London Brown, From HBO’s ‘BALLERS’, is Doing It Real at Comedy Club of Jacksonville

London Brown feels at home on the stage. The electric energy from a good crowd lets him know when he’s had a good show. It’s that dude eyeing him from the back that makes him question if his set sucked, or if guy with the stink eye is hating on him because of the character he plays on the HBO series “Ballers.” “I was in a club and this tall black guy that looked like he just got out of prison two hours ago is starting me down from across the room,” he says, “He finally walks up to me and says, ‘Hey man, I was trying to figure out where I knew you from. I thought you was the dude stealing my girl, but you that dude from the show. Good job, man’.”

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Brown brings his stand up show to Jacksonville August 30-September 1 at the Comedy Club of Jacksonville (www.jacksonvillecomedy.com). His material is a mix of observational humor, insights into the human condition and the differences between racial cultures.

“Our job as comedians is finding out what makes these situations funny or turning embarrassing moments into something special, but it’s all about sharing stories. It’s that same rush that some people have jumping out of a plane, or gambling, or doing an ollie on a skateboard off the edge of a roof. But it’s humbling. Doing stand up is humbling every night,” he says.

Brown came up in a funny family, a reality that he later learned didn’t exist in every household. His family always went the extra mile to get the punchline across. If describing a memorable movie scene, Brown says he would act out the dialogue in the character’s voice, a skill that would translate into impressions on the stand up stage. “I didn’t know there was anything special until I started doing stand up. I thought everyone did them because, for me, growing up, it came very naturally. That was just my own way of expression. I wasn’t a class clown, but people would laugh. By doing theatre, I found that performing on stage is really where I’m at. Being in front of people and getting that instant feedback is what I was drawn to,” says Brown in his best Denzel Washington voice.

“Stand up is special because I don’t need anyone’s permission to do it. It’s all on me, good or bad, and that’s what excites me. Whatever I decide to talk about or how many times a week I get up there. I get that same rush from theatre. They kind of work together.”

London Brown, From HBO's ‘BALLERS’ is Doing It Real at Comedy Club of Jacksonville

“Just because I got a standing O the night before, means nothing to a new crowd. Especially on this level where people don’t even know I do stand up and always having to fight that resistance. It’s one of the few professions where the audience comes in with so much doubt. They are looking for you not to do well. You’ve got to prove yourself.”

Brown toured with Chris Tucker in 2013 after only a year doing stand up. He worked through his five minute-shtick night after night, working through his material while the house lights were still on, the crowd was still shuffling to their seats, and everyone was just waiting for his set to end, so they could see Tucker.

“That made me work even harder to hook them right away, because people are there to see the headliner,” he says. “Even when you get to the level of Kevin Hart or Dave Chappelle, the development process is still the same. The jokes still have to be written and worked out. Even with all the rest of the credits, you have to deliver what people want. You have to do the work.”

On “Ballers,” Dwayne Johnson stars as Spencer Strasmore, a retired NFL player who is starting a new career managing the money of other NFL players. Brown plays Reggie, the obnoxious sidekick who’s trying to piggyback on his friend Vernon’s football career. It’s that annoying personality and ability to burrow under the skin of those in his company that makes Reggie irritating in a familiar way.

The role was originally written as a side character, a friend of a friend, but producers were so impressed with Brown’s approach that they bumped him up to a series regular, writing him into additional scenes as they were filming on set. As a stand up comedian, Brown tapped into the improvisational skills he uses on stage to think quickly on his feet. “Jokes are about timing. Doing theatre, I would find the comedic moments. For something like “Ballers,” I don’t reel it all the way in. On the show, I have become comic relief because I can create funny stuff where the character isn’t necessarily supposed to be funny at all. Reggie is so irritating to watch that it causes a laugh because people want to punch him,” he says.

Filming “Ballers,” Brown says he pushed himself outside of his comfort zone to develop the character of Reggie, which he found easy to do by going against his own natural instincts. “I do more cursing on the show than I ever do in real life, or smoke weed, or snort cocaine off the chest of white women. I think that’s why my friends who know me laugh, because I am nothing like Reggie, but that’s why I took the role, because it’s a nice stretch from who I am in person,” says Brown.

“It just depends on how people know me. If they’re being introduced to me because of the show, it’s funny because people apologize like ‘yo bro, I really hated you. Just wanted you to know I’m sorry’. ” And I’m like ‘that’s okay. You should be emotionally invested. It lets me know I keep your focus and attention. With a show with the kind of names that are on this show, you can easily get lost in the sauce. These guys got big résumés, so it’s important to me to create that energy. I want to make sure that playing opposite Dwayne, I can hold my own. I’m much smaller than Dwayne. He’s 6-foot-5 with a size 15 shoe. I need to make sure I keep some eyes on me.”

About Liza Mitchell

october, 2021

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