Gary Owen Talks The Very Impromptu Way He Graced The ‘All Def Comedy’ Stage
We’re not sure when the racial draft actually began.
It may have been when Don Lemon initially started Don Lemon-ing, (He has since found the light and redeemed himself) or maybe it was when Stacey Dash showed support for Donald Trump, but somewhere along the lines the black community decided to kick out a few folks and in their place invite some white people who’ve shown to not only be abreast upon our social issues, but also share some of our views.
One of the first to be drafted is our favorite white comic Gary Owen. Owen’s been making us laugh for many moons and kept the LOLs rolling during his set for HBO’s new All Def Comedy, a revival of Russell Simmons’ classic Def Comedy Jam. Set to premiere Friday, Dec. 1, VIBE.com caught up with Mr. Owen and discussed his Power skit parodies, his debut impromptu set on All Def Comedy and the advice he’d give to future stand ups.
VIBE: How does it feel having been inducted into the racial draft?
Gary Owen: I think I’ve been traded for numerous people at different times. The first was Stacey Dash. It seems like there’s four white guys that get traded consistently. It’s me, Michael Rapaport, Joseph Sikora who’s Tommy from Power and Eminem. We’re the four. [Laughs]
How do you feel when you find out you’ve been traded?
I don’t know. I’ve never taken it too seriously. They enjoy being invited to the cookout. I got uninvited once.
What did you do?
After Adele gave the heartfelt speech to Beyonce at the Grammys, I said ‘Now Adele is invited to all the black cookouts.’ People were like, you can’t invite people, you’re a guest!’ [LAUGHS]
I saw your mock Power skit with Mike Epps who played Omari Hardwick and you played Joseph Sikora. In the clip, you all address Tommy’s use of the N-Word. What advice would you give to a white person who feels entitled to use that word?
Don’t do it. It’s never okay under any circumstance, really. You can’t just throw it around in a sentence. It’s uncomfortable when I hear white people say it.
When you were coming up as a comic, who was one of your favorite comics to see perform on Def Comedy Jam?
There were so many. I mean, Def Comedy Jam was the reason I wanted to do stand up because I’ve never seen a reaction like that from an audience. I think the closest I’ve ever seen was probably Eddie Murphy’s Raw or Delirious. But I was in high school when Def Comedy Jam came out and I was like, ‘Yoooo! That’s the reaction I want.’
So you decided to be a stand-up comic in high school or you made this decision prior to?
People might think I’m crazy, but I always knew I was going to be a stand up comedian, even though I didn’t know how to do it. I just knew it. I knew it in my gut. I had never been on stage, but I just knew I was going to do it.
When you were watching Def Comedy Jam did it solidify your career for you or was that more like an educational experience?
I would say it was an educational experience, but it was also more like the fire was really lit. It was like ‘Oh, my God! I didn’t know you could say that,’ or ‘I’ve never seen a crowd react like this.’
What was the process of getting chosen for the show like?
I wasn’t chosen. I was in the audience. [Laughs]
One of the producers called me and said they’re taping and my hotel was literally down the street from where they’re taping and I was like ‘I don’t know, man’ and he said just come hang out for a little bit. It’ll be cool. We’ll give you a little shout out. So I’m sitting in the second row just to watch and Tony Rock the host was like ‘We’ve got Gary Owen in the audience.’ I was supposed to be the celebrity guest and just wave to the crowd for a little bit. Then he asked me if I’ve ever done Def Comedy Jam or been on HBO. I said no. He said you want to do it? I thought he was kidding but then the crowd stood up. Then I was like ‘Oh!’ The comic in me was like do it, but then the business side was like you gotta negotiate. [LAUGHS] I felt like Chris Rock in New Jack City when he went back to the crack pipe. Like, I’m not supposed to do this but I can’t help myself.
What was the experience like being on the stage?
I’m actually anxious to see how it turns out. I went up there kind of winging it but they were laughing. I mean, I got my jokes. I know what I’m doing, I know what I’m talking about. I didn’t have a set. I didn’t overthink it. I was just up there talking.
How long does it take you to prepare a set?
It varies. If you’re talking about an hour special I would say it takes nine months to a year to have a solid hour. You’re working it out as you go. You’re cutting and pasting and you’re subtracting the fat from jokes too. Sometimes jokes can get a little wordy and you have to trim things down.
When you were put on the spot for All Def Comedy what arsenal did you grab from?
I think I did 12 minutes and they’re going to edit it down to seven. I had 12 minutes that was easy. If they asked me to come up there and do an hour I would’ve had to call my agent. [Laughs]
What piece of advice would you give to comics coming up now?
A couple of things. One: Don’t worry about the money. Too many comics worry about the money. It’ll come. If you really love it, it’ll come. When I first started, I wasn’t concerned with the money at all. I just wanted to get on stage. Another tidbit I would give to up-and-comers is be on time and do your time. What I mean is if you’re supposed to be on stage at 7:30, make sure your ass is at the venue at 7. Be there early. Do your time. If you’re supposed to do 20 minutes on stage, do 20 minutes on stage. If you’re supposed to do five do five. We’ll always work with you if we know we can count on you to do your time.