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Q&A: Comedian Godfrey talks about his Boston show, 'SNL' controversies, and more

Posted by Matthew Juul  February 6, 2014 04:18 PM

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(Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

Comedian Godfrey, who is set to perform at Laugh Boston Feb. 6-8, chatted with Boston.com during a phone interview Wednesday to preview his upcoming show. Check out what the former "Zoolander" and "Soul Plane" actor had to say about the state of comedy in 2014, last weekend's Super Bowl, recent controversies at "Saturday Night Live," and more.

Boston.com: I know you got your start performing in Chicago and New York. How does the Boston comedy scene compare those cities and other places where you’ve performed?

Godfrey: It’s kind of the same, I think Boston and Chicago are kind of similar. Sort of small, but still good cities. New York differs because it’s so much bigger and has so much more stimulants. There’s a lot of really funny people that have come out of Boston that I’ve known for a long time like Bill Burr, Robert Kelly, Dane Cook, Patrice O’Neal, of course, Nick Dipaolo, Louis C.K. I mean, Boston breeds a lot of funny people. Maybe it’s because of the anger in Boston. Just like Chicago. There’s something about cities with anger.

BDC: So you live in New York and were in the area for the Super Bowl. What did you think of the game?

Godfrey: It was a good guys’ Super Bowl. I love both teams – and you got to love Peyton Manning and you got to love Russell Wilson – two different generations. The Seahawks, they haven’t won anything, they don’t gain championships. And I thought they beat the crap out of Peyton Manning, they had his number. They just slaughtered them. The defense was unbelievable.

BDC: You used to play football for your high school’s varsity team. What team do you root for?

Godfrey: Favorite team, being from Chicago, is the Bears, of course. You love all your Chicago teams. The Blackhawks – I think Boston knows about the Blackhawks. I grew up around the Cubs -- too bad they don’t win. But, I’m a New York fan too, I’m a big Yankee fan, I don’t live too far from Yankees Stadium. I like the Giants. People go, “You from Chicago, how can you like other teams?” But it’s not that bad. Nowadays, teams, they don’t even keep players long. Players go from different teams to teams, so nowadays I like players, I like different teams, depending on who’s playing who. It varies.

BDC: Recently on Twitter, you talked about how the comedy scene has changed over the years. What are your thoughts on the art of stand-up in the age of Vine, Youtube, Twitter, etc.?

Godfrey: It’s cool. Youtube is OK. Nowadays it’s all about social media. It’s cool because people can get into your stuff quicker now. You put up a Youtube video, you have people from different countries telling you, “Hey, come to our country and do comedy!” It’s like the world is all connected again. It’s like Pangea again with Youtube and Instagram and Facebook. It’s cool for comedy as far as reaching people, it’s almost like a visual résumé.

But then there’s the other side to it, the dangerous side. You may see a guy or girl that puts up a Youtube video of their comedy and it’s maybe five minutes and it gets millions of hits. And then some club goes, “Hey, we want you to come to our club.” And that person only has that five minutes! They kind of fool people, it’s almost false advertising. That’s the danger behind it.

BDC: How do you approach creating content for these new mediums?

Godfrey: You always think, “Well, if I put this out there, I’ll get about a million hits.” Nope, that’s not it either because there’s so much stuff to look at, you’re just another video floating around. So it’s a chance you take. You kind of have to throw up a bunch of stuff so it can stick. Before that stuff, you felt a little special when you did something, even though it was harder to find people. I don’t know. People paid more attention because they didn’t have this kind of resource. But now it’s like, it’s actually worse I think. You can have stuff on Youtube and people can be animals instead of humans, like, “Let’s go watch this cat ride a bike,” but you just put up some of your best material!

Also, you have a lot of people who have access to your material. You can have people who actually copy your whole routine. That’s another danger. But what are you going to do?

BDC: Beyond the realm of social media, what have you been up to?

Godfrey: Doing a lot of road work, which is great, playing different comedy clubs all over the country and overseas. I’m working on the second season of a show with Shaquille O’Neal on TruTV. It’s called “Upload” with Shaq. It’s like a video show, Rachel Feinstein and other funny comedians cohost, and of course, crazy Shaquille O’Neal. It’s almost like “Tosh.O,” but with three people. There’s plenty of content so might as well make a show out of it. So that’s what I’ve been doing and sort of self create my own type of projects and stuff like that. So far so good you know.

BDC: What inspired you to get into comedy?

Godfrey: Growing up watching “The Tonight Show,” Johnny Carson, watching a lot of Bill Cosby, Eddie Murphy especially. Eddie Murphy really made you want to become a comedian, for black or white, any kind of comic – whether you’re black, Spanish, white – he made you want to become a comedian, man, because he took it to rock star status and you’re like, “I want to be like that guy!” College is when I started thinking about it. I really felt that I had a unique angle to my style. I really take pride in the fact that I’m different than people. Especially being in comedy, it is all about, like, sex, like if you’re a woman, it’s about race. It’s a lot of significance of what you are, in comedy, whether people want to know that or not. You do use your ethnic background or your sex to kind of… it’s like the driving force when you’re on stage. The fact that I was African American, at the start, I felt I would be really good at comedy because I would have a different angle. I won’t say what people expect. So I kind of dig the stereotypes racially because I always went the opposite way. A good example is like a Hannibal Burress. You look at Hannibal and you go, “Wow, this dude is totally alternative, but I thought he’d be laying some Def Jam comedy.” But no! It’s a beautiful thing. That’s the one thing that really motivates me to do stand up.

