Eastern Carolina Style Interviews: Gary Owen

Posted: January 21, 2014 by MichaelSmithNC in All, Comedy, Interview, Stand-Up
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Gary Owen is a fast rising star in comedy today. He has appeared in movies Think Like a Man, Ride Along and will reprise his role as Bennett in this summer’s Think Like a Man Too. He has appeared as a regular on Tyler Perry’s House of Payne. His comedy special Gary Owen: True Story is one of the most popular on Netflix. He has been a part of some of the best comedy tours going today and now he is coming to Raleigh.

Gary Owen is coming to Raleigh, along with the rest of the Top Shelf Comedy Tour, to the Duke Energy Center on January 31st.

MAS – For your show that is coming up, what kind of new material do you have in store for us?

Gary Owen – It is all new material, nothing that is on the internet. I just finished some of my new hour special back in November. Once you do an hour special you try to put that material to bed and you start working on a new album.  The thing about it is nobody in Raleigh has seen it because the album isn’t out yet. So, it will be all new material that’s for sure.

MAS – How has the tour been for you? I know with all your work on TV and in film being on a tour like this has to be different, how is it going for you?

Gary Owen – The tour is actually a little easier than doing comedy clubs. It’s just one a night, you’re in and out. Usually we are doing two cities a week, it’s like you leave home Friday and you are back home Sunday. It gives you all week if you want to film something, if you are on a TV show or you’re filming a movie. It easier to work around your schedule; the tour is the easiest to me.

MAS – Putting the paycheck aside, what would you prefer to do the most; Movies, TV, Touring, Clubs?

Gary Owen – The comedy club is like your gym. That is where you work out all your new stuff, get your timing down, move a joke from the beginning to the end of your set to see where it goes. The big theater shows, like when I come to Raleigh; that’s our game day, like if you were an athlete. That’s when people are getting their hair done and they got their clothes in the cleaners; you know you gotta look good. You gotta give them a good performance because the probably paid a little more than they would in the comedy club. But you are also getting four headliners, instead of one. I think it all works hand-in-hand. One hand feeds the other. It is not like you like one better than the other it is just… With movies and TV, it builds your fan base a lot faster than hitting the road. That is really what, in the end, dictates how many people pay to see you.

MAS – I saw Think Like a Man and loved you in it, you were hilarious. When I saw that all you guys were back together to make Think Like a Man Too, I was like “cool”.

Gary Owen – The sequel, we filmed it all last summer in Vegas. I think it is coming out June 20, that’s the tentative release date. In the sequel, you get to meet my wife, finally. A lot of people have been asking about that. My wife is Wendi McLendon-Covey who is from Bridesmaids; she is on The Goldbergs right now. She also used to be on Reno! 911; that is who my wife is. Our chemistry, on set, is crazy; as a couple. You know, Bennett is kind of like the homebody and you wonder where he gets that from. It’s just funny to see… You are always curious to see what his home life is like, because he is always going home to his wife.  You don’t really know what to expect. I don’t want to give too much away, but we are just a very funny couple.

MAS – In doing some looking at it on IMDB, I was scrolling through the cast list and it looks like this has quite the cast assembled. This could be one of those “sleeper” movies of the year.

Gary Owen – The thing about it is, if you get a summer release as a comedy the studio is thinking two things. Either they are very unhappy with it or they have huge expectations. For them to give us a summer release; that’s when all the blockbusters come out; they are expecting big things from the movie. I’m excited, I can’t wait. Every day we came on set you had no idea who was going to be there. There are some cast members that are not announced that I’m not allowed to say, they are under wraps.

MAS – I get that feeling, Ndamukong Suh, lineman from the Detroit Lions and running back Steven Jackson makes an appearance. That is a little interesting.

Gary Owen – There is a lot more of that, and not just in football. There is some huge entertainers, let me put it that way.

MAS – You have another movie out, Ride Along. Tell me about that one.

