I got the AMAZING opportunity to interview comedy legend Jonathan Slocumb, and here is it is!
Li’el: My first question would have to be – how does it feel to be selected as the comedian to host “Groundbreaking Comedy” on the ASPIRE network? What are some of the highlights of doing this TV show for you?
Jonathan Slocumb: I am honored to be a part of this incredible launch of an amazing and unforgettable network – it is quite an honor!
The highlights of doing this show for me was that those at ASPIRE acquired the rights to actually run 19 episodes of Groundbreaking Comedies that were previously aired in years past. And ironically the first 3 shows Magic Johnson decided to acquire the rights to were actually three of my favorite shows of all time. One of which being the Bill Cosby show; the first black man to have his name on a sitcom. The other being the Fred Wilson show, because there would never have been an Arsenio Hall if it was not for Fred Wilson, the first African-American to ever bring a variety show to prime time. Then there was the first ever African-American female to be featured on sitcom prime time TV show, Diane Carroll.
Li’el: How did it feel when you heard/realized that you hold the record for hosting the Main Stage of ESSENCE Music Festival for 7 years in a row? Why is that event special to you, and what made you want to come back and host it each time?
Slocumb: I didn’t realize it honestly, and it went by so fast – but the fact is that goes along with what I give the networks and the format of the show – they trust me to be able to provide hosting responsibilities without being a presence of obscenity and offensiveness. To provide a degree of class; so many businesses and corporations depend on that. I’m not looking for the notoriety that other kinds of comedians who offer other kinds of comedy do. I am blessed to be able to hold hosting responsibilities and do it respectively and unforgettably.
Slocumb: That’s a great story. I’m this guy – I don’t mind stepping to anybody, I don’t mind conversing with anybody. I am out audience hosting at the image awards one year. And Tyler Perry was the host of the image awards that year with Halle Berry. I had never met him face to face before, so I walked over and I said “Tyler my name is” and he stopped me and he said “I know who you are.” And I said “Oh OK thank-you I didn’t know you knew who I was,” and he said “Of course I know who you are.” So I said “Thank you I think.” He said, “I admire your work and I think you do an incredible job…” So I said, “Well thank-you a lot, it’s good to have your attention. You know I know there’s an incredible line of people trying to work with you. I want to work with you on one of your movies. I have never been in a motion picture before, and I want my first one to be one of yours.” So he said, “Alright you’re in. I’m going to write you in.” So I said “What am I supposed to do?” So he said, “Do your best with the opportunity.” So I ended up getting a script and getting lines and getting to work with my favorite actor Tyler Perry.
Li’el: If you could pick a moment from the filming of the movie that was most memorable, or your favorite part what would you pick?
Slocumb: Unfortunately, the audience didn’t get to see some of the funniest moments that we didn’t air. At the end of the movie Angela Bassett‘s character and Hall of Famer Rick Fox had a scene, where I play the minister who married them. So there is this moment where I say, I now pronounce you husband and wife. Well, first of all, they had to do a couple of retakes, I think on purpose. I remember the time spent during the filming of that scene was hilarious.
Li’el: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received from someone speaking into your life?
Slocumb: There is an incredible baritone singer Wintley Phipps he has an incredible voice, and he is one of the people that’s on my list of singers I impersonate. We both went to the same college, but not at the same time. He had a saying he would always say at his concerts, and I asked him if I could adopt the phrase and use it to encourage other people. And that phrase is I will not compromise self to be recognized. I love that and I share it with everybody on every level.
Li’el: What advice would you have to give to young comedians coming up after you about the industry?
Slocumb: First and foremost I get asked this question all the time because I am considered a comedy legend right now – because I’m older! This is what I tell them – you know in this day and age you become successful because of your fans – you have to know your demographic. I was in a hotel one time after finishing a gig and I saw a former NFL quarterback and he called me over because his mother recognized me. And then they invited me to their party they were having the next night. So I ended up going, and one of the sponsors was an alcohol company. She came up to me and said :Oh wow I was just trying to think up a host for this tour that I am trying to do with college students and I think you would be perfect for that!” And I told her actually, I would not be perfect for that! I don’t relate well to the hip hop generation. I think there would be someone else more suited for that. At the end of the day I know who my audience is. I also know if you stay in the game long enough, the fans you had while you were younger will grow up – and you want your core demographic to stay with you.
Li’el: How do you balance everything that you do, and what would you say is your source of strength?
Slocumb: My personal beliefs in God. And I don’t practice anything, I just have a right connection with God. I believe that if he opens up doors and opportunities I need to be ready. Then the earthly part of that is I have a son, and I want him to have the best life possible. And certainly, my father, who is deceased, would be very proud of my accomplishments, and I try to be successful and be everything that I can be.
Li’el: What do you think is the value or principle you must hold onto to make it in this industry?
Slocumb: The internet can make or break you in 1.3 seconds. Principles have gone out the window, because unfortunately anything goes and the more out there you are, the more successful you are going to be. So I would say you don’t want to have products that don’t have good shelf life, that you would be embarrassed, or that your family or loved ones would be embarrassed by.
Li’el: If you could leave your audience with one thought, and they not get anything else from this interview, what would it be?
Slocumb: Well I would say that whatever you want to do in your life, if you are not already doing it, be sure that you are ready for the opportunity. You have to always be prepared. I went to this award show where Michael Jordan was being honored. And in 1997 I did my first comedy album called Laugh Yourself to Life and I make a little comment that Michael Jordan is the best person to interview after a game but he is sometimes too nice. And then went on to say when the newscasters list all the highlights, Michael Jordan speaks about how it was a collective effort from the team. He should be like “I’m Jordan,” and walk away. About three days later after I make this comment I’m in my hotel room and my cell phone rings. The person on the other end of the phone says “This is Michael Jordan.” I reply “Hey who is this man?” And I hang up. Then I get another call and his assistant tells me that she and Michael thought I was fantastic and they wanted me to host the launching of his new clothing line. So they wanted me to get on a flight and come down. You can hear Michael Jordan in the background saying, “Is he coming, is he coming?” If I wasn’t ready, then I wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of this opportunity.
I hope that story was as inspirational to you, as it was to me!! Keep reading, and enjoy your MONDAY!