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Lil Duval: ‘From day one, I’ve always felt successful’

Lil Duval

By Monique Jones

The Birmingham Times

Lil Duval arrives as Universal Pictures presents the World Premiere of "Ride Along" at The TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, CA on Monday, January 13, 2014 (Alex J. Berliner/ABImages, via AP Images)
Lil Duval will perform this Friday through Sunday at the Stardome Comedy Club in Hoover. (Alex J. Berliner/ABImages, via AP Images)

Lil Duval has always been successful.

“I felt for me, success was always from day one, doing what I love to do,” said the comedian, born Roland Powell. “To me, my definition of success is if you’re doing what you love to do and you’re excelling at it then you’re successful. From day one, I’ve always felt successful.”

The Jacksonville, Fla. native found his foothold in comedy in Atlanta, Ga., and from there, his career took off. Starting Friday through Sunday, he will perform at the Stardome Comedy Club in Hoover.

If you’re new to Lil Duval’s brand of comedy, don’t expect a certain genre; just expect to laugh.

“Laughter, that’s the key. At the end of the day, you get straight laughter,” he said. “I can’t say what type of comedy, what style it is, because then you’re pigeonholing yourself. At the end of the day, the only thing you can expect is to laugh.”

You can get a sense of Lil Duval’s comedic style through the comedians he admires, like Chris Tucker, who inspired him to take a chance in the entertainment business. “Just watching him on Def Comedy Jam a long time ago and seeing me in him,” he said. “Being able to relate to his comedy.”

In the early ‘00s, Lil Duval caught the attention of Cedric the Entertainer, who took Lil Duval on a cross-country tour with four other comedians. The trip earned Lil Duval a spot in the televised comedy show Cedric the Entertainer: Starting Lineup.

For Lil Duval, the tour was a learning experience.

“It was great because I learned a lot from being around people like that and being around greats,” he said.  “[Them] taking me in and putting their stamp on me gave me the confidence to do what I do now.”

Lil Duval’s sense of comedy also stems from his relationship with rap and hip-hop. He said that rap has always been a part of comedy.

“It’s always been intertwined with each other with Def Comedy Jam,” he said. “As far as music is concerned, it was natural for me and natural for [rappers] to kind of blend in with each other.”

That ability to “blend in” has helped Lil Duval carve out a niche in the rap industry, becoming a recurring guest star in music videos for Ludacris, Lil John & The East Side Boy, T.I., Wale, Yung Joc, Three 6 Mafia, Plies, and Snoop Dogg, among others. In fact, it was T.I. who added Lil Duval to his entertainment company’s comedy division, Grand Hustle Comedy.

“He’s someone who says what everyone else is thinking and scared to say,” said T.I. in a press release. “He talks about life’s most difficult and embarrassing moments. To take these things and find ways to make people laugh, especially when folks see fit to cry, is comedy at its finest.”

Working with rap’s biggest names comes naturally to him, Lil Duval said.

“It’s been cool…it’s been a natural thing because [T.I. and I] were friends first,” he said. “When we did the comedy and entertainment part, it just came natural. It’s been cool and it’s helped me a lot, too, because at one time in entertainment, there weren’t that many outlets. Doing [music] videos was one of the outlets when there wasn’t that many. I was still able to have an outlet to get out there.”

Lil Duval’s biggest outlets have included social media. His Twitter page alone boasts 849,000 followers.

His online success comes from “Just me being able to interact with them and actually speak from a point of view that’s an honest point of view,” he said. “I think people respect that.”