Gary Owen is not your average white comedian. Owen realized African American audiences had a soft spot for him and the way he tackles race early on and he is wisely making a career out of it.
Gary believes part of the reason African Americans warmed up to him is due to the vast material he has on being in a bi-racial relationship. It's thru his relationship that he's able to tackle the subject of race in his act.
Aside from being a national headlining comic, Owen can be seen playing Zach the barber on Tyler Perry's House of Pain, and in the new film Think Like a Man.
Gary called me to discuss addressing a delicate subject in his act, working with Tyler Perry, his Chicago show this Friday, Floyd Mayweather interrupting the taping of his Showtime special, and much more. You can see him this Friday in Shaquille O'Neal's All-Star Comedy Jam at the Auditorium Theater at 50 East Congress Parkway. TICKETS
Can you tell us a little about your role in Think Like a Man?
It's not like Hunger Games or one of these movies that's exactly like the book. It's what happens when women get the book and try to see if what Steve Harvey says is true about how to get a man. I'm the guy who goes home to his wife at night when they're all figuring out how to be players, basically.
You have a special out called True Story, it's on Showtime and the DVD is out, what was your main focus for that special?
This is my calling card, that's what I say. If you want to know who I am and how I got to be where I'm at right now, this is it. I always tell comics, "When you're going to do an hour special, have an hour and a half ready, because you never know what can happen." During my special, Floyd Mayweather walked in with about forty people, completely interrupted the show, and I had to address it. So then I got on him, his uncle, and everybody in his entourage. It came out pretty good, when you see it aired it's funny.
You talk a lot about yourself in your act, that's something I've been having trouble getting to. Did you have trouble getting into that earlier in your career?
I think every comic, when you start, it's just jokes, set up, punchline, jokes. The more you do it, the more you find your voice and who you are. I tell stories about my life and it resonates with people. I can't be the only one thinking this or going through this. I just started talking about being married to a black girl and having some mixed kids. There's things I didn't know about black people that I'm learning through being married. I always think I have an insight to black people that a lot of white people don't have.
You were in the Navy, how has that influenced your stand up?
The thing about the military was that was what helped me more than anything with black audiences because I grew up in an all white neighborhood, trailer parks, went to an all white high school, but my first interaction with black people, where I first got to know them on a personal level was in the military. My bunk mate was a black guy from South Carolina and he got pictures mailed to him. He was on tractors on a farm, and I was like, "Oh you're on vacation or something?" And he goes "No, I live there." I said, "Black people don't live on farms!" Then he called half the guys in boot camp over and said, "Tell them what you just told me." I said, "Black guys don't live on farms." And they lost it because they said, "That's all we do is live on farms in the south." Coming from the Midwest, black guys live in the city, so I didn't even know they were farmers and stuff and it just opened my eyes and I started asking questions. I had no clue black people lived on farms, I was like, "Really!?"
How do you first meet Tyler Perry and get the part on the show?
We just met at a radio show. I was doing a radio interview and Tyler came in to promote one of his movies and we just started talking during a commercial break and the next week I got a phone call saying "Tyler wants to bring you to Atlanta." The next week I flew to Atlanta, and the week after that I was filming. It was that quick, two weeks later. No audition, nothing. That's the thing about Tyler, he's one stop shopping. He doesn't have to call anybody.
There seems to be a lot of people that hate on him, would you agree?
Here's the thing about Tyler, he found an audience that nobody was catering too. A 35, black, church-going audience. Nobody was making movies for them. Nobody was doing anything for them and he found it and ran with it. You might not like him, but this dude is smart. He's killing it and I'm loyal to him.
For more on Gary Owen you can check out his website.