When you get bitten by the comedy bug, sometimes there is nothing you can do but throw caution to the wind follow your dream. Such is the case with the always hilarious Rod Man. Best known as the winner of “Last Comic Standing Season 8,” his unique delivery and voice have captured the attention of diverse audiences around the nation. Throw in his laid-back style, southern charm, wit and ability to find the funny in everyday life, and you have the ingredients for a future comedy star.
His journey started when his love of the art form inspired him to sign up for open mic nights at Atlanta’s Uptown Comedy Club, hosted by the hilarious Earthquake. “Uptown was the place to be on Tuesday nights. The place was packed. You never knew who would stop in and do a guest spot. And you never really knew when you were going to hit the stage, because the list meant absolutely nothing to Earthquake.” Since those open mic nights, Rod became an award-winning, quintessential entertainer. He graced the stage at Caesar’s Palace, The Gibson Amphitheater, and The Apollo Theater. He is currently the host of his own YouTube shows — ‘Time Out with Rod Man’ and ‘That Good Funny.’
Besides his amazing stint on “Last Comic Standing,” Rod Man’s other impressive television appearances include “The Bad Boys of Comedy” for HBO, Martin Lawrence’s “First Amendment” for Starz, Nick Cannon’s “Wild ‘N Out” for MTV, “One Mic Stand” for BET, “The Funny Spot” for TV One, and “The World Stands Up” for BBC America. He even co-hosted a morning drive-time show in Los Angeles on Stevie Wonder-owned KJLH Radio/102.3 FM. However, his considerable talent isn’t limited to the comedy club as he is also an actor and writer, known for his roles in “Funny People” (2009) with Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen, “The Big Black Comedy Show, Vol. 2” (2005), and “The Chocolate Sundaes Comedy Show” (2013).
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Rod man to discuss his comedic roots, the impact of winning ‘Last Comic Standing’ on his skyrocketing career, the lessons he has learned along the way and what the future might hold for this star on the rise!
Lets go all the way back to the beginning. How did you get involved with comedy?
I grew up in the Atlanta area and initially started comedy after being inspired by “Def Comedy Jam,” “Showtime at the Apollo” and “Evening at the Improv.” I got my start at the Uptown Comedy Club in Atlanta at a Tuesday night open mic. That was my start about 20 years ago! I have been doing it ever since. I started regionally and worked my way around the country!
Was there a point when you knew comedy was something you had to pursue as a career?
I always knew that there was something in me in a creative sense. I used to try to write songs. I knew there was something I was supposed to be doing to be entertaining but I couldn’t sing, so I knew that wasn’t it! The thing about comedy is that once you do it, you get a high from it. They say there is no other feeling like it and they are right! Once I started I couldn’t stop and it was my drug of choice!
Who were some of the biggest influences on you as a performer?
When I first started, I remember watching “Def Comedy Jam” and seeing Martin Lawrence. I knew of Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby and Eddie Murphy before then and they were like gods to me. When Def Jam came out, it was like cats who kinda looked like me and were doing raunchy comedy. Then I saw Chris Tucker and he was from Atlanta as well. I looked in the Yellow Pages and found the comedy club. He was probably the first person I had seen from my area that made me think I could do it as well. When I went to the club, I saw Earthquake, DC Curry, Mike Epps and a lot of different cats from the local scene. From there, I just went to work!
Every comedian has their own unique voice. What went into the process of finding your voice?
I think you develop your voice from being on stage. I used to not take a pause and I still don’t take many pauses. People are like, “Is he going to take a breath?!” [laughs] I didn’t like the silence. Then I had a friend, who was also a comedian, say, “They are listening to you, so keep talking. You are a great storyteller.” I learned to get comfortable in that silence. If you know my work, I will hit you with six or seven punchlines so the payoff is always good! It was nerves when I first started but it developed into my own form of comedy.
What can you tell us about your writing process and how it might have evolved through the years?
I am a classic storyteller, so I typically just start off with an idea for a story or something from my life. I always start from a personal premise. I am an observational comic, so if I am traveling and I have to take my shoes off, I want to know why I have to take my shoes off! Now I have to have good socks on because I have to take my shoes off. Everything is a cause and effect, so that is my brand of comedy.
Many people will recognize you from winning Season 8 of “Last Comic Standing.” What type of impact did winning the show have on your career?
It has been an amazing experience! I have been going around the country and bringing people that good funny. I did the show and then went on a 55 city tour. After that, I have continued on around the country getting ready for my own hour special. There has been a lot of love! My audience has changed a bit. I have a few more white fans now! [laughs] I am happy with that! I always thought my comedy was more than just urban. Funny doesn’t have a color, funny is funny! I have a little bit of everybody in the audience, different genders and races. It is amazing and has been really cool, man.
Leading up to Season 8 of “Last Comic Standing,” there was a bit of a reality TV element involved. As an artist, did you have any reservations about doing the show?
Of course. I had seen previous seasons of the show and anybody and their mama could come off the street and say they do comedy. It was reality-show based then but once I found out that it was going to be 100 comedians by invitation only, it helped set my mind at ease. Wanda Sykes was behind it and I know how she feels about comedy, so it was a good look. You have reservations any time you are going to do a reality show because you do standup and I have been doing standup for years. Once I got on the show, it was clear it was about comedy at the end of the day. That is what I was interested in and it was more of a competition show than a reality show.
Did you take anything away from your time on the show that you applied to your career?
Being a professional. When I went to the set each day, I saw professionals working. Sometimes, as comedians, people look at us as clowns or silly and you lose focus of it but this is a business. It is a funny business, it is a craft, so you respect your craft. I learned to respect it a little bit more.
You mentioned working on an hour for your own special. Where are you in the process and what goes into bringing it to life?
We have written it and I am probably going to tape it in November, so you will see it at the top of 2016 for sure. Finding the right producers and location is a challenge, in addition to what jokes are going to go into it. It has an ebb and flow to it. I don’t want to put something just because so a lot of thought has gone into it. It has been about team building, set building and joke building, all while discovering the story we want to tell in the comedy.
You never seem to slow down. What other projects do you have in the works?
From winning the show, there was a development deal involved, so we are in the process of pitching that to the network. Hopefully that goes through so we will be bringing that good funny directly into your living room. Keep your fingers crossed for that! I have also been going out on auditions a lot to see what comes from this whole comedy tree. I always say, standup is the roots and everything else are the branches that grow from that. We are just trying to water all the branches and roots!
Standup comedy is experiencing a big revival these days. What are you seeing as an artist and what is the best part of being involved?
Standup is definitely going through a boom at the moment. People say anytime the economy is good, the gas goes down. That is good for my business because people leave the house to come out to a show! I think social media had a big influence on comedy. There is a difference between being funny as a stand-up and being funny on Twitter. I am a fan of classic stand-up: a stool, a microphone and a stage. It is just a question of where you want to put your funny! That is the whole thing! It is definitely a good time to be a comedian or a funny person.
Obviously, winning “Last Comic Standing” was a huge moment for you. What are some of the other moments you might consider your creative milestones?
That is a great question. Ya know, I don’t think I have reached my next creative milestone. I always look at my comedy, and myself, as a work in progress. I am not a finished product, so I am always striving to get better each day!
What’s coming up for you in the short term?
It’s just more funny in your face! That is how we like to do it! We are always in a city on a weekend and I am about to head out to Montreal for the Just For Laughs Festival. That is where all the movers and shakers come, so big things will be happening there!
That is great to hear! Thanks for your time today! We look forward to seeing everything you have in store for us!
Thank you, Jason!