BDC: Speaking about race in comedy, what’s your take on the controversy surrounding “Saturday Night Live!” and its hiring of black female comedians?

Godfrey: SNL should be ashamed of themselves, I think personally. The fact that it took this controversy to even consider black women and for Keenan [Thompson] to be really, really just irresponsible for saying that. I almost thought that, well, maybe he’s saying that almost to cause controversy, you know. He’s really just saying that to put black women down, and it was almost like SNL agreed with him. I love Keenan, he’s a nice guy, but for him to say that in public, as hard as black women are having it in this industry and are not even considered to be a force in comedy – which is stupid by the way. One of the biggest comedians ever is Whoopi Goldberg, as far as black women. She’s one of the funniest people on the planet. It would have been neat if Whoopi spoke up. I think Whoopi could have really caused some damage being on “The View.” Whoopi should have really stuck it to them. That would have been really nice.

The fact that they might be finding some black women now is almost a forced thing. When they get on there, it’s going to be almost like, “Well, you’re on our show, but we’re going to let you know how insignificant you are on the show.” So it might be even worse when they get on there. I’m afraid of the quality of the sketches that might be on there. I don’t know. It’s almost like that there’s this… I don’t know. It’s like this slight that Lorne Michaels has against minorities. There’s not even any Asians, let’s be real. There aren’t even any Asians and there are a lot of funny Asians in comedy and they don’t have any Asians. It’s like, are Asians only good enough to date? I mean honestly, there are Asians in comedy that are really doing some damage like a Helen Hong, who’s funny as hell, why is she not on “Saturday Night Live!”? She could really do something on that show. There’s a lot of division in comedy, a lot of it.

The beautiful thing about it is that you can always express it when you get on stage. You can express anything you feel like when you get on that stage and that’s the great thing about it.

BDC: You were pretty vocal on Twitter about Macklemore winning all the rap categories at the Grammys. What are your thoughts on that?

Godfrey: The fact that Macklemore won, that’s a big responsibility of, to me, African American rappers. That’s what you get. If you felt like you got robbed, well you robbed yourself by all this garbage you’ve been putting out. All this [expletive] music. Shame on all those rappers for being that horrible. The fact that we got to look to Justin Timberlake for R & B – I’m done. It’s [expletive]. I’m not knocking these guys doing their little thing, but, uh-uh. I’m sorry. I’m talking to you as an African American, and African American music is the greatest music ever that’s ever touched this planet. Period. Any other kind of music is an offspring of it. And I grew up on real artists. Period.

It’s no different than comedy. No different than comedy. I grew up on funny people. I grew up watching very, very funny people. Women or black or white, I grew up on funny people. That’s what I grew up on. Nowadays, there’s a lot of horrible comedy going on too. Now, I’m not saying I’m the king of comedy, I’m not for everybody. But I know what funny is. I know what I grew up on. I respected the comics that I saw. I saw Bill Cosby on TV. Listen, it don’t get any better than these guys. Maybe I’m spoiled, maybe I’m old school, whatever. Good stuff is good stuff, bad stuff is bad stuff. I don’t care how old you are.

BDC: So who is pushing comedy in the right direction?

Godfrey: You got the Louis C.K.’s, you got guys like Kurt Metzger. There’s guys like Jay Orbison. A lot of New York guys. I’m sure there’s guys and girls in other cities too, like Rachel Feinstein. You got other girls in others cities and guys in other cities, people who are just themselves and just trying to be funny.

And not knocking the alternative scene, but even the alternative scene has become hacky. It’s just this whole flow of these really try hard alternative people. It’s like, what’s going on? Even black comedy has become hacky. You got guys who just watch Youtube and act like every black person acts like this. Black comics are disappointing me. Everybody is on every level. No one is being an individual and saying, “I’m going to be myself and find my own voice.” I’m not saying you can’t be influenced by anybody, I was influenced by a lot of comics when I started off trying to find my way, but it comes to a point where you have to be like, let me be myself.

And hit the mark man! Be funny! Comedy’s a sport – I don’t care what anybody says. You got shows to practice, you got to practice to hit the ball. Period. All this other [expletive], I don’t know what’s going on. Like what happened to funny? Get to the laughs! How’s that.

BDC: To finish up on a lighter note, what can fans expect from your show this weekend?

Godfrey: Expect the unexpected. One show may differ from the other show depending on how I feel, depending on the audience, depending on what I want to say, depending on my train of thought. As long as it ends up funny, man. Period.

And I don’t ever like to give the audience any kind of power to know what I’m going to do. It’s like a sport. I pitch but I keep the glove up in front of my face. You don’t know what I’m about to throw.

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