McGinnis: Sinbad to play ConnxtionsWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Sinbad admits he hasn’t quite gotten the hang of playing Toledo.
The world-famous comedian, who has numerous TV series, movies, stand-up specials and more than 25 years on the road under his belt, said in an interview that every city has a feel and flavor all its own — but Toledo’s is one he hasn’t successfully tuned into just yet.
“Since 1982, when I started, I’ve been through the city many times,” Sinbad said. “You know, Cleveland has its own funk, and Dayton has its own funk, and Cincinnati — but Toledo, I never could figure out. It’s one of the hardest cities in Ohio, and one of the hardest cities on the road to figure out … there’s a strange flow there, and it’s very hard to figure out.
“The problem is never the material, the problem is trying to get people to come to the show, and then trying to figure out the flow of the city. Every city has a flow. Toledo has its own — I think because it’s sandwiched in between Detroit and other places, it’s got a mix of all this other stuff.”
But after a quarter century on the road as a comic, Sinbad’s not giving up on the Glass City. He returns to Toledo on August 6, 7 and 8, for appearances at Connxtions Comedy Club.
Though he grew into one of the most recognizable comedians of the late 20th century, the young man born David Atkins didn’t plan on being a comic — he just knew he wanted to be the center of attention.
“First, I just knew I wasn’t gonna work 9 to 5. I knew I wanted to be an entertainer, and it wasn’t so much as a comedian — I wanted to act, I wanted to play basketball, I’d be in a band, I’d play drums. It was many things. Comedy was not the highest on the list, either,” Sinbad said.
He said he was always pretty funny as a kid, but around eighth grade he realized how to control the way a laugh worked. Then, in college, “my assistant basketball coach actually wrote a routine for me, when some new recruits came in town. And I got up on stage. It wasn’t great, but it didn’t suck.”
His major epiphany came while serving in the US Air Force.
“The Air Force talent show really was it. I watched a guy come through named T.A. Burrows, and he was a ventriloquist. And I said, that’s it. That spoke to me, I’m supposed to be a comedian. It just hit me, I can do this.”
His first real breakout moments as a comic came through “Star Search,” a 1980s talent competition that spotlighted up-and-comers. Sinbad finds a world of difference between the show which first launched his career, and the reality competitions which air today.
“The biggest difference to ‘America’s Got Talent’ is you’ll find some raw people there, and you never know who’s gonna show up. ‘Star Search’ was set up to find people who already were on the path, and needed that last little kick in the butt. But you never saw a bad contestant. There was never a bad singer, there was never a bad comic. Everybody was accomplished, they just needed that last little push. So that’s what I think made ‘Star Search’ a little different.”
Over his career, Sinbad has always seemed to portray a very specific, positive worldview — one that he insists is not intentional, it’s just the way he looks at life.
“For me, it’s not so much not being cynical, or even positive. I say it as I see it. I try to be as positive as I can. At times I’m cynical, there are times I look at it as being crazy. I think I’m honest, that’s the most important thing. I think people got so caught up on me being a ‘clean’ comic, I hate the word. Just call me a comic.”
Among the topics to be justifiably cynical about is modern television. In the late 1980s, when Sinbad began appearing on “Cosby Show” spin-off “A Different World,” the number of quality roles for African-Americans seemed to be on the rise. But now, over twenty years later, as he attempts to pitch a new show to networks himself, Sinbad noted how that trend seems to be going in reverse.
“Every time we make progress, then they take all the shows off the air. We make progress, then it stops. In fact, you never get a chance to get parity. When’s the last young black actor or actress who was a breakout star, able to keep growing and growing? There’s always one — there’s Will Smith, there’s Denzel, there’s Wesley Snipes, there’s Don Cheadle. But you always got one, there’s always one,” Sinbad said.
“The audience is ready for it. The people who run TV, they can’t even pick out a hit show, think about it. They can’t figure out how to make a hit show right now. So what they’re pushing is, ‘we can’t make it too black, or too Hispanic, or too Asian,’ because they think America — they ask, ‘Will America buy it?’ Well, I am American. This is America.”
And to Toledo, Sinbad makes a promise. “You come out to my show, you’re going to have fun. And you’re gonna hear my point of view, and — those who have not seen me live, you know, you thought I was funny on tape? You need to come and see me live.”