Richard Pryor – he had stories, he had characters, he had short jokes, and he had bits. He had all those things. Eddie Murphy has all those things, and he can sing. A comedian is a bunch of stuff; it’s not just one area.
In the Navy, you’re around a lot of people from different parts of the country. They’ve got different accents, different upbringings. I learned to love country-western music.
There are many styles of standup, but the comedians I like are people like Dick Gregory and Richard Pryor. Because Richard Pryor told the truth. Chris Rock. I love Chris Rock. He’s funny, but he’s also poignant. He’s not there just to make people laugh; he’s there to make people wake up, too.
In ‘Mother’s Day,’ which is directed by legendary director Garry Marshall, I play a mother figure to the character played by Jason Sudeikis from ‘Saturday Night Live.’ He’s a widower, and I’m a mother who’s helping him to get over the loss of his wife.
When I first started, it was a dare. Someone basically said, ‘You’re a tough guy… but I’ll bet you won’t get on a microphone in front of a bunch of people.’ I was terrified, but I did it. Once I broke the ice and got onstage and got some laughs, I thought, ‘That’s not so bad.’
If you look at my acting career, I never played a role that was similar to anything my brother played. I was always cast as the bad guy or a gangster, because my brother didn’t do those kind of roles.
I get that racism exists, but it’s not a catalyst for my content. I don’t need to talk about race to have material. My style of comedy is more self-deprecating. I think that makes me more relatable. When you deal with ‘topics’ – race, white versus black – you’re not separating from the pack. You’re doing what everybody else is doing.