Comedian and actor Joe Torry will host Uptown Comic, a new comedy series that also premieres tonight on Bounce TV, following Omar Gooding’s Family Time, which I previously profiled HERE. Torry's show features live stage and skit performances by emerging comedians from around the country, and is produced by Rainforest Films, who brought us Think Like A Man. It is filmed in front of a live studio audience at the Center Stage in Atlanta. Drawing from his past work hosting HBO’s Def Comedy Jam, Torry offers his insight into the differences in today’s broadcast comedic landscape, why he prefers old school comedians, and his reaction to Think Like A Man.
Uptown Comic premieres tonight at 9:30 ET.
S&A: Can you give us a brief overview of the show and what viewers can expect from it?
JT: Viewers can expect to laugh their tails off for one. Viewers can also expect to experience a new, energetic, interesting type comedy show.
S&A: I know you’ve worked previously with HBO’s Def Comedy Jam. How would you say this show is different or continuing that legacy? Do you think it prepared you for this kind of opportunity?
JT: Oh, most definitely. I’m a lot smarter and thoughtful of a comedian. This market is different than it was. You don’t have to have cable to hear this comedy. It comes on a basic channel, and that’s one of the biggest differences between now than when I first started. And back then it was a lot more risqué. This one is a lot more for the family and you can watch this in front of the kids. It’s funny and energetic but at the same time it’s not something you have to give earmuffs to the kids when it’s on.
S&A: Can you talk about some of the changes you've seen in the black comedy landscape over the years that sparked your interest or served as motivations?
JT: This show has really motivated me because it gives me a chance to reach a whole new generation and fans. When we were growing up, we wanted to do the Johnny Carson style, but when Def Comedy came along, we found another art and another way.
S&A: How did you get involved with the show?
JT: Actually I produce as well so I called Rainforest Films to congratulate them on the good job they did on Think Like A Man. And we started to talk about a show I’d be perfect for given my history with hosting Def Comedy Jam, and we talked and the idea fit into my schedule and what I do.
S&A: When you look at the landscape of black comedy today, are there any particular comedians you enjoy?
JT: You mean young or new?
S&A: Yea, black comedians who are out today. Kevin Hart or anyone you particularly like to watch or listen to?
JT: You know, I’m more of an older school comedian so Tommy Davidson still makes me laugh a lot no matter how many times I’ve heard his jokes or not. He’s just an animated comedian that I don’t mind seeing over and over again. Martin Lawrence and Cedric (The Entertainer). I like my peer’s work. Some of these young guys, I see them all the time and I kind of know their act. So I’d like to see how they’ve grown, like Kevin Hart.
S&A: Speaking of Kevin Hart, what were your thoughts on Think Like a Man?
JT: I thought Steve Harvey needed his ass whooped for writing that book, but it made a hell of a movie. (Laughs) It was produced and written well.
S&A: What are some differences you see between stand-up comedy and film?
JT: With comedy, you get an immediate response. I'm the whole kit and the kaboodle. I am the whole thing and can steer the whole situation how I want to. With film, you are basically in one area. Comedy is straight to it and the film is heavily shaped the camera and editing, so it’s different.
S&A: Lastly, what were some of your inspirations growing up for you and your brother Guy Torry, in terms of becoming performers?
JT: Being a military child, we moved a lot and we developed different vernaculars from moving from the south, to the Midwest, and seeing the world. Going from New York to California and from Jamaica Queens to the South, I was always the new kid, or had the army crew haircut. I expected people to pick up on me. My brother kinda stole all of my old jokes. He got his inspiration from me (laughs).
S&A: Thank you for speaking with me today.