You’ve appeared in such films as “Antwone Fisher” and “Nutty Professor II.” How does a Denzel Washington set differ from an Eddie Murphy project?
My roles on both projects were different. On the “Nutty Professor II,” I was a co-star, while on “Antwone Fisher,” I was a lead character. So, I was on the set with Eddie Murphy for two days, whereas I was around Denzel Washington for close to six weeks. The reason why I mention this is because it created a different dynamic for my interaction with both of these geniuses that I idolized. They were both similar in their focus during the scenes. Eddie was literally Professor Klump, in costume, speech, and characteristics, the entire time that I was on the set with him, from the time that I was introduced to him to the time that I was wrapped. Denzel was the director/actor on “Antwone Fisher,” so I was able to see two different versions of his focus. In the scenes where he was an actor, he became totally immersed in that scene—like anything behind the camera disappeared. But, when he was directing us, on the Navy ship or in the nightclub, he was the coolest coach you could ever ask for, down to earth, listening to our input, letting us ad-lib at times, but always pushing us to our best performance. So, the difference for me was that I got to see Denzel’s focus in two different hats where I only got to witness Eddie’s solely as an actor. They are still two of my best memories in Hollywood.
When did you know you wanted to become a standup comedian?
I think my mother knew that I wanted to be a stand-up comic before I did. I come from a family where my cousins would roast anyone in the vicinity. So, I had to learn how to joke back just to be able to hang at Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. During my senior year of college, my mother came down to LA from Oakland and she said, “I’m tired of you giving away these jokes for free, and I’m not leaving until you get on a comedy stage somewhere.” After about a week of having my mom at my apartment, I said, “Oh, she’s serious,” so we went up to The Comedy Store in Hollywood and I put my name in the open mic lottery. I was one of fifteen people to get picked to do a three-minute set. I remember that first set. I talked about my parents whipping my butt and getting beat up by my sister because she was doing the windmill and I kept running into her fists. The audience laughed enough for me to be hooked and keep coming back. So, I guess I knew I wanted to become a stand-up comedian when I got that first laugh, but my mother saw it for me before I even saw it for myself.
How would you describe your style of comedy?
That’s a good question. I think I’d describe my style of comedy as hilarious with home training. I can be funny in a church or a corporate setting and be just as funny in the comedy clubs because I write my material with no curse words. So I can tell the same joke “clean” or add some cursing, as a seasoning, if I feel like it. Plus, I was never the guy in the locker room to brag about all the things I do in the bedroom or call women out on stage, so that’s where the home training comes in. Now, that doesn’t mean that I’m too nice to shut a heckler up. But after the show, I’ll make sure the heckler knows that it was just jokes, but the audience didn’t pay to see him, they paid to see me.
Who did you look up to (of the comic greats) when you were growing up?
When I was little, I “borrowed” my father’s Richard Pryor “Is It Something I Said” tape and I became a fan of his from that day on. He was so real and was a master comedy storyteller and hella funny. He’s the GOAT in my book. I also looked up to Eddie Murphy second to Richard for his stand-up and his characters on SNL. He’s a master impressionist and gets so deep into the characters that he creates that it was like watching a master comedy class every time. Then there’s Redd Foxx, George Carlin, Carol Burnett, Bill Cosby, Robin Harris, Bernie Mac, DL Hughley, Damon Wayans, Jonathan Winters, and Flip Wilson to name some of the comedians who I’ve looked up to growing up and starting off in comedy.
How has the current lockdown influenced your creativity?
The lockdown has allowed me to get back into my script and screenplay projects that I’m creating with my sister, Shonda Scott, for our production company, Legacy Films & Entertainment. We have a hilarious sitcom project that we’re punching up to be ready to pitch to networks when Hollywood opens back up. Also, since the comedy clubs have shut down and will probably be one of the last types of businesses to re-open, I’ve pivoted to doing comedy shows online. I’ve done Zoom comedy shows and I’m hosting a comedy show, Comics UnCensored, that we’ll be releasing on a streaming platform very soon. It’s very different doing comedy to the images of people on a computer screen, and nothing can ever replace a live audience and the energy that they give you, but doing comedy for as long as I have has taught me how to adapt to new situations. And that’s what this quarantine has forced me to do. I’m gonna get these jokes out one way or another.
Tell us about your podcast, “What Sibling Rivalry.” How did that come about?
“What Sibling Rivalry” is the podcast that I do with my sister, Shonda Scott. We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of our first episode in June. Last year, a radio personality from KBLX in the Bay Area, Armand Carr, reached out to my sister about us doing a podcast based off of our interactions as brother and sister that he’d seen in person and on social media. So, we created a podcast where we give our similar and, sometimes, different opinions, on hot topics, our favorite memories growing up, and being siblings. Soon, we started interviewing other sibling friends of ours too. Recently we had celebrity siblings on our shows, like Marcus Allen and his brothers and sister, comedian/writer/producer/host Chris Spencer and his sister Kim, as well as actresses Kimberly and Dayna Dooley.