Gary Owen – Kevin is gonna get engaged to Ice Cube’s sister. Ice Cube goes, “You wanna be a cop, I’m gonna take you on a ride along”. It’s like a play on Training Day, with Denzel and Ethan Hawke. It’s like a comedic version of it. So he takes him on a ride along and shows him all these scenarios during the day. Basically, what happens is I have a grocery store held hostage and Ice Cube tells Kevin, “You need to go arrest this guy. This guy doesn’t have a gun, you can handle this one.” Kevin doesn’t handle me very well. To anybody that doesn’t like Kevin Hart, you are going to enjoy my character; I beat the shit out of him.

MAS – You know, comedy seems to go in cycles. Ten years ago, Chappelle was the thing, before that you had Jeff Foxworthy as the thing. Today, guys like Kevin Hart are becoming the thing. That cycle seems to keep comedy getting better and better and more dynamic. Do you think you would be as successful as you are now, 10-15 years ago?

Gary Owen – Here’s the thing about this business, you never know when your number gets called. Just have to be ready. That is what I tell comics, be ready. What I always tell up and coming comics, the best way to make it in this business as an up and coming comic is be on time for the show and do your time while you are that show. Which means, if you are scheduled to do 15 minutes, do 15. Don’t do 25 or 30, do 15. Then the other comics will be like, “Oh ok, you know, I wanna work with him. He does what he’s told.”

You had the Kings of Comedy there for a minute. It went from them to Mike Epps. You know Mike Epps has really sustained for the last 10 years. It kinda went Chappelle and then Katt for a second and then now it is Kevin, probably. You just never know. I’m being funny of course, but it’s like an email goes out to the country saying “this is who we’re going to go see now.” Some unknown email gets sent to everyone in the country, “Alright, this is the comic right now, this is who we are all going to go see.”

MAS – In your touring history, you have obviously been through North Carolina before. Where all have you been?

Gary Owen – I’ve been to Charlotte, to the BoJangles Arena. I’ve done that a few times. Me and Mike Epps were on tour last year, so we hit every major market. Raleigh, obviously I have done Charlie Goodnight’s numerous times. I’ve done all the colleges in Raleigh, every single one. I think I’ve done the two-year school; I’ve done some many schools in Raleigh. The Shaq tour came there a year and a half ago. I like Raleigh; I like it a lot. It’s a clean city.

MAS – As far as the crowds go from city to city how do your audiences change or are they pretty consistent everywhere you go.

Gary Owen – Well I make the joke that I have to be the only comic in the history of comedy that has to crossover into my own race. Black people know me; it’s the white people that are finally getting to know me now. It’s funny, at the airport or malls when black people see me and they ask for a picture, you see the white people going, “well who is it?”

MAS – That’s something else too about you that I think is truly funny. Watching your standup, I’m watching the audience go nuts laughing. Then they will do the camera shots of the one or two white guys in the audience that are afraid to laugh. They are like, “He can get away with, but can I get away with that?”

Gary Owen – I don’t think that it is they are afraid to laugh, I think they are in shock that the crowd is in such hysterics over a white dude. They are like, “I never thought I’d see this.” A lot of the time, if you look at the crowd, the white guys or white girls are looking at the audience members. They are like “Whoa!” It’s almost like seeing a Johnny Manziel play or seeing a white guy win a 100 meter dash at the Olympics. You are not expecting it, so when you see it you are like, “Whoa, did I just see that?”

It is changing, especially over the last year. A lot of it can be attributed to Think Like a Man and me being on Netflix. Now they are getting familiar with me. Now you are getting lots of people paying to see me and they don’t care who else is out there. In the past the black people were paying to see me and the white people might be coming just to see a comedy show just to go to get a night out.

MAS – Every comedian is good for a stinker or two during their careers, you haven’t had one yet. How have you kept you material at such a high quality?

Gary Owen – It’s odd; I don’t have a lot of joke jokes like with setups, middles and punchlines. A lot of them have just been stories about my life. Honestly, my act is my life on HGH and steroids. It is really my life; I am just adding stuff into it to be funnier.

