One of the most active comics to come out of the standup community over the past year has been Brent “B-Real” Robinson, performing on an almost weekly basis at every venue in Salt Lake City. Setting the bar high with long solo sets based around stories and observations in a racier tone, Robinson has risen through the ranks to become a headlining act in SLC, a strong touring act throughout the West and a name to watch for in 2015. Today, we chat with B-Real about his career and thoughts on local stand up. (All pictures courtesy of Robinson.
Brent “B-Real” Robinson
B-Real on Facebook
Gavin: Hey B-Real, first off, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a laid-back, love-to-have-a-great-time kind of person. I love to golf and do things with family and friends. Before I took a shot at comedy, I was a high school youth counselor. Working with at-risk youth that had been in a gang, or trying to get out of one. I loved it very much because I could relate with them very easy. See, when I was a young man, just 18 years old, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was charged with capital murder and aggravated robbery. I had the death penalty for three years of my life. So after all was proven and they let me out to be a free man, I just wanted to try to help anyone else not be in that wrong place at the wrong time. But that's a long story and Tate Publishing and I are in the talks for a book deal right now.
Gavin: What first got you interested in stand-up comedy, and who were some of your favorite comedians growing up?
I have always loved comedy from the time I was just a little kid. I remember sneaking around the corner trying to hear my parents watching Eddie Murphy's Delirious
when I was just young boy and laughing my butt off. My parents both worked two jobs and we didn't have much money, so to see them be so happy laughing at Eddy Murphy was an amazing thing to me. So I would have to say Eddy Murphy, Richard Pryor, Bernie Mac and Robin Harris we're probably some of my favorite comedians growing up.
Gavin: What officially brought on the decision for you to attempt it as a career?
What made me give it a try was so many people always told me you should be a comic. You have a gift to naturally be funny and I always wanted to but never really did. Until one Friday night in February 2012. My best friend and I went to Wiseguys for his birthday party. He was the WBU welterweight pro boxing champion of the world. Chris "Kid Kayo" Fernandez. So I called down and told them we would be coming but he just wanted to watch the show not sign stuff or take pics with people until after the show. It was Brandon T Jackson, Rion Evens and Jay Whittaker. So Brandon is a huge boxing fan and gets wind that the WBU world champion is in the building. Asks us to the green room to take pics with the champ. I'm clowning around and my boy tells him how I want to try comedy. He here's me and one of the comics clowning and says to me, "You want to come and do five minutes tomorrow?" I was like, "What? Hell yeah
, I do." He tells me it's a whole different thing with an audience sitting in front of you. So I went home and called everyone I knew and said I'm performing at Wiseguys tomorrow night. Everybody kind of said yeah right. So some of my family and friends came to support. I did nine minutes of just freestyle comedy. I had nothing written at the time. Freestyle still one of my favorites today but the crowd enjoyed it and Brandon told me I have a future. And so did Rion Evens. We stay in contact today and have become friends, as did Jay Whittaker and me.
Gavin: How was it for you breaking into the local lineups and getting gigs?
I got a great response from the crowd and the owner of Wiseguys, Keith Stubbs, told me to come and open up the following weekend for Johnny Sanchez. So I did. Got an even better response and just kept going from there. And then I started getting hosting gigs from the comedy scene, like the Summer Jam for U92 in 2013. And then their big car show I have posted for them the last two years. And things just kept coming and I was in the right places at the right times. It was great. Very lucky starting off. I got a call from Phillip Parental at the Sapphire Comedy Club in Las Vegas, and I went out there and did a few shows and started breaking into the Las Vegas comedy scene. Got more gigs hosting concerts, like Crystal's new album-release party, rappin' 4 Tay, Brown Boy, Baby Bash, MC Magic, King Lil G and more. I have E 40 Little Rob and Mr. Capone coming up. The comedy aspect is a great thing for the crowd, especially when they're so much down time in between sets. I keep the crowd entertained laughing and excited.
Gavin: When you first started out, what were some of the lessons you learned about performing?
When I first started out, I was told hit all the open mics I possibly could and practice the craft of comedy. I started to hit the open mics at Trolley Square Wiseguys and I soon found out the urban comedy that I love to do does not make everyone laugh. I had a crazy set, but I felt like nothing I said was funny. The crowd was just not my crowd and when I got off stage, Jay Whittaker, who was the host at the time, told me don't sweat it. It happens to all of us at some point. Learn from it and move on that was great advice from a great comedian, so that's what I did. Later on, I learned to be versatile be able to make any audience laugh.
Gavin: What's it like for you coming up with material and deciding what works and what doesn't?
