Sometimes it only takes one role to make you a star, but sometimes it takes two. For comedian JB Smoove, those role have been Leon Black on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and the wise-cracking Kenny on FOX’s “Til Death.” The Urban Daily recently caught up with the veteran comic to talk about Leon, Kenny and Barack Obama’s lesser-known cousin Lydell Obama and more.
The Urban Daily: Tell me about your character on “Til Death”?
JB Smoove: Let me introduce you to my man Kenny [laughs]. We actually introduced the character last season. Brad signed up be a big brother and my character was actually in the Big Brother program as a kid and due to a computer glitch my name was still in the system. My character and Brad’s character, Eddie, actually had a lot in common. Ya know, we have things in common, so you know how they match who you fit most, match up with and when he get to my house to pick up little Kenny, little Kenny turns out to be a big grown Kenny. It was great because Kenny needed something in his life, and I think Brad’s character needed to get out the house so it was a match made in heaven, ya know. It’s that male bonding thing. You know how you go to the hardware store to buy something like a headlight or something and then some other guy’s also in the aisle looking for a headlight. Next thing you know, you guys start talking about headlights, but all of a sudden, you go to pay for your stuff and he’s in the line in front of you’re still talking. You guys are still yapping your mouths about something and then all of a sudden you go into the parking lot and you guys are still talking about stuff in the parking lot for another half an hour then you kind of leave and say, “Take care, have a good day man.” Ya know what I mean? But you never get his number and you’re driving home like, “Damn, I should have gotten that dude’s number, man. He was a nice damn guy.” [laughs]
TUD: How did you land the role?
JS: I’ve had a long career. From writing on “SNL” [“Saturday Night Live”] to films like Mr. Deeds with Adam Sandler, but my role as Leon Black on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is what really propelled me to where I am right now. I did eight out of ten episodes on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and that has been the role that has broadened my career and my popularity. Kenny is awesome, but Kenny came from Leon so Leon Black is what propelled me to where I am right now. He’s opened a whole new audience that I have right now and I mean even with my stand-up right now it’s incredible. I go out to do sets and people yell out, “Leon!” He’s like a rockstar, man. Sony [Television] found interest in the character and the people that I knew and ended up offering me a role on “Till Death.” I didn’t have to audition; it came from what they’ve seen me do already which is always a pleasure to come to work without having to audition and go through all the challenges I have to go through and so it worked out great for me man I ended up signing with Sony and that included “Till Death,” a writing deal, an internet deal and also a development deal for my own show.
TUD: Is that the next step for you? Your own show?
JS: Someday, I’m cool with stuff right now. I had a bunch of different offers to actually do my own show with different development deals, but I decided to slow it down a little bit. So, I took the “Until Death” offer and actually just pick up and learn a little bit more, ya know. This is a great opportunity to just learn, build my audience a little bit more and learn about sitcom-just get my feet wet a little bit in that world. So, I think it was a smart idea to actually do a little crawling before I take the plunge on my own show. I just didn’t think my audience was big enough yet to actually take that plunge and actually just go start into my own show, so I just took the slow route. Now I’m building my skills even more, my résumé’s expanded, and, ya know, it’s a fun ride right now, we having a great time on the show, ya know.
TUD: I was actually gonna ask you bring up “Curb” next. Are you guys coming back?
JS: I already talked to Larry [David] a few months back, man. He actually called me and said he was thinking about coming back and then I finally heard he was coming back for two more seasons. He actually called me and said he didn’t want to come back, ya know, but that if he comes back that he wanted me to come back so I said, “Man, I would love to.”
TUD: You one of the few cats-you and Richard Lewis-that can keep up with Larry David on screen. That’s definitely a credit to you, man.
JS: Thanks so much. I love improv. I’ve always loved improv. I do improv in my stand-up also so it was a great opportunity for me to get out there and really have a voice it’s also fun because you’re kind of creating your own storyline so it’s always something interesting to say. You kind of make yourself laugh cause you’re saying stuff for the first time this is stuff that’s not even scripted, ya know, so improv is always fun.
TUD: Speaking of comedy, I have to ask you what your thoughts are on the current political climate.
JS: Oh man, I love Obama! I actually played a character on the Internet called Lydell Obama, Obama’s fourth cousin. I’m just like doing this unofficial campaign, ya know campaign for my cousin who never called me back, ya know [laughs]. I’m like that black sheep of the family; the kind of cousin who is just trying to support my cousin even though he never calls me back. One of his lines is, “Barack has got to make America his bitch, ya know. Ya gotta, grab, California and grab Florida and just give it to America just like uh, uh, uh, uh, give it to America!” [laughs] “Who country is this? Who country is this? It’s your country… It’s your country, daddy.” Ya know what I mean? He’s a very funny character because ya know because he doesn’t know no better. He’s just one of those cats that loves his cousin and he has a slogan that a lot of people are jumping on that I don’t know that had to get it from watching on YouTube, “Obama for yo momma asks a mama about Obama. [laughs]
I’m on Obama, man. I’m gonna vote for him. I’m looking forward to the man doing great things. I know its gonna be a big hill to climb, there’s a lot of work to do if he gets in there. I want somebody in there that’s great and I think right now he’s the greatest right now. I won’t even say if he wins, I’ll say when he wins, he’s going to do some amazing things for this country across the board, ya know, across the board, and it’s going to be amazing.
TUD: Lastly, between “Til Death,” “Curb” and your web stuff, you got a pretty tight schedule. Is there anything else your working on?
JS: Yeah, man. I have another series on right now on superdeluxe.com, “Thug For Life.” “Thug For Life” is kind of like Spiderman meets Incredible Hulk. I play a mild-mannered suburban guy who gets bit by a thug rapper over a parking space, and when I get mad I turn into a thug. But, I only thug up for the right reasons; I don’t thug up for anything crazy like protecting a woman or someone whose trying to steal something from me or my neighbor borrows something and won’t give it back. I only thug up for the right reasons.
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