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Stand-up Tue Oct 30 2012

A Radio Riot: An Interview with Comedian Rudy Rush

Whether it is through television specials or on the radio as one-third of the nationally-syndicated Doug Banks Radio Show, comedian Rudy Rush is definitely one of the hardest-working stand-ups in the business. A native New Yorker who holds the title as youngest host of "Showtime at the Apollo" and who has worked with comedians including Martin Lawrence and Dave Chappelle, Rush has been entertaining audiences for over 15 years. This weekend, he hits town for four shows at Jokes and Notes; recently, I spoke with him via telephone about starting in the business, how he keeps it real on the radio and what Chicago can expect from a "Rudy Rush experience."

RUDYRUSH1.jpg

When it comes to stand-up, you've done everything from "Martin Lawrence Presents 1st Amendment Stand-Up" to "Def Comedy Jam," along with specials on Comedy Central and Showtime--how did you get your start in stand-up?

I worked at a law firm in downtown New York City once I got out of high school. I built some really strong relationships there and they were prepping me to become a paralegal or a lawyer, but looking at the caseloads some of them had, I really didn't want to be a lawyer. I never saw myself as a comedian, but I would always make everyone at the office laugh.

It was good that you already sort of had an audience, then...

Yeah. But there was one lady, Diane Lisi who believed in me. When "In Living Color" was still on the air and when everybody like Jim Carrey and Jamie Foxx was leaving to go on to bigger and better things, [the producers] wanted to keep the show going, so they looked for new cast members. Diane would always say, "You're so funny" or "You should go try it." And I went to try out and I wasn't successful--not because I wasn't funny--I got about four callbacks--but they said, "We want to keep you in mind, but we're gonna cancel the series." From there, I thought, "Well maybe I am funny."

So was it the situation with "In Living Color" and the support from your office co-workers that really gave you the "bug?"

It's funny--once, I went to an amateur night where you had to bring three paying customers with you in order to get on stage and they told me they'd give me $2 back for every person I brought. So I figured I would bring 10 people, get $20 bucks and maybe get something to eat--hey, I was only 19 at the time! [Laughs]. But so many people from my job and my family thought I was funny and they would come; to this day, the record still stands at 90-something people that came to see me my first time ever on stage. And from that, it just kind of parlayed. I never stopped doing it.

How long was your time at the law firm after that?

I worked at the firm for another year and a half before I actually went to do stand-up full time. One thing I did appreciate from the people at the firm is that they really backed me up and that club loved it because I kept them in business. That's how I kind of built up and that's how I got started.

Speaking of the early days of your career, folks may remember you as host of "Showtime at the Apollo." You were the youngest to ever host--what was that experience like?

I was the youngest host at 26 years old. But to just be a part of that history with Steve Harvey, Rick Aviles, Sinbad, Kim Coles, Mark Curry and Monique--to be part of the legacy of not only those hosts, but the theater itself, is great.

"Apollo Live," the reincarnation of "Showtime at the Apollo," premieres in December--will you be watching?

Tony Rock is the host and my man Marcus King and Jamie Foxx are producing it; a lot of the same people who produced "Showtime at the Apollo" are actually involved with it. I haven't had a chance to check out a taping, but I checked on Tony and made sure he was straight and I gave him a little bit of advice. I wish him all the best and hopefully he can just carry the torch and bring the show back to its prominence.

Every weekday afternoon, we hear you here in Chicago on the Doug Banks Radio Show and from what I can tell, you're having lots of fun.

It's an absolute blast. People don't know--all the time you always have decisions--especially in show business and sometimes you get pulled in many directions to do different things. January 2013 will make 8 years with Doug and Dede [McGuire] and not only has it been a blessing, but it's a decision I'm really glad that I made because I had other choices at the time.

Seems like a good decision, indeed, because the three of you have great chemistry.

The chemistry is really great and with someone like Doug Banks, you really can't go wrong. He's such a legend in the radio business and learning under him--it's just been a great ride so far.

Like fellow comedian J. Anthony Brown in his role on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, you are excellent opposite Doug Banks' straight man. Is comedy for radio challenging? From a listener's standpoint, it just doesn't seem that any comedian can do it.

