The Comic Strip is a legendary comedy club in NYC acknowledged for launching the careers of both Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock. One of the founders and original owners Richie Tienken, along with his partner Bob Wachs managed Eddie from his SNL days through Beverly Hills Cop 2. Eddie’s Mom asked him who he trusted most in the world, and Eddie said it was Richie, so that’s how Richie became his manager. Richie and Bob still run the club today.
In 1986, they discovered Chris Rock who at the time was a 19 year old aspiring comic who was setting up chairs in the club in exchange for stage time. They let him perform for Eddie Murphy who came in one night requesting to see a Black comic. Surprisingly, there were hardly any Black comics in those days so they had to put Chris up. He was all they had.
He did so well that Eddie waited for him to get off stage and they hung out and talked for quite a while. Eddie invited Chris to come to LA with him for the re-shoots for the movie Golden Child, and while they were there, offered him a part in Cop 2, which kick-started his career.
Since then there have been many important Black comics who have appeared at The Comic Strip, but maybe none so hot right now as Kevin Hart. I had the good fortune to co-produce a benefit for Haiti starring Kevin Hart back in 2010, featuring Tony Rock and Wil Sylvince. It was a sold out show at Westbury with 3000 people attending.
February being Black History Month, Kevin was asked to do an interview for NBC’s The Grio.com, which is the first African-American video news site, specifically geared towards bringing stories of interest to that community. Their plan is to interview 100 people who they feel are making a positive effect in the Black community, and they decided to do Kevin at The Comic Strip.
Todd Johnson, the Grio producer gave me exclusive permission to attend and film the shoot, and I stayed afterwards to do my own little video with Kevin before he ran to the airport to catch a plane. The man is on the go 24/7.
If he’s not Tweeting constantly to his 3 million followers, he’s in a car on his way to someplace to perform. The man is a dynamo, and I’m happy to say that all of his success has not changed him. He is very humble and grateful for all that he has accomplished.
When asked about the success he had in 2011, he said it was a great year, but that he didn’t want to become “content”, because once you become content, you tend to stay where you are. He’s using his success of 2011 to motivate him to do even more.
Kevin put up his own money to produce his new film “ Laugh At My Pain” which is basically a filmed version of a live performance that he did. Only a handful of other performers, including Chris Rock, Eddie Griffin and Martin Lawrence have done that successfully. But none of them put up their own money. With less than 1 million dollars of promotion, which he said was “very low”, they released it on only 200 screens, and it already brought in more than 8 million dollars. That is a record, and one to be proud of!
When Kevin got to The Strip, Richie and I were waiting to greet him. You can get a glimpse of Richie, ( white hair), in the video that is below. Kevin was with his best friend Harry, and as he took his place for the NBC interview, Harry asked why The Strip didn’t have a drink named after Kevin, and Kevin jokingly demanded to know from NBC, what number he was out of the 100.
He sounded very serious when he said he felt he should be around number 6! He definitely wanted to at least be grouped in with Whoopi Goldberg!
These were some of the insights Kevin shared with NBC:
- On the new album he’s working on now, “ Let Me Explain” – “Each album I work on brings more growth. From “I’m A Grown Little Man”, to “Seriously Funny”, to “Laugh At My Pain” each one has exhibited more growth. I talk about what I’m going through whether it’s good or bad. I have tons of problems, that’s what makes me funny!”
- About writing – “ I’m always writing. My job is to observe. And I watch other comics perform to see what they talking about so I don’t talk about the same thing.”
- On appearing on Jamie Foxx’s Foxxhole show on Sirius/XM – You have to know what to expect going into something. I know how Jamie is, and what he tries to do on his show. It’s all in fun, but they go in on you. I expected the short jokes, the Soul Plane jokes, but I was ready. So I went around the room and took on everyone, and I haven’t been back on there since! (Big laughs!)
Check out the interview!
By Jeffrey Gurian
For more on Jeffrey Gurian, go to his site at http://www.jeffreygurian.com or the Comedy Matters Vlog at http://www.jeffreygurian.com/comedymatters , or you can e-mail him directly at Jeffrey@jeffreyguurian.com .