What should someone expect from your act?
I try to stay as personal as possible. Having been in this business for fifteen years now, I've noticed that material that's personal has more legs and is harder to steal than just about everything else. Instead of looking at food and saying something like, "You think cauliflower and broccoli fight?" I also comment on television, pop culture, but I try to stay more biographical. Some things sound like jokes but aren't. For example: my dad was a loving father to six kids, unfortunately he had eight. That's a solid joke, but it happens to be completely true. I do think that broccoli and cauliflower fight when I close my fridge, though.
When did you know you wanted to be a Comedian?
I crawled on all fours as a baby on Bill Cosby albums and Smothers Brothers albums. I wonder if you can find those albums today on E-bay, with my poo all over them. I probably wanted to be a comedian before I knew I wanted to be a comedian. There was that sort of thing in my house all the time. When I got a hold of a Pryor LP, I would go to school, and do Pryor bits. Here's this little white kid doing Pryor bits for a bunch of other white kids in the fourth grade. And the new black girl too. I wanted to be a performer from as long as I can remember, but I wasn't sure I wanted to be a standup comedian until around seven.
When did you perform your first show?
My family had talent shows at the house. If you can imagine a five year old doing John Wayne. I probably did the impression better then than I could now. When I was in daycare, we used to go on fieldtrips. I remember going on stage with a friend of mine in front of hundreds of kids and trying to be funny in a Martin and Lewis type of way before the movie.
The first time I did standup by myself was when I was in Dallas. I went on stage on February 12th, 1990. About two hundred people, I got a bunch of big laughs. It was at a medieval restaurant. I remember watching the video. It was awful, but I still got laughs. The wenches, fools, jousters and I ate a pig afterward. Her name escapes me.
What were the next few years like?
That year, I got fired from the job I had from an airplane modification plant because I was late often from pursuing standup. I got in with all the local open mics. I was going up five times a week, and that'll make you get better. By the end of the year, I had done my first emcee week in Lubbock, Texas. By the end of the next year, I was middling at several clubs. During those first three years, I was so immersed in comedy that I was probably going up every night.
What were you doing to support yourself financially at the time?
Did some temp jobs, which were perfect for me since I wasn't going to be there long anyway. Shoplifted. If Chef Boyardee posted a loss that year, I'm the reason. I worked at a bookstore and was fired for being late. I also worked the door at the Improv, I wasn't fired, but a few years later the manager said that I was a lousy door guy. I took offense to that because I was a good door guy. I'm a good worker. I make a good hand.
What changes have you noticed in comedy since you've started out?
The crowds are getting younger. Americans, I think, are getting dumber, but comedy crowds are harder to surprise because there are so many comedians now and so many different styles. Some people are duplicating styles. But it's harder to surprise audiences because they're savvier.
And with all of these cable channels, I open a newspaper and see something I want to joke about on stage, you turn the TV on at night and every show is doing their angle on it. It's become homogenized. The angles overlap And crowds are just smarter. You can't trick them real easy with just a simple setup and punch. It's harder to stand out. And the shear amount of people making money being funny makes it harder to find bits that stick.
You were a story editor for the series Titus. What does that entail?
It's a glorified name for a writer. There were fifteen writers on the show, but some of them were also called executive producers, co-executive producers, consultants, and story editors.
How do most people get involved in sitcom writing?
Most people go to college with the dream of being a sitcom writer. I think most of the ones I met were college educated, took internships on shows, and then became writers' assistants, which is a very low paying for so many hours of work. They do that for a couple of years and maybe they're able to contribute competitively, then they can get a job as a staff writer on the show and move up from there. The other way is to do it the way I did it: know the star.
Tell me about "Revenge of the Boys"
The hidden camera show. My manager got me an audition that I was sure I wouldn't get. I wasn't jazzed about it, but my manger and I decided I need a bigger acting reel. It was a special promotional thing that the Oxygen network did and I have not seen it on again. I have fun with whatever I do. I enjoyed it and liked the people I met, but it's not something I'd like to do again.
These hidden camera shows are looked down on, but I can tell you from experience that the people on our show were fooled. After a gag, I would look them in the eye and say, "Now you swear to me you were actually fooled, otherwise we can do this over."
Do you sometimes do gag type things when you're out and about?
I fool around all the time when I'm out in public. When I'm making an exchange at a cash register and the exchange is over, I like to say, "Thankee," instead of, "Thank you." Most people won't bat an eye, but some people will say, "You're welkee," and that's when I know I'm dealing with someone that's paying attention. Sometimes I'll say, "Thank 'em," just so when they say, "You're welcome," they're already in the club.
Revenge of the Boys was on a different level. I used to love hidden camera, but it's gone crazy now. Every station has someone going, "That's Folgers crystals, bitch! Ha, ha, ha, ha." Actually being a part of it was of fun.
There's not a script, but more of an out line of points you have to remember. My first time, I was lucky that my character had to be nervous because I was very nervous. When I wasn't there, once, they had a guy fill in for me and he had a heart attack. I think the best one was where I was constantly scratching my balls at this sporting goods place. By the end of the day, I was really sore from all of the scratching, and that's not what I got in this business for. Heart attacks and sore nuts, who's Punkin' who here?
What projects are you currently involved in?
I'm putting most of my effort into standup. It's a very competitive business and I've been working all of these years into breaking into these clubs. Keeping a grip on that is not as easy as it looks. I'm always working on new jokes and autobiographical material. The best part about that is that I can do it on stage and begin my own book. I'm working on chipping away on the four chapters of my life: growing up in Florida, joining the army, being married and divorced, and becoming a comic.
Tell me more about the book.
I've been collecting information for years. I started it when I started living. The book is going to be called Hollywood to Hollywood, because I was born in Hollywood, Florida. Hollywood to Hollywood: My Journey From Nowhere to Nowhere and the People I've Stepped on to get There. Another title might be Who's This Dick? : How I Found Myself in Comedy.
When should people expect to see this?
Not anytime soon. I'm lazy like a wolf.
What's the status of the DVD you mention on your site?
I started and gave up on doing a homemade bootleg DVD. It looked awful. I'm holding out for the pros to do it. However, My Smackin' Kittens CD was just picked up by Uproar Entertainment for worldwide distribution so that's cool. The reason the DVD is still mentioned on my website is because a friend does my website for free. Free means slow changes. Believe me.
Is there anything you’d like to leave our reader’s with?
Look me up on Myspace. Robert Hawkins, all one word. Let's be friends.