Comedian Mike Epps

The popular and hilarious comedian talks about his AOL TV series, That’s Racist with Mike Epps.

Born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, Mike Epps moved to New York in the mid 1990's to pursue a career in comedy. He became a regular on HBO's stand-up showcase, Def Comedy Jam, from which he grew in popularity, and developed a nation-wide fan base. His breakthrough came in 2000 when he starred opposite Ice Cube in Next Friday, the sequel to the hugely successful 1995 film, Friday. Mike recorded his first stand-up special in 2006, called Inappropriate Behavior, and that same year became the regular host of HBO's Def Comedy Jam, the show where it all started. Currently, Mike hosts the hilarious show on AOL TV called, That's Racist with Mike Epps, which explores the origins of, and raises important questions about, various racial stereotypes.

TRANSCRIPT

Tavis: [Laugh] When I say his name, I just start laughing. I am pleased to have Mike Epps on this program tonight. He has a new AOL original series called “That’s Racist with Mike Epps”. The topics of the show? Anything culturally relevant that he can find humor in. Before we start our conversation, a look at a clip from Mike’s work.

[Clip]

Tavis: Let me run through this right quick. I love these episodes. “Black people love fried chicken”…

Mike Epps: Love it.

Tavis: “Jews are cheap”, “Asians can’t drive”…

Epps: At all.

Tavis: “Muslims are terrorists”…

Epps: Could be.

Tavis: “White men can’t jump”…

Epps: At all.

Tavis: We just saw the “Irish are drunks”, “Mexicans are lazy”, “Black people can’t swim”, “All Asians are smart”, “Why do racist jokes even exist”. You’re on to something here. I like this.

Epps: You like that?

Tavis: I love it [laugh].

Epps: Yeah.

Tavis: Where did this idea come from?

Epps: You know, I think for a long time in  my standup, Tavis, I’ve been doing racial jokes, racial stereotype jokes, and my agent called me one day, Cameron Mitchell, and said, “Man, I got something on the table.” I said, “Oh, yeah?”

He said, “I got something that’ll fit what you do. It’s an idea about stereotypes and, you know, racial comedy.” I said, “Okay, kick it to me. I hope it’s not about racism ’cause I don’t want to do a show like that.”

So when he went to tell me about the stereotypes, about racism, I’m like, you know what? That is real, you know. ‘Cause people been hearing these jokes and people have been wondering where all this stuff came from. I said, “Man, this is a good time to shed a light on that and be funny, yeah.”

Tavis: What is it about us that allows us to believe these things? They say where there’s smoke, there’s fire [laugh].

Epps: That’s real.

Tavis: Is there some truth in this stuff? Why do we believe all this stuff?

Epps: You hit a point. I think it is. I think it is. There’s truth in everything that we’re talking about on this show. There’s truth in a lot of it. You know, we joke upon ourselves and our race, you know. We laugh about, “Hey, man, look at that man. Man, that…”, but can’t nobody else do it [laugh]. We won’t let nobody else do it.

And I think that reigns true and supreme for all other races too. I think on the inside, you know, at their own comfort ability, they all talk about each other. Some of that stuff is true and some of it’s not, you know, and that’s what this show does. It unravels and reveals that everybody does the same thing. For instance, we went to a chicken place…

Tavis: [Laugh] I’m laughing already. I’m just laughing at chicken. You ain’t even said nothing [laugh].

Epps: We go to a chicken place in the Bay, in Oakland. They take us and I say, “Okay, yeah, we’re going.” They said it’s the best chicken in the Bay. Tavis, we get there and there wasn’t one Black person in there eating the chicken. All the customers was different. White people, they were twisting the bone. I said, “Man, this is crazy.”

So the lady said, “Okay, well, I want you to meet the owner.” And the owner came out and it was a Black woman and everybody cooking it was Black. I said, “Wow, that’s amazing to be able to see these people in here enjoying this food that stereotypically we’re the only race that eats it.”

Tavis: What’s funny about this stuff to me is–what’s interesting. I shouldn’t say funny–what’s interesting is that nobody likes to be stereotyped and yet there’s so much humor in it. You know what I’m saying?

Epps: Yeah.

Tavis: What do you say about that line between what’s funny or what a comedian finds funny versus what somebody else might get in trouble for?

Epps: You know, that’s a good question, Tavis. You know, I think I was able to do that because I’m a comedian. I’m a comic and all the jokes that I normally do on my show, on my standup routine, is, you know, they’re not the best jokes in the world.

I don’t think it makes people comfortable, but they laugh at it. It got a little tricky when I got to the Muslim guy. He was a little offended. I asked him a question and he said, well…

Tavis: This is about Muslims being terrorists.

Epps: Yeah, about Muslims being terrorists. And I asked him a question and he came back real quick on the defense tip and said, “You know, why does all Black men steal?” and I was like, “Whoa!” [laugh]. Where did that come from?

So me and him went back and forth, you know, ’cause I got offended. He rambled off like three of them on me. Why do Black men steal? You got babies all over–I was like, dude, this is a job that I’m doing. I’m just having–look, somebody wrote this for me, man [laugh].

And different races are sitting in the audiences and they laughing at me and I don’t see ’em getting offended by it because I talk about everybody. On this series, I talked about everybody. Even though, Black people, we are the most sensitive. You’ll get a brick thrown at you first by us [laugh].

Tavis: Is that your assessment that we are the most sensitive?

