“THE RIPPING SEASON”
(THE RIP MICHEALS INTERVIEW)
BY TONY SPIRES, THE COMEDY DOCTOR
The Bay Area Black Comedy Competition & Festival, The nation’s premiere urban comedy contest and educational festival, breaks records each year as the world’s longest-running showcase of urban comedians. "The Bay Area Black,” turned up the heat this year with a hilarious, star-studded line up of celebrity hosts and lots of young, fresh and funny contestants.
Additionally, the BABCCF expanded its format to a five-day festival that boasted, “Something Funny For Everybody!” The event featured one-on-one interviews, valuable entertainment industry seminars and workshops by day and a celebrity stage play, a VIP Party/talent showcase and the groundbreaking Comedy Competition by night.
This was the BABCCF’s 27th year. Each installment has had it’s own incredible rewards and its unique challenges. 2013 was a landmark year for both. The challenges were simple. If you add two more days of festival, you need two more days and nights of meaningful activities AND the people to attend them. Like I said, simple, right? Thank God for ice water! My wife Rhonda and I made sure we still had some in our veins and we kept it moving! God looked out and it worked out!
In terms of rewards, did I already mention that The Bay showed up? I can’t overly-express the feeling of elation I get when I walk into a full room! I know, I know. A lot of time, energy, prayer and the hard work of lots of people help insure the outcome. Nonetheless, it still gets me high like you can’t believe! I am truly humbled and blessed. A great bonus was having Don “DC” Curry, Kim Coles and the one and only Faizon Love as hosts for the Competition! It was all topped-off with a super-talented field of comics!
One of those exceptionally talented comedians was our 2013 Winner Rip Micheals. He literally attacked the stage and to the audience and judges’ delight, set-off hilarious explosions with each phrase emanating from his voice box. We got together briefly after the smoke settled and had one of those cool conversations I can never have too many of in this business. It went like this…
TS: What’s up, Rip! You did it bruh!
RM: Like I told you on stage, Mr. Spires, ‘Watch what I do with it!
TS: I do remember you saying that and believe me, I’m watching and the industry is watching too! You’re gonna’ be alright! So, let’s do this, Rip. Where were you born?
RM: Chicago, from half Spanish and half African American decent.
TS: What was childhood like?
RM: My childhood was hard. And being a comedian, you know I got beat a lot! I was raised by a mother and father so, that's 2 beatings each time I messed up!
TS: Who were your early influences?
RM: My mother’s hard work ethic!! Comic influences would be Chris Tucker and Martin Lawrence.
TS: Are you married or single?
RM: Single as hell!! That's right, single! “Go home late at night and watch ‘Law & Order’ marathons single!!!” It's just me and my daughter.
TS: Do you see marriage in your future?
RM: Of course!! I just need to meet the right woman… who my daughter approves of.
TS: I understand what you mean about your daughter approving. But what kind of woman are you looking for?
RM: Let’s see… a woman with low self-esteem, deep down unresolved daddy issues and who has been to Planned Parenthood at least once!
TS: (Cracking up while trying to look ashamed of him.) You're wrong for that, Rip!
RM: That was a joke, Mr. Spires! I’m a comedian, remember? Actually, I want a hard working, smart and loyal woman who loves me.
TS: Yes, exactly! (beat) What made you choose comedy?
RM: My principal!! She told me if you’re going to act like a fool at least get paid for it!! Hello!! Comedy full speed ahead!
TS: If not comedy, what would you be doing?
RM: Well, let’s see. I got my B.A. in Economics & Political Science and did one year of law school so.. I probably would have finished and been the funniest lawyer in America. Johnny Cochran Murphy, Martin, Chris Tucker, Micheals!!
TS: I understand you have seven comedy rooms in New York. That sounds like a lot of work! How do you balance all that with parenthood and the rest of your life?
RM: Well actually I have 12 comedy rooms I currently run and host. (TS Note: I think I just got fronted on…) I also do about 50 colleges a year. It can be overwhelming at times but hard work pays off!! Speaking of paying-off, as you know, I won the Bay Area Black!! I just don't have a good personal life. When I'm not working, I’m being a single dad. All my free time goes to the princess Ms. Micheals and whatever’s left, I spend it writing a lot. And I'm currently just finishing up my improv training at UCB in NYC.