That’s why it is always important to hit the comedy clubs because that’s where you really work out your material. There’s jokes like my Black and White Church joke, when I first wrote that joke it was a one-liner that I used on a Sunday night where I said, “Glad you guys made it out of church because I barely made it here.” The crowd went into hysterics and I was like ‘whoa, there is something here’. I took down a note that just said, “Black Church.” Let me keep working on this.

Something else about that joke in particular. People would want me to do that joke and I don’t really do it anymore. So what I did was, in my newest hour special, which we filmed back in November in Atlanta, I’m gonna open that special with the church skit. Like I really turned the joke into a skit now, it’s going to be me going into the black church; you see me reacting. I did it at a real black church and I hired real church members; I didn’t hire actors and actresses. It came out so funny; I can’t wait for everybody to see it.

MAS – I know it is a really old joke too, but your “Boy Bands” routine… It has the funny words, but then the physicality that you put into it just put it over the top. You would do very well in an improv type thing.

Gary Owen – A lot of times I do that. A lot of times when I am at The Improv or Funny Bones I will close my show and just say, “What do you guys want to talk about?” I’ll get jokes out of that as folks yell stuff out. It’ not me attacking the audience, it’s me having fun with them.

MAS – One of my buddies sent me a YouTube clip of you handling some heckler named “Dusty”…

Gary Owen – Aww crap, yeah!

There’s some backstory to that. I was getting ready to do the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. I live in Cincinnati, so I drove up to the Dayton Funny Bone because I wanted to work on my 5 minute set. It was open-mic night, so they were going to have me close the show.

So this guy, named Dusty, had heckled all the open-micers and they were getting ready to kick him out. I said, “Don’t kick him out, put me up next. Don’t kick him out, I’ll handle him.” So I was standing up for the young guys that couldn’t. So they put me up about half-way through the show instead of closing it and that’s when I just attacked the dude; he ended up leaving. They only showed about 5 minutes on YouTube, I went at him for about 45. He was done.

It’s funny, there was only about 100 people in Dayton Funny Bone that night but you would think there was thousands. I get it all the time, “Dude, I saw you handle Dusty” and I’m like, “No you didn’t there was like 100 people in the room that night.”

MAS – I admit, it was on YouTube for me because I don’t live anywhere near there… When you broke out “The Whistle” joke on him…

Gary Owen – <Laughing Hard> I don’t know where that came from. I hadn’t told that joke before and I haven’t old it since.

MAS – You were in the Navy and decided to pursue comedy afterwards. You won Funniest Black Comedian in San Diego. I think that is hilarious on its own. You were the one and only white guy to ever host BET’s Comic View. What do you attribute that crossover success to? It can’t just be because of being in an inter-racial relationship; I’ve done that and got nowhere near the level of acceptance you have.

Gary Owen – Dave Chappelle said it a long time ago that most comics start comedy because they have always wanted to do it, and they want to try it. Before you start thinking about it as a business or money. Another reason comics go into comedy is to pick up girls, you find out girls like you.

For some reason, I don’t know what it is, I always liked black girls. I don’t know why. I always say it was like being gay. Gay guys know they are gay but they don’t want to come out the closet because they are scared of the backlash they will get. It was the same way with me growing up. I was like, “I really find black girls attractive” but I don’t want to say anything because it wasn’t always cool.

The reason that I am accepted, and white, is because I am the same guy onstage and off. I’m not a character onstage; my pants aren’t sagging I’m not using black lingo to get the jokes across. When I first got on scene some black comics were kind of standoffish because they were like, “Let me see what he’s about.” Since then, I’ve been accepted in the black community, especially with black comics, because, “Ok, he’s being genuine with this stuff. He’s really married to a black girl; he really does have mixed kids.”

I think a lot of times when the only black comedy you know is the Apollo or Def Jam you don’t give black audiences enough credit. With me, I’m just myself and that’s all they have wanted. They don’t want you to be a character, just be yourself.

I think a lot of white comics don’t take that chance with black audiences; they don’t market themselves toward it. Just because of that fact, “I don’t want to get booed.”

"Think Like a Man" Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals


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