It is difficult for most comics to do this--every comic can't do it. It's funny you mentioned J. Anthony Brown--I actually leaned on him a lot in the beginning. He'd tell me, "Don't worry; keep it moving." You can second guess yourself in a room with people who are already established and know that other comics have come in and failed. But I really credit Jay because he spoke with me and gave me great advice.

RUDYRUSH2.jpg

You talk a lot about your daughter on the radio; does she provide a lot of material for you?

She thinks I'm corny! [Laughs]. One time we were at the amusement park and I was singing, laughing and dancing around, and I turned around and she had her arms crossed, almost crying and said, "Daddy, you're embarrassing me!" But she's a blessing and I always knew I was capable of being a good father. My daughter really taught me that if I can love a woman like I love her and use those same principles I use with her, I'll be fine.

Speaking of relationships and fatherhood, on the radio show, you often defend fathers--especially black men--who get a bad rap in society--can you expound on that? Do you hear from any of them after those shows?

Oh, man. They stop me in the street, they call and they send emails. We all like to generalize, and I'm guilty of it too, sometimes, but you can't convince me that every man is not trying to take care of his kid and you cannot convince me that for the guys who are, that there's not someone trying to keep them from doing that. There are guys out there really trying and yes, there are some knuckleheads, too--and I don't celebrate those guys at all--but for the ones that do, I can't imagine them going to sleep not wondering whether or not their children are safe or if they're doing okay. That's just beyond me.

Touring and stand-up are still very much part of your career; do you think you'd ever quit either one?

I never wanted to lose my love for what got me here. Being on that stage is something special and I feel like I have more to give than the average person who just lucked out. But I want to do movies, television and Broadway, if I can--I just want to do as many things as God allows me to do. And I don't want to be comfortable just doing radio. Doug allows me to do my thing and that's why I really do admire him. He understands that the better Rudy Rush does, the better for the Doug Banks collective.

This week, you're headlining this week at Jokes and Notes; recently, you said you've got some new stuff to unleash on Chicago. What can we expect?

One of the reputations I have and a reason why a lot of comedy clubs book me several times a year is I never do the same show twice. But if you're good, clubs will bring you back and Jokes and Notes is one of those places. [The owner] Mary Lindsey and I have a cool relationship and she respects me not only as a comedian but also as a person. It's funny though; the first time she booked me, I don't think she had ever seen me. It was like, "Oh yeah, he's on Doug's show," but after watching my shows, she said, "Oh--he's funny." But I plan on "bringing it" to Chicago in November because I have a lot of new stuff I want to talk about.

What's next for you? Are you working on anything right now?

Well, it's a it's a bit of a secret but I'll tell you this much: Rudy Rush will be popping up on a lot of things that may have a west coast vibe to it, so I'm leaking that little bit out there for the audience to determine what it is. And I still plan on rocking with my family, Doug and DeDe, but also moving on to bigger things.

~*~

Catch Rudy Rush as he headlines Friday and Saturday, November 2-3 at Jokes and Notes, 4641 S. King Dr.; comedian Ben Bergman opens. Tickets and show times are 8:30pm ($15) and 10:30pm ($20). For more information, contact the box office at 773-373-3390.

Photos courtesy of rudyrush.com.

 
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mike / November 1, 2012 10:48 AM

Great interview. Great questions and great answers. Rudy is the man! The chemistry between Doug, Rudy and DeDe is second to none. I hope they never part because they're one of the rare comedy teams that we rarely see in a generation. They're the "Black Rat Pack" as I see them.

I listen to them everyday (because my job keeps me in a truck all day).

Keep up the good job!

LaShawn Williams / November 4, 2012 10:44 AM

Thank you, Mike. And yes, the chemistry on the Doug Banks Radio Show is second to none--they really have a great thing happening.

Me Sucka / April 25, 2013 4:16 PM

I know you have heard the buzz ALL OVER "ADULT" chicago radio today, Thursday April 25th, 2013, Rudy Rush was SUDDENLY replaced with George Willborn. I love George as much as the next person. They are not saying ANYTHING on the air. WE need an explanation!!..

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Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

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