DeRosa, who was once in a comedic rap group, admitted later in the podcast that Owen once treated him badly years ago. (Critics like DeRosa are mad, Owen says, because “I can do a black room and a white room and they can’t.”) Accusations of comedy carpetbagging have dogged Owen since his early run on Comic View. He says some of the black comedians were skeptical of him, but he won them over after they realized he wasn’t after cheap laughs. “I’m not doing an act,” he says. “I think at first they thought it was an act. I don’t sag my pants, I don’t talk like, ‘What’s up motherfuckers!’ Look how I’m dressed. I’m just me. I’m the same guy onstage.”
Will Packer, the African-American producer of Think Like a Man, its sequel and Ride Along, also insists Owen’s act is not an act. “His connection [to black audiences] is completely organic. It’s not forced. It’s very authentic, and that’s why it works,” Packer says. “People can tell if you try to pander to them if that’s not who you really are. It’s really who Gary is. He’s really very comfortable. He’s not some hip-hop comedian. He’s a middle-age white dude.”
Owen doesn’t have any comedy icons. He has never seen one Richard Pryor special and couldn’t repeat one Richard Pryor joke. The same goes for Kevin Hart. Part of the reason is he’s afraid he’ll subconsciously rip off a joke. He’s seen it happen with other comics. More than anything, he envies the connection between the comic and the crowd. Owen compares it to retired football players who no longer follow the game. “I know some guys that study guys, like how they walk the stage. I’ve never seen a Chris Rock special, even, what was it, Laugh at my Pain—Bring the Pain. I saw a part of it, got bored,” he says. “I know that sounds bad. I didn’t get bored. I wanted to leave the house and go onstage.”
He’s confident about his one-hour special, I Agree With Myself, despite the current lack of a closing bit. Over the next week, he’ll compare notes with his friend, the comic Gene Harding—a black guy, it must be said. Right now, he’s leaning toward ending on a church bit, though it might seem misplaced following jokes about “donkey pussy” and blow jobs. The special is expected to air in the spring, between the January release of Ride Along and this summer’s Think Like a Man Too, in which Owen’s role is expanded.
If that’s the case, Owen may finally cross over to his own race. “It’s all about timing and opportunity. Given the right role and platform, Gary will absolutely be that guy,” affirms Packer. “I will be the Dr. Dre to his Eminem, and I am just waiting for this white man to pop to take me to the next level.” It might be sooner than Packer thinks. During breakfast at the hotel restaurant, an Asian woman in a conservative black business suit approaches him. “I am a big fan,” she says. “I see you on TV all the time.” Immediately, he turns it on, plugging his run at Cobb’s. “Oh cool,” she says. “I will tell my husband.” Once she’s gone, a big toothy grin is etched on his face as he says, “Crossing over is a slow process.”