Being a single father to a daughter, what do you hope she brings to this world?
I hope that my daughter, Tyler Khimani, is a better version of her parents, grandparents, and aunt and uncles who’ve given her our collective wisdom to excel as an adult. But, I also hope that she would continue to display the fearlessness to blaze her own trail by pursuing her own creative endeavors, utilizing the technology that I didn’t have access to when I was her age. I hope that she continues to use her voice to let the world know her stance on social, political, and current events. I really admire that she has her own personality and doesn’t try to conform to others, and that she doesn’t run from the spotlight when it shines on her.
There are rumors that Kevin Hart and Katt Williams will finally face off against each other. In the past, Katt Williams challenged Hart to a $1 million battle. Who do think wins that match up?
Whoo, I don’t know. That’s a tough one because they are both comedy heavyweights and they both hellacious roasters. Katt is a little more gritty when it comes to his roast jokes, but Kevin hits you with those witty jabs that make you and laugh, leaving you wondering how he came up with them. I’d say whoever gets on a roll that day will win, but it would be close—and the real winners would be all of us in the audience.
You guest-starred on the 90s and early 2000s hits such as Moesha, Half & Half, Smart Guy, and the Parkers. From your perspective, how vital were those shows during the time? And do feel that we are missing those types of hits on television in 2020?
Those shows were vital because they showed so many different versions of the Black TV family. You had a mother and a father unit, a single mother, a rarely seen single Black father, and two half-sisters and their unique mothers. The characters were smartly written and not stereotypical following the example set by The Cosby Show and A Different World. It inspired young, Black entertainers like myself to write and create our stories, because we had evidence of what most of us always knew, that there was an audience that enjoyed the diversity in our writing. In 2020, I think the success of Black-ish, and to a certain extent Grown-ish and Black AF, shows that the audience does miss the variety of Black stories on TV. It’s one of the things that my sister and I continually say to each other: there is an audience for African-American sitcoms and films that highlight the various perspectives of the storyteller. That’s why I’ve always written different scripts and screenplays, from our sitcom idea about two separated grandparents who have to try co-exist in their daughter’s home, to a screenplay about the rise and fall of the African-American small business Mecca in Oakland in the 80’s & 90’s, to a horror movie featuring African-American leads based on an Oakland urban legend. It’s now about finding and/or creating the outlets to get our filmed visions out to the world.
You had the opportunity to work with Monique in the past, and her title as one of the Queens of Comedy is well-deserve. Do you think her battle with Netflix could later open more opportunities for comedians that do not have the star power of a Tiffany Haddish, Katt Williams, or Kevin Hart?
That’s a tough question because I understand that Netflix bases their payment decisions on the talent’s Q rating. So, although people in the comedy clubs might think that Monique is funnier than Amy Schumer, Amy Schumer is “hotter” in the box office, and the thinking is that she has a larger, trackable fan base that will come to watch her Netflix special, giving her more negotiating clout with the network. Now, I do believe that Netflix low-balled Monique and she was well within her rights to use her platform to let her fans and the world know what Netflix was doing. I don’t know if it changed how Netflix does business with comedians with less star-power than the comics that you mentioned. But, I think it did inspire many African-American comics who aren’t on that level to produce their own content and reap the financial benefits directly, without waiting on a Netflix to find them.
You also had the opportunity to work with LL Cool J and Alfonso Ribeiro [Carlton Banks] on “In the House.” Can you share with us how they both prepare to perform your perspective being on camera with both individuals?
“In The House” was my first speaking part ever on a network show, so I was a starry-eyed “rookie” in Hollywood. So I was worried about not forgetting my lines and hitting my mark the first few days of rehearsal. But, what I did notice was the difference between being an actor and a character actor. LL Cool J’s character on the show was written for him, so he was able to be his charismatic self as Marion, while Alfonso Ribeiro, similar to what he did on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” created his character on “In The House” from the ground up. So, watching him get ready was almost like watching an athlete put on his full uniform, and seeing his attitude change before he takes the field. When Alfonso was preparing to shoot, he’d put on that character’s “uniform” and you’d see him become that character, ready to go to work, when the director called “Action!” Another great thing about being on the “In The House” set was I got the chance to introduce myself to one of my Hollywood crushes, Halle Berry, and she was in-person beautiful just like she was on camera. So, I got to tell all my friends that I met Halle Berry and they thought I had made it after that.
For more information on Kenté and “What Sibling Rivalry” please visit: kentescott.com and whatsiblingrivalry.com.
Originally posted on The Hype Magazine.