TS: I like your commitment to craft and the respect you have for this game. How many years has it been now that you've been a professional stand up?
RM: Nine incredible years!
TS: When did you move to NYC and why?
RM: 8 years ago. Well, after my best friend died.... I got on a Greyhound bus and came to NYC. I had never been there nor did I have any family or friends there, so I slept on the streets of NYC for about a year! That's right, homeless Rip Micheals sleeping on the trains, in parks and under buses, because I knew one day my comedy would take me out that park! My friend always believed in my ability and talent! So I put God first and never looked back. It's funny cause comics in NYC still call me “Backpack Rip,” ‘cause I kept all my clothes in a book bag that I would wear everyday.
TS: Hey, as long as they can’t call you homeless again, right?!
RM: You hear me!!
TS: Compare the Chicago comedy scene to the comedy scene in NYC.
RM: I love Chicago. But Comedy in Chicago is a lot different because it’s not a lot of rooms or spots to do comedy. Thank God for Damon Williams, Deray, Leon Rogers, Tony Scofield and Mary from Jokes & Notes for the stuff we do have!! NYC has so many rooms and places to do comedy. It is the Mecca of comedy. No other place like it on earth. You can do 6 shows a night and it’s such a melting pot!! You have every culture in the world in one city!! NYC is that gym where you go to get your weight up!! Shout out to Smokey, Kareem, Jimmy, Talent, Drew and so many more! It's goes like this: Chicago the home. NYC the gym. LA the showcase.
TS: You know that Kareem and Smokey are past BABCCF Winners, too, right! And Drew was a finalist! NYC definitely holds it down in The Bay! Describe your first BABCCF experience.
RM: So informative! I learned so much about comedy. The seminars, the one on one with the stars and industry people is priceless, especially timing! 10 minutes means 10mins!! I lost because of that last year.
TS: Yes, you were very close to a victory last year. What did you do differently this time to bring it home?
RM: Well first I made sure my set ended at 10mins exactly!! Most important, I made my set this year about my life and added more points of view to my set. Deeper and more personal experiences about life and more act outs and characters.
TS: I hope the comics who enjoy reading, read this interview and especially what you just said! What has been the response from the industry and your peers since the victory?
RM: Amazing! I feel like a rock star! It's has opened up so many doors. NYC and Chicago are excited!! And LA has open up their heart to me! Laugh Factory, Improv, Comedy Store, Comedy Union, Ice House and so many more! Making me close every show!! Thank you Pookey, Spike and Rita!
TS: I understand you just completed a TV show for Starz. How did it go?
RM: The Starz taping was off the chain!! I got a standing ovation! The producer of the show asked me to submit to do an hour special. And Jan at Ice House asked me if I was interested in doing the weekends there. Even the actual owner came over to meet me. He said, “It's the Ripping Season! Rip done killed the club!!”
TS: Congrats, again, bruh! What's next for Rip Michaels?
RM: The world!! I'm on my "Pinky and Brain Tour!!” Trying to take over the world. But seriously, I’m going to do more movies and TV shows and going around the USA showing them why I won!! Planning on doing some more work with Code Black. They have shown me so much love. Thanks Jeff, Tamara and Valerie!
TS: Before we wrap this up, there are a lot of up & coming young talents out there who are looking for inspiration and words of encouragement from a winner. What can you tell them?
RM: Well first of all, I feel like every comic, in order to make it to comedian status, needs to do the Bay Area Black Comedy Competition!! Black, white, purple or brown. There is nothing like it on earth! The knowledge and networking is profound! Win or lose!! Go!! Trust me. Go. And submit early, so get on it! They get 100’s upon 100’s of submissions. So just making the cut means a lot. And if you win be prepared to have all eyes on you! Because the world is going to want to know what you’re made of!!
Every comedian is enthusiastic about winning the BABCCF and they have every right to be. It’s the Competition of Champions! Only time will tell what happens to each of us in life but Rip Micheals is the kind of young man who is ready and willing to face it head on. He’s been doing it all of his life!