Talk about iconic. Growing up watching “Chappelle’s Show”, never did I think I’d get the chance to speak with Chappelle’s sidekick; the hilarious Donnell Rawlings. You know him; he’s the guy in the truck that screams: “I’m rich, biaaaaatch!” Like I said; iconic. With a career dating over 20 years, Rawlings is set to perform at the Just for Laughs comedy festival appearing on the popular Ethnic Show. Aside from that, the comedian will co-host the famous Midnight Surprise shows and perform his one man show; 2Soon. I had the opportunity to speak with Donnell Rawlings about his upcoming shows; here’s what he had to say:
Montreal Times: You’ve got so much stuff happening at JFL this year. Are you excited to be back in Montreal?
Donnell Rawlings: I am very excited to be coming to Montreal, and very excited to be a part a ethnic show that doesn’t just combine Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens. When I started doing comedy, the ethnic shows were only blacks, Mexicans, and Puerto Rican’s, but now the ethnic component extends around the world. I’m looking forward to that.
MtlTimes: Everybody thinks they can be comedian nowadays. What are your feelings about what the industry then and now?
DR: I think it’s a gift and a curse, especially with social media. Social media is a great way to get your name out there. If you have a good work ethic it can be useful in comedy. The bad part about it is you don’t use your skill set, something comics used in the old days. In the old days you had to be good before people got to know you, but now all you have to do is be consistent. If people can find that even balance, it’s the best thing in the world. My number one priority was to always be good at what you do.
MtlTimes: How did comedy start for you?
DR: Comedy was never in my surroundings. I wanted to be an architect, but I was never good in school. Then I almost became a police officer, and while I was studying I worked for a grocery chain and my colleagues and I would go to comedy clubs after work. I would love going because I was a heckler. I was so good at heckling that people would come to the club just to hear me heckle. The first time I went on-stage, I got a standing ovation, and I never looked back. I’ve been doing this for almost 25 years.
MtlTimes: Since you’re the master heckler, how do YOU deal with hecklers?
DR: In the case that I do get a heckler, I’m a savage. As they say in the streets; don’t come for me, if I didn’t send for you. Word to the wise.
MtlTimes: Do you have a creative process?
DR: I don’t sit down and write every day, but I love to engage with life and people. The world is filled with so many punchlines, it’s all about how you retain it and send it back out into the world. My stuff is observational.
MtlTimes: What is your favorite movie?
DR: “The Five Heartbeats” by Robert Townsend. I’m old school, I love the story about people coming together having dreams, aspirations and relationships. It’s a blueprint for what to do and what not to do in the industry.
MtlTimes: Who is your favorite artist or band?
DR: Prince. You’re always going to have that Prince/Michael Jackson feud. Jackson will go down with being the greatest entertainer and all that. However, when you start adding the things that make a person great, Prince could play every instrument on his albums. Not many can do that.
MtlTimes: Who are some of your favorite comics?
DR: Robin Williams, Robin Harris, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Dave Chappelle, and I love Louie Anderson.
MtlTimes: Have you ever been star struck?
DR: Michael Jordan. About 8 years ago I was at a club in Miami, and I had this nerdy-swag going on, I don’t know what I was thinking. I was so shocked when I saw him, I was stuttering and stuff. I went up to him and said,”I’m rich, biaaaaatch!” and asked for a picture but he told me he doesn’t do pictures. So I started a hashtag on Twitter; #HatinOnJordan, and I sounded so bitter.
MtlTimes: What can we expect when you come to Montreal?
DR: You can expect an honest comic staying true to himself. Not everything I say is correct, but that’s OK. People think sometimes it’s too soon to tell a certain joke, but I think it’s never too soon to make a funny observation. Dave Chappelle told me a few weeks ago; “now’s the time for comedians to grab your balls because it’s our job to make fun of all the wrong thing’s happening in the world”.
MtlTimes: Finally, what song would you have played at your funeral?
DR: Smokey Robinson, “Tears Of A Clown”. That’s the story of a comic’s life.
Catch the incredible Donnell Rawlings, along with Dave Merheje, Robby Hoffman, Anthony DeVito, Rafi Bastos, and host Cristela Alonzo at The Ethnic Show. The show runs from July 10th until the 25th at Club Soda and MTELUS. Rawlings is also perfoming his one man show; 2Soon on July 26-27 at Cafe Cleopatra. Tickets are selling quickly at hahaha.com .