The way I come up with my material is I talk about everyday things, everyday issues, things that may frustrate you. It may be the hard part of your life relationships, bigotry or racism. I talk about gays and lesbians. Mexicans, African-Americans, Asians, Puerto Ricans, white, Polynesian ... I take the things that sometimes frustrate people and turn it into something we can laugh at. I have never ever to this day had anybody get upset when I do the kind of comedy. I love to do urban comedy. I just can relate to them, because I am them. I talk about and make things funny that most of the urban community lives on a day-to-day basis. So to be on stage and say the things I do to the kind of audience that it's meant for. All walls are usually down because they know I'm telling the truth in a funny way and I have been a part of that I'm not just guessing about what I'm talking about. I have lived it and people know when you have just heard about something and lived through something; it's a big difference.
Gavin: How is it for you interacting with other local comedians, both as friends and competitors?
I love working with other comics. Utah has a great wide range of comedians. People underestimate Utah. A lot of great things come out of Utah and we have a great comedy scene here. I just did a show with Natasha Mower and she is a hilarious lesbian and does some lesbian material that I just loved. And again I think the reason she is so successfully funny is because she talks about things she has lived.
Gavin: The set you put on is a lot longer than many others, with more foul language and racier content than some would perform. How is it for you performing that kind of set against others that are usually quicker and cleaner?
Yes, it is true, I do have long sets longer than most everyone. I have done an hour and 35 minutes straight, but I prefer 50 minutes. I talk about life's experiences, things that I have been through, things that people around me have been through, things that people don't normally like to talk about I take and put humor in. As far as the language I use, I don't sugar coat shit. I tell it like it is and the crowd appreciates that. It's not to say that I can't do clean sets because I have done many, but if I had to pick out of the two I prefer to just be real. So it's fine with me to do the set I do right after someone may have done a 20-minute set with no swear words. That doesn't bother me. I do my set and I never base any of my set off of what any other comedian does in the same show if we were all the same, no one would come to see us.
Gavin: You also do a lot of audience interaction and jokes specific to people who come to see you. How is it for you branching out the comedy into the crowd?
I love crowd work. I love hecklers. Some comics don't really like hecklers at all, but I'm totally opposite. I hope there are hecklers in the crowd at every set I do. And I love to interact with the crowd. That part is just all freestyle comedy; I never have anything planned for that. I just look at the crowd when I'm up there doing my written stuff and think about what person or people I can make a part of the show. I have always gotten a very positive response from it and most of the time after the show. I think everyone for being good sports and then they normally just want to buy me a drink and talk some more. So I love it.
Gavin: What's your take on the stand-up scene and the work coming out of it?
The stand-up scene in Utah is pretty... let's just say, locked up. If you are in a certain circle you may be able to headline a show that in other states may not be the headliner. I do a lot of different work outside Utah, like L.A., Las Vegas, Cleveland, New York and Philadelphia. Its usually urban community so I see a lot of diversities. And I'm not saying we don't have a lot of talent out here in Utah because we do. Utah is full of great comedians, it's just a small place.
Gavin: Aside from yourself, who are some of your favorites who you like to check out around town?
Some of my favorite local comedians are David D. Nice, he's probably my favorite out here. I also like Melissa Merlot, Matt Turner, E.K., Natasha Mower, Christopher Stephenson and Jordon Mazziotti.
Gavin: What are your thoughts on the clubs that provide comedians a forum to perform, and the work they do to help bring in audiences?
I think it's great that the bigger clubs (night clubs) have broken into the comedy scene. I have done shows with a lot of the bigger clubs in Salt Lake, like Club Inferno, which is a great one. I do a lot of shows there and the seating is so much more than a smaller comedy club can hold. I did a Valentine's Day show on a Friday, and the very next day did a show and I think there were 500 people on Friday and 500 hundred people on Saturday, so there's a pretty big difference. That's why I like playing the bigger crowds. Also Club 1, The Hotel and Liquid Joe's. I actually probably do more shows in those bigger nightclubs on their comedy night than the comedy clubs around town. The comedy clubs around town seem to have a circle that they just rotate through. And maybe my long sets, foul mouth and riskier dialogue have not gotten me invited to the smaller venues.
Gavin: Whats your opinion of national stand-up comedians coming through town and what that does for the local scene?
Exposure is always a great thing, so I think that when national touring comedians come to Utah. It's a great thing, it's a chance to meet them make that connection and branch out.
Gavin: What advice do you have for people looking to getting into stand-up comedy?
I think that anybody who is going to get into comedy has to really have a love for it. It takes a lot of time and dedication, it takes a lot of time away from family, friends and just everyday life. Traveling, being away from loved ones, missing birthday parties or other events, so if you're not ready to sacrifice and give up a lot of things, it may not be for you. But if you are, I would say write as much as you possibly can and just watch people, listen to conversations and think about everyday life. People love comedy that they can relate to. Just B-Real.
Gavin: What can we expect from you over the rest of the year?
The rest of this year I have a few more hosting obligations that I need to fulfill with some contracts I still have. Then I will be in Vegas doing that circuit for a while. And hopefully, real soon, I will be able to branch out and do some acting, so we will see.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
B-Real: On Nov. 15, I'm hosting the Mr Capone E. Lil Rob concert, and then on Nov. 22, I will be hosting the (AP) for E 40. You can contact me on Facebook