A career in comedy isn't easy. It takes a lot of courage, goodmaterial, patience and the ability to slug it out in front ofsometimes less than enthusiastic crowds of varying size. And oneother thing.
"You have to be funny. That would be nice," deadpans comedian,actor and former MTV personality Bill Bellamy, whose decades-longcareer seems to prove that he more than meets that qualification."You don't just get up there and start talking. You gotta saysomething."
Of course, anyone who's ever been to an open mic night knows that alot of comedians never got the "you have to be funny and saysomething" memo, but Bellamy has. A veteran of HBO's "RussellSimmons' Comedy Jam," movies like "How To Be a Player" and "LoveJones," he's coming to the Palm Beach Improv with his "BillBellamy's Ladies Night Out" tour on Thursday. The tour was thesubject of a recent special on Showtime.
"It's a relationship show," explains Bellamy, who appears here withcomedians D'lai and Jay Reid. "We get a lot of couples, somebachelorettes, some birthdays and some girls just hanging out. Ittends to be tremendously fun."
The show is also tremendously interactive, as comedy shows are,with the guys onstage sometimes reaching out to get into thebusiness of the crowd. When you're asking to do that, the comediansalso "put ourselves on blast, so to speak. We talk about our lives.Everybody's going through something, whether you're single ormarried, whether you just moved in with your girl. You have to gothere, (to the point) where the audience is like 'Oh, my God! Hejust said that! He's reading my mind!'"
Bellamy, a happily married father of two, has seen his perspectiveon relationships and on comedy change. Having made a career out of"more adult humor" seen on those aforementioned Showtime and HBOspecials, he's now also writing material that his kids could getinto, "that's family-oriented, clean and funny, just really, reallygood. It's a Bill Cosby-ish style of humor, and there's a place forthat."
He's still doing the adult stuff as well, but "I think thatexperiences grow as your experiences in life grow. I'm very, verypersonal (with material) and I share my life experiences with myfans," he says. "I'm pretty honest. I think I've gotten better,funnier, more honest. I think it's just practice, working on andperfecting your craft."
Bellamy's found that not only has his material changed in someways, but the ways in which he interacts with his audience has, aswell, in surprising ways.
"What I like with social media is that you're reallyinterconnected. Before it was your fans here, and you there, like'I'll be on a live chat on MSN at 9 p.m.,' and now it's likeBOOM!,'" he says. "You post, and they post. It's a new wave. It hasits pluses and minuses, because you get an instantaneous response.They tell you what jokes they like, so you're know if you're good,and you know if you're bad. Immediately. You gotta be able to dealwith it, because they're brutally honest."
But that's the risk one takes when they climb a stage with only afew feet and a microphone between them and a crowd, and it's partof what Bellamy relishes about his job, even when he queries anaudience and finds them throwing back lines he'd never imagined.
"It's very unpredictable. You have to be ready to becomeexplosively funny, so people know (your response) isn't scripted,like 'Holy cow!,'" he says. "It's good. It keeps you alive. That'sthe thing about comedy. Every night, you start all over. Peoplelove you for the first three minutes -- but you've got an hour togo. So you might wanna get it together."
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @LeslieStreeter
if you go
Bill Bellamy's Ladies Night Out: 8 p.m. Thursday, Palm BeachImprov, CityPlace. 561-833-1812
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