For Tommy Davidson, stand-up comes firstWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Tommy Davidson may have crashed into the public spotlight on the classic sketch comedy show “In Living Color” in 1990, but like all overnight sensations, he had worked for years to get there.
Davidson first began in comedy in the mid-’80s, working clubs as a stand-up comic. He’s getting perilously close to 30 years in show business. And as he reflected upon all that time onstage and touring the world, he said he’s grown as a person — which, in turn, has helped him grow as a comic.
“Individually, I can do more,” Davidson said in an interview with Toledo Free Press Star. “I have more skills, you know. And my mind — I guess my material base is broadening with me. Whereas I was traveling around the country, now I’m traveling around the world. So, anything that I experience, my stand-up experiences, you know? Where that way, I’ve just grown, as a human.”
Davidson will be bringing all such experiences to his upcoming shows at Fat Fish Blue Home of the Funny Bone, in Perrysburg, on June 24 and 25. Beyond how he’s evolved, however, the veteran comic also has some pointed thoughts about how his business has changed in the past few decades.
“Stand-up is dumbing down. It takes less. People can have less and do more. In other words, you can do a little, and it can be seen by more people, because of the Internet and things like that. And the comedy specials are far between, whereas before — 10 years ago, maybe 15 years ago — the comedy business was driven on specials.”
Davidson, one of the most insightful and intelligent conversationalists one could hope for on the subject of comedy, said the rise of the Web hasn’t changed the way he does stand-up, but it has changed the way audiences experience it.
“I approach it the same, it’s just that I get seen more. I can show up, just randomly at some small club, and the next thing you know, it’s on the Internet. So, you know, there’s no comedy secrets. I’ll be seen, no matter what,” he said. “People will say, ‘Man, I saw you last night at the Improv in Oxnard.’ I’m like, How did you see that?”
Davidson added that another challenge lies in developing new material.
“It’s harder, because I’m an actual working comedian, so time to work on new stuff is hard, because I work on my new stuff from the stage. If I just wrote everything, there’d be no problem — I’d just write everything and go and do it. But you know, you have to work at it, you know? Work, perfect the bits. That takes work onstage. How you perfect a bit, and work it onstage, while you’re entertaining at the same time.”
Most of Davidson’s fame has come from his television and film appearances, which can’t really showcase his remarkable versatility. He stated that, for him, it’s all about being onstage.
“That is the thrill. That’s the thrill over everything else. Because it’s the ultimate freedom. No one tells you what to do; it all comes from you. You’re the originator, the generator. So that’s cool.”
That’s not to say Davidson has completely forsaken other media, of course. He garnered many positive notices for his work on the satire “Black Dynamite,” and is currently working on a new film as well. He expressed disappointment at not having made more headway in movies.
“You always want to be able to do what you do. And basically, I’m working on getting my own projects going. And if you’re not a movie star and you’re not in movies, then, you know — it’s like being an NBA star and not being able to get into the game,” he said. “So, you just keep on shooting the ball, you’ll get in there.”
Davidson also still gives full credit to “In Living Color,” the many fond memories of which help inspire the continued visibility he has among comedy fans.
“It’s everything,” he said. “That’s what brings people out to see me. That’s what feeds the whole machine, you know?”
But Davidson is keen on forging new memories among fans, especially a club stage like Fat Fish Blue. Because stand-up is what it’s all about.
“It’s the ultimate self-expression. There’s no editing. Nobody else has the final say. That’s what it means to me.”