It’s been 27 years since Eddie Griffin stepped on a stage for the first time.
Since then, he’s performed thousands of standup routines all over the world, but not once during that time has he written a single joke.
Like a novelist or screenwriter, the Kansas City, Mo., native said he’s a storyteller.
“You’re just born that way,” Griffin said. “I see things as a story.”
He added, “My brain likes to tie things together in story form.”
It’s been more than three years since Griffin, who was originally slated to appear at Zanies in January, has performed in Nashville.
On Friday night, the 46-year-old comedian will be at Bridgestone Arena as part of the Black & Brown Comedy Get Down tour. The bill also features Cedric the Entertainer, George Lopez, D.L. Hughley, Mike Epps and Charlie Murphy.
According to Griffin, the idea for the tour came about last fall when all six comedians were in Peoria, Ill., for a benefit that raised the money needed to build a 7-foot bronze statue of comedy legend Richard Pryor.
“We had so much fun doing that, at the end of the show, we were all hanging out drinking,” Griffin recalled, “and George was like, ‘You all want to take this on tour?’ Everybody agreed.’
The benefit was in November and by the end of January, they launched an arena-size national tour in Florida.
“There are no egos involved,” said Griffin, referring to how quickly the project came together. “Everybody left their egos at the door and we just had so much fun hanging out with each other.”
Griffin said they also have plans to eventually perform in Europe — “it could be going on for a minute” — and other parts of the world. However, all six comedians have other commitments, so they generally only perform Friday and Saturday nights.
Griffin is in his fourth year of performing Sunday through Thursday night at the Rio Las Vegas Hotel & Casino. In recent years, he relocated to Las Vegas after tiring of the commute from Los Angeles.
His contract with the Rio includes a clause that allows him to film movies and appear in television projects. He recently wrapped the film “American Hero” with Stephen Dorff, which is set for release later this year.
But he never veers too far from the stage.
“That is my passion,” Griffin said. “If I don’t grab the mic within a couple of days I’m going to go crazy, so I have to have a place to dump all of the (stuff) that is in my head.”
Like most comedians, Griffin is a ferocious reader when it comes to putting together his stage show, which he said varies slightly from one night to the next.
Sometimes he mixes it up based on his mood or the energy of the audience, while other changes are based on current headlines and stories that relate to one city more so than another.
“You might want to do some research on where you’re going,” he said. “You might actually want to pick up a book, grab a newspaper or watch a couple of documentaries. Fill your brain up, so you have something to access.”
And, of course, the political cycle provides a “plethora of material.”
“How they continue to get elected with an IQ of a plant, I do not understand,” Griffin said, “and they call them lawmakers. Two kids fighting can come to a consensus eventually. Grown men and women will sit there and bicker for centuries, while the country flushes itself down the toilet.”
The only real difference between the show Griffin would have performed five months ago at Zanies and the one he’ll perform Friday night at Bridgestone is the fact that an arena performance is what he refers to as a spectacle.
He said it takes more energy to project his delivery to several thousand audience members as opposed to a couple hundred of them.
“You have to wait on the laugh because it trickles down from upstairs,” Griffin explained. “It rolls toward the stage, so you end up doing less material because you wait longer on the laughter.”
If you go
What: Black & Brown Comedy Get Down featuring Cedric the Entertainer, George Lopez, Eddie Griffin, D.L. Hughley, Mike Epps and Charlie Murphy
When: 8 p.m. Friday, June 19
Where: Bridgestone Arena (501 Broadway)
Admission: $52.50, $75