CONVERSATIONS WITH THE COMEDY DOCTOR
SMOKEY: HARLEM’S FINEST
BY TONY SPIRES
Recently on a warm Spring night in Oakland, California, in an historic art deco theatre that harkens back to an era long since past, an east coast stand-up showed everyone in attendance why comedy is still the king of entertainment. Harlem, NY Comedian Smokey, aka Derron Edington, lit up the Paramount theatre stage, took the show to the next level and closed the 2007 Bay Area Black Comedy Competition & Festival in classic winner-take-all style and his own original flavor.
Quiet and unassuming from his outer appearance and virtually unknown to west coast audiences this extremely physical and high-energy comedian set the entire four-night-seven-show festival on fire. Smokey took Bay Area comedy lovers by a reverberating storm that was light years away from anything remotely resembling quiet. Anyone who knows yours truly knows that I’m not one for undue hype. I was there. I witnessed it all first hand. He’s funny and as funny as this brutha is, Smokey is no joke.
Now that the smoke (not too much of a pun intended) has cleared I had a chance to get up with Smokey and have a chop it up with him about his career, his life off-stage and about his exceptional comedic talent.
TONY: Smoke, welcome to “Conversations With The Comedy Doctor.” I told you we were going to do this, didn’t I?
SMOKEY: No doubt big Tone. Good lookin’ out!
TONY: Smoke, Congratulations. You are now among the Hall Of Fame ranks of some of urban comedy’s biggest and brightest stars. I know it’s only been a few weeks since the Finals but what does it feel like to be the winner of one the nation’s premiere comedy competitions?
SMOKEY: I feel really excited about the competition, especially being the first one from New York to win it. My heart was still pumping kool aid two days after the show!
TONY: New York was definitely in the building! Big up to Drew Fraser! My brutha, you were on fire! In fact you were… smokin'! I actually saw "extreme concern" on some of the other comics’ faces when you took the stage that first Saturday night in the preliminary rounds. What kind of mindset did you bring to the Bay Area?
SMOKEY: I had to isolate myself during the Competition. There were a lot of funny comedians on the show .I didn’t want to get caught up with what the other comedians were doing. I didn’t listen to their jokes. I listened to their laughs. All I kept thinking was that, “I want this!”
TONY: Yo, you wanted it and you took it! Your act is full of physicality and street observations. How did you choose what material to bring to Oakland for the Competition?
SMOKEY: I felt all I had to do was be myself. There is a ‘me’ in every neighborhood. I just went with the flow and had fun.
TONY: How long have you been doing stand up? Let me rephrase that. How long has it been since you’ve been confident about stand up comedy and knew that you had something special?
SMOKEY: I've been doing comedy professionally for ten years, but I caught my first standing ovation when I was 1 years old. My whole family was in the living room. I left there and came back with a shi**y Pamper on my head and chased everybody. It was more like a “running ovation.”
TONY: Smokey, how did choose that stage name?
SMOKEY: My grandmother gave me that name because I'm dark skinned. My mother is African American. My father is Hispanic. I just happened to take after my father’s mother who happens to be dark skinned. So I'm really the black sheep of the family.
TONY: Your material sounds authentic. By that I mean, it doesn’t look like someone wrote your jokes for you or that you use someone else’s experiences and talk about them. Where do you get your subject matter and your extremely unique material?
SMOKEY: I grew up in the hood so I had a lot to work with and plus I have a crazy family so that helped. Like I tell a lot of comedians, you have to live life to come up with jokes. You can't just go home one night and say, “I'm gonna write some jokes.” You have to experience them in some sort of way.
TONY: Dig it. Smoke, you give very humorous and yet very detailed depictions of street life in your act. The authenticity of your characterizations is astounding. Where does all of that insight come from?
SMOKEY: From living it, plus I'm nosey. I always had a habit of watching people and mimicking them.
