rd Avenue in downtown Rock Island this Saturday night and catch Xavier Lamont at Shots N’ Giggles presented by The Blacklist.
Official Website: http://www.xlcomedyshow.com/
Morning Would with Xavier Lamont: https://www.facebook.com/MorningWouldWithXavierLamont
Xavier on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/xavier.lamont
Xavier on Twitter: https://twitter.com/xlcomedy
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