Q&A: Jermaine Fowler
Jermaine Fowler is about to take flight. Starting out with stints on CollegeHumor, Comedy Central and MTV’s “Guy Code,” Fowler is moving up with an ABC pilot, starring on TruTV’s new sketch comedy show “Friends of the People” and taping his headlining show at the D.C. Improv this week. The Eagle’s Tam Sackman sat down with the hometown hero to discuss where he’s headed.
Eagle: I read that you grew up in D.C. How does it feel to come back when you’re on tour? Is that why you chose to tape your special here?
Jermaine Fowler: I was born in D.C., raised in Hyattsville, Maryland. So all of my family and friends are here. All my experiences lie here. All of my jokes are based on my experiences growing up here, getting into mischief with my buddies and moving from here to New York. It makes sense to come back here and film my special. The first comedy club I ever performed at was the D.C. Improv. I want people to appreciate where I came from, and there’s no better way to do it than just filming it back home in D.C. It made sense.
E: Do you feel like the pressure is on, knowing that this show is going to be recorded?
JF: No, not at all. I feel like the pressure is usually on when you’re out of town and there are strangers looking at you. I feel a big support when I’m home, like I can say and do anything and they’ll laugh at it. I’m not even nervous, I just don’t want to be sick by the time we film it.
Eagle: I saw a clip of you playing Urkel in that “Friends of the People” sketch, which was absolutely hilarious. Who do you want to play next?
JF: In the show I play Urkel, I play Little Richard, I play MC Hammer. I’ve always wanted to play Tupac or Biggie. I think those two people are next. I’ve always wanted to play those two. I need to gain a lot of weight for Biggie.I’m skinny as hell.
E: So you’ve done a few episodes of MTV’s “Guy Code.” What’s the best advice that you’ve ever gotten?
JF: Don’t have a Plan B because it’ll distract from your Plan A. That advice came from me thinking about going back to college when I was really, really young in stand-up comedy. I was thinking about quitting because I was like ‘maybe it’s not for me. Maybe I should go to college and still do comedy.’ And somebody was like-- I think it was Keenan Ivory Wayans that said his dad told him this-- he was like, ‘You won’t really jump as far as you want to knowing that there’s a safety net under you.’ I think that was one of the greatest things I’d ever read in a book or heard someone say.
So I’ve always taken that to heart, and I use that advice to this day. And if I ever do a project or go onstage and do something, if I’m nervous about something I say to myself, ‘Just grab it by the balls and go ahead and do it, man. Don’t worry about an exit strategy, just go ahead and give it your all. Don’t worry about what people think about you and how you’re perceived. Just go ahead and do things you want to do. Do you and do it the best way you can.’ That was the best advice I’ve ever heard.
E: The last time you performed in D.C. was at the Bentzen Ball Comedy Festival. Can you tell me about that?
JF: Yeah, at the 9:30 Club. I left D.C. in 2008, and D.C. comedy was great, it just wasn’t that popular. And that was a thousand person show at the 9:30 Club, and I’m like, ‘What the hell happened?’ It was gigantic, just crazy. I was so happy. The scene is just getting more and more popular and people around here really love comedy. I’m happy. It’s a great comedy scene. It’s a great city. It’s just perfect. I was just so happy that I didn’t bomb in front of 1,000 people from my hometown. That’d be embarrassing. It was great. It was an amazing show.
E: So I’m gonna switch gears totally to this new ABC pilot that you have in the works. Can you tell me as much as you’re allowed to tell me about it?
JF: Sure. So ABC bought an idea for a show I had about me getting kicked out of my dad’s house and going to live with my grandma. My grandma is an ex-cop. She’s amazing. She was working at a juvenile facility, which is worse than most prisons because those kids are demons. They don’t [have anything] to lose, they don’t care. It was a good situation though, she was more understanding than strict and I needed that at the time. She gave me the room to figure out what I wanted to do with my life without pushing me and rushing me and stuff. I loved living with her because it was more like living with a roommate than it was with a grandparent. I love her to death. So right now, I’m drumming up a few drafts of the script, and I gave it to network producers and they’re excited about the idea as much as I am. I’m just so grateful that they understand it and they want to work with me.
E: What do you want people to know about your show at the D.C. Improv?
JF: This show means a lot to me. It’s the hometown. It’s the first special anyone has ever recorded at the D.C. Improv, and I’m surprised that that’s the truth at all because it’s an amazing club. I want people to come and see me kill! I want people to appreciate where I’m coming from, and I want people to be part of a debut comedy special and watch my career blossom. Who knows? I might not be here in these next few years to record my next special.
Jermaine Fowler will be filming his special “Give Em Hell, Kid” at the D.C. Improv on Nov. 1. Tickets are available here.