TONY: I see you as a cool hip-hop cat with old school jazz substance and flavor. When I watch your act it reminds me of how the late great Richard Pryor used to use his unique gift to ingeniously bring the hood and the plight of Black people right into every racial group’s consciousness. He kept it edgy and he always kept it extremely funny. What do you think Richard would talk about on stage if he were still among us today?
SMOKEY: He'd probably be talking about our retarded ass president. He'd have so much to talk about he'd probably do a 3-hour special.
TONY: What do you think about the present state of Black Comedy?
SMOKEY: Black comedy is at an all time high right now. Every network on TV wants black comedy. You don't even have to be famous to make it nowadays.
TONY: What are your other talents?
SMOKEY: Well I’m also an actor. You can see me in Roc-A-Fellas Paper Soldiers with Kevin Hart, Death of the Dynasty, Fulgazi, State Property 2, Life on the Ledge and Twisted Cap with Charlie Murphy. Also, I’m a hell of a cook.
TONY: What did you do before you became a stand up?
SMOKEY: Did a little bit of everything carpentry, warehouse organizer, unsuccessful drug dealer-you name it.
TONY: Why comedy?
SMOKEY: Comedy is my life. I really feel I was born to make people laugh. And nothing makes me feel better than putting a smile on someone’s face.
TONY: What would you do if you didn't do comedy?
SMOKEY: If I didn’t do comedy I would be boxing. My grandfather was a professional boxer and I trained since I was 12years old. Just before I started comedy I stopped boxing.
TONY: How would you describe a "Smokey" set?
SMOKEY: The best way to describe my set is “Red Bull,” full of energy.
TONY: Where are you from originally?
SMOKEY: I was born and raised in Harlem New York.
TONY: What was your first big break?
SMOKEY: My first break came when a girl I went to high school with was promoting a show at Columbia University that Tracey Morgan was headlining. Another friend of mine told her how funny I was and she threw me on the show. After that I won the Bud Lite comedy competition and never looked back.
TONY: Where do you want comedy to take you?
SMOKEY: I would love the opportunity to do more movies, and also some writing. I'm writing my own movie right now.
TONY: That’s what’s up. More comics should write their stories. There’s at least one screenplay in everybody. Now the ladies out there are probably wondering if this cool, funny brutha with mad cooking skills is married or single. What’s up?
SMOKEY: I’m in a relationship. I hope to be married one day.
TONY: Who have been your major influences?
SMOKEY: Lenny Bruce for breaking the barriers, Richard Pryor, but also some of the comedians today such as Katt Williams, who I would definitely say is on fire. And the comedians I grew up around: Mike Epps, Tracey Morgan, Kevin Hart and Capone.
TONY: How do you spell r-e-l-a-x-a-t-i-o-n?
TONY: You’re on that tropical flavor huh? I heard that! I don’t know you all that well but you seem to be at peace, Smoke. What's your credo, motto or your life's guiding principal?
SMOKEY: “Nobody loves ya when ya wack! Because you’re only good as your last set.”
TONY: What words of wisdom can you impart to young comics or aspiring comics?
SMOKEY: Follow your heart. If you love it, it'll love you back. Stay on stage. And don't be afraid to talk about your life.
TONY: What else is coming up for Smokey?
SMOKEY: I have a few projects I'm working on right now, mostly movies and voiceovers. And I'm filming my first one-man show on DVD.
TONY: Smoke, whatever you do in this business, I have a feeling that you’re gonna’ do it well. All the best to you my brutha. I’m sure we’ll meet up down the block. Thanks for coming through.
SMOKEY: My pleasure, big Tone. Holla at ya boy!
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Catch clips of Smokey’s Bay Area Black Comedy Competition-winning sets at www.ComedyEntertainmentNetwork.com. Smokey can be contacted at: email@example.com, www.myspace.com/smokeyedington or by phone at: (646)320-3683.
CEN VIDEO EXCLUSIVE
2007 Bay Area Black Comedy Competition Champion
Shares a Sneak Peek into his upcoming set with the Comedy Doctor Just Hours Before his Winning Performance
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