For a man whose rapid–fire monologues are the stuff of comedy legend, Eddie Griffin sure keeps a tight lid on things in an interview setting.
All the more surprising because his standup shows usually clock in around two hours. Straight. Nonstop. Gut–busting funny.
Yet here he is, on the phone from Los Angeles, and the journalist on the other end of the telephone (that’d be yours truly) is attempting, unsuccessfully, to draw him out.
As evidenced by his latest Comedy Central special, You Can Tell ‘Em I Said It, Griffin – who’ll be at the Johnny Mercer Theatre Saturday night – is one of the most engaging and diverse comedians playing A–list theaters today. His takes on everything from religion to rappers are unique and inspired.
His language of choice, to be sure, is urban and adult — don’t bring the kids to this one — but he is profoundly insightful and takes his subject matter into unpredictably cerebral areas.
He’s also a former professional dancer who choreographed routines for the Kansas City Chiefs’ halftime shows.
You may have seen the Missouri native in the underrated Undercover Brother, or the short–lived TV series Malcolm and Eddie. His filmography includes hits (Redline, Date Movie, John Q, the Deuce Bigalow series), and misses (Norbit, Pinnochio), and he even got to play his comedy hero, Richard Pryor, in the TV movie Pryor Offenses.
In 2004, Griffin wrote and starred in My Baby’s Daddy.
Gifted, prolific and verbose, Griffin is friendly and polite on the phone. But man, he doesn’t say a whole lot.
Are you writing constantly?
Eddie Griffin: Pretty much. Forty–four hours a day, yeah.
Does everything you see strike you as funny?
Eddie Griffin: Man, everything except taking care of your kids is fuckin’ funny.
You’re known for keeping your private life private.
Eddie Griffin: Yeah. You should compartmentalize, you know what I mean? This is entertainment, and this is reality.
A lot of comics tell me that they can’t be “on” all the time.
Eddie Griffin: Yeah, comedians are very serious people. You have to be, because you’re serious about making people laugh. So you have to dissect what it is, and then put it together, and deliver it in a funny way.
Why do you do such long shows?
Eddie Griffin: Because I love it. I have no concept of time when I’m on that microphone.
You’re giving me such short answers here, man. Throw me a bone!
Eddie Griffin: (laughing)
What do you like best about what you do?
Eddie Griffin: Making people happy is the funnest part of it, you know. And then going into those places in the brain that you didn’t know you had in there, and then it just pops out of your head. And then you have to laugh to yourself like, goddam, where the fuck did that come from?
Do you remember a moment when you went from “some guy in a club” to a theater headliner?
Eddie Griffin: I did one club when I started out for a couple of months, the Comedy Store. And Andrew Dice Clay came to see me, and I went from the Comedy Store, which is about a 500–seat room, to 20,000 seats in Madison Square Garden.
That’s the only club you’ve ever played?
Eddie Griffin: Yeah. Until recently, when I started doing the clubs, like a year and a half ago. I’ll try out new material on 20,000 people, I don’t give a fuck.
What’s the difference, for you, in playing really big rooms?
Eddie Griffin: You have to wait on the laugh, because there’s more people. So it rolls from the front to the back, and back to the stage. So you have to take more pauses.
What are you working on now?
Eddie Griffin: I’m doing Mucho Dinero right now. Blake Freeman wrote and directed and is producing it. Danny Trejo, who played Machete, and Casper Van Dien who was the lead actor in Starship Troopers. It’s about three guys down on their luck who go down to Colombia. One of them gets kidnapped, and we try to capture the world’s biggest drug lord to get the reward of $25,000,000. And none of us got any kind of fuckin’ military training. And we have to join the cartel and all that shit to get to the motherfuckers. It’s funny–ass shit.
Do you still dance at all?
Eddie Griffin: Most definitely. Rhythm is the dance and dance is the rhythm. I used to have this riddle: Which came first, the dance or the music?
Eddie Griffin: Yes indeedy! He heard the music in his head.
OK, here’s the Barbara Walters question. Which gives you more satisfaction, acting or standup?
Eddie Griffin: All the above. We’re all 360 degrees, and each one of those points count. Otherwise you’re not full circle.
Your audiences seem to be racially about half and half ....
Eddie Griffin: No, it’s a rainbow coalition. From the cradle to the grave, Asian, Latino, Caucasian, African American, Africans ....
Does it matter to you? Because it seems like everybody can find the thread in the things you talk about. Would you change what you’re saying, depending on who you see out there?
Eddie Griffin: Not at all.
Where: Johnny Mercer Theatre, Savannah Civic Center, 301 W. Oglethorpe Ave.
When: At 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18
Tickets: $37.50–$45 at etix.com