Epps: I mean, you know…

Tavis: You may be right about that. I’m curious, though.

Epps: I think, you know, other races always have this–they want to do a competition on who been through the worst. You know, we stand strong on that. You know, we got the years lined up. We got full line of years lined up. We got all of that and I think one of the reasons why we feel that way is ’cause we still…

Tavis: Have it every day.

Epps: That’s right. We’re still having it hard. So I think we really got the right to cry.

Tavis: See, I think you may be right about the fact that Black people are the most sensitive or certainly the most quick to anger.

Epps: Yeah, we are.

Tavis: We may be.

Epps: You know, ’cause I don’t allow it, but I like to dish it [laugh]. I like to dish it, but I do get sensitive. And sometimes I let a couple people–sometimes I’m on the plane and–one time, a stewardess walked up and just assumed that, you know, what she thought I wanted and said, “Mr. Epps, we have no more chicken.”

I said, “I didn’t even know y’all had chicken on the menu. Like can you tell me what you got first before you…” and I was upset ’cause they didn’t have that chicken [laugh].

Tavis: I could have started this conversation and I saved it for the end to tell you congratulations on that big, big news I read the other day…

Epps: Oh, man.

Tavis: About you playing my man. He’s the coldest ever.

Epps: Ever.

Tavis: Coldest ever. I mean, I will say this. I have never talked to a comedian–I been at this 20 years now doing TV and radio, maybe 25 now, and I’ve never talked to a comedian, Black or white, who you ask him who the best was and they didn’t say the same thing.

Epps: They said Daddy Rich.

Tavis: They all say Richard Pryor, man.

Epps: Richard Pryor.

Tavis: And you get to play him now.

Epps: Man, I’m…

Tavis: You are playing Richard Pryor in the biopic.

Epps: I’m humbly afraid, yeah. I’m more nervous than a prostitute in church right now [laugh]. That’s pretty nervous. But I’m humbly honored to even be considered.

Tavis: Why the risk? I hear your point and I would be nervous too. I mean, it’s Pryor we’re talking about here. Why take the risk?

Epps: Man, I might get a hundred opportunities to do everything, but I’m only gonna get one to play Richard Pryor. You know, for those who know who Richard is and those who grew up with Richard and those who understood him as a revolutionary, a Black man that broke barriers back in the day when racism was really, really strong.

This was a dude that was saying everything we wanted to say, you know, and made it funny. Again, using that comedy to get your point across. And Richard Pryor was the king and the greatest at it and I really think he sacrificed his life to make the world laugh.

I’m only here to educate those who don’t know about him because that’s the part of the film that I think that I’m gonna play a strong part in doing is because my kids and nephews and nieces–some of my kids. I mean, I got a grandchild now and they don’t know who Richard Pryor is.

So I think that this movie is gonna give me an opportunity to service my mother, my father, my big brother, you, you know, my daughters. People that know him and people that don’t know him, this is a big education. But I’m really nervous because this is some big shoes to fill.

Tavis: You’ll be fine, man, because you got this. You got this. I’m gonna put you on the spot before I left you go, though. What’s your–I’m not gonna say your favorite. Give me one of your best Pryor bits. I mean, you ain’t gotta do it. I’m just asking what’s…

Epps: I do it, boy. You ain’t said nothin’. What you want me to do? Mudbone? I do Mudbone right here. Sittin’ here on Tavis Smiley Show right now. The boy don’t know nothin’! Sittin’ here drinkin’ this water. You shoulda had some Casavia in here!

Tavis: [Laugh] I’m laughing that you went there because that’s my favorite, man.

Epps: You like that Mudbone? Ooh, that Mudbone!

Tavis: Mudbone’s something else, man. I didn’t know you were going to go–I didn’t know what you were going to say [laugh]. But the Mudbone thing, man, he’s a bad man.

Epps: He was a bad man…

Tavis: The pride of Peoria.

Epps: Pride of Peoria. See, I’m from Indiana. I’m from right about an hour down the street from Richard Pryor.

Tavis: Both of us, yeah.

Epps: Both from Indiana.

Tavis: We’re both Hoosiers.

Epps: So we know that dialect. You know that, dude. You know Richard Pryor, you know Mudbone. You got a couple of Mudbones working these cameras right here [laugh].

Tavis: On that note, before the cameras start getting real bad on his shot–you upset the camera guys, man, you in trouble [laugh]. Before Mikey or somebody gets upset, let me tell you that “That’s Racist with Mike Epps” is on AOL. It’s a wonderful series and he will be playing Richard Pryor coming to a theater near you sometime in the next couple of years, I hope.

Epps: Nah, we’re gonna do it.

Tavis: When did they say…

Epps: Lee Daniels is directing it. You know Lee Daniels. He’s got the “Empire” out. What a great director.

Tavis: The hottest thing on TV right now. Those numbers are unbelievable.

Epps: Yeah. He’s broken barriers, man, and he’s given other people an opportunity. You know, the Black Hollywood door only stays open a certain amount of time. I’m trying to get in there before they shut it again [laugh]. Every 20 years, they shut that door.

Tavis: And it don’t open wide. It’s just a little crack [laugh]. It’s just a crack, man. You gotta jump in real fast. I love you, Mike Epps. Good to have you here, man.

Epps: I love you. Thank you.

Announcer: For more information on today’s show, visit Tavis Smiley at pbs.org.

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Last modified: March 6, 2015 at 2:37 pm