By Monique Jones
The Birmingham Times
For the first time “in about seven or eight years” comedian Bill Bellamy will be back in Birmingham.
He’s bringing his stand-up act back to the StarDome Comedy Club in Hoover Friday through Sunday.
“I don’t know how it took me so long…I can’t believe I haven’t been back to the StarDome,” Bellamy said this week. “It’s one of the nicest venues in the country. It’s almost like a Vegas amphitheater in Birmingham. Every seat is a good seat, the sound system is bananas, the people that come there, they’re coming to have fun. It’s just a great room. You could shoot a comedy special in there, that’s how amazing it is.”
The goal throughout his career, Bellamy said, is to “really make people have a good time.”
“When you come out to my shows, you’re going to laugh like crazy,” he said. “You’re going to relax. You’re going to be happy when you leave. You’re going to have a headache from laughing. I’ve had somebody tell me their whole face hurt. That’s when you know you’re getting them jokes out.”
Bellamy was in a different profession before launching his comedy career.
“I was planning to do finance [and] along the way, I was like, finance is going to be a…safe life. But the comedy seems like it could be extraordinary,” he said. “I didn’t want to be safe with my life, I wanted to do things that were unbelievable. I took a chance on myself, and every day I’m [thinking]…if I hadn’t have done that, I wouldn’t have the life or the experiences that I have.”
For example, he said, “last night, I was hanging it out with Dave Chappelle…you can’t do that when you’re selling stocks, you know? I’ve traveled the world, performed for the troops, met [former President Barack Obama], hung out with dignitaries in Africa [and] sometimes, I [think] ‘this is unbelievable.’ I was in Honduras, a place I’ve never been in my entire life and people were running up to me saying, ‘Bill Bellamy!’”
Bellamy’s time with the former president Obama helped put in perspective just how influential his comedy can be.
“He was so cool…and he’s a fan. That’s what’s a trip. You think that people that do politics don’t like comedy. He’s telling me his favorite Bill Bellamy joke. Sometimes you don’t even realize the impact. I’ve been doing ‘The Tom Joyner Morning Show’…and I’m on Wednesdays every week. I’m on in Birmingham, I’m on in all these markets, and I’m making people laugh like crazy. I don’t even realize how far [the impact]. What’s crazy is that I do the radio, but I don’t know how many people listen. It’s millions [of listeners].”
One of the most popular catchphrases in pop culture was coined by Bellamy during his performance on HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam” in the early 1990s.
It was Bellamy who introduced “booty call” to the lexicon.
“Isn’t that amazing?” he said. “…I didn’t even know it was going to take off like that. I just thought it was funny. I’ll crack up when I’m watching a sitcom and [a character says] ‘Oh my God, I’m not a booty call,’ and I’m like, they wouldn’t even say that if it wasn’t for me.”
Bellamy’s comedy career led to an on-air career as a MTV VJ, hosting “MTV Jamz” and “MTV Beach House.”
“I blew up with pop culture. That’s what made me a household name. The music was exploding, I was at the right place at the right time,” he said. “…I was interviewing Tupac [Shakur], Snoop [Dogg], [Dr.] Dre, Collective Soul, No Doubt, Blind Melon…Madonna…I’m talking to Prince… I’m doing Michael Jackson’s simulcast. He’s the first dude to ever have his music video premiere on every network on every channel at the same time. I was like, ‘This is gangsta!’”
“MTV was the YouTube of the ‘90s,” he said. “You’re helping artists blow up like Dru Hill, Boyz II Men, New Kids on the Block, N-Sync. All those dudes came through me.”
Interviewing Prince during the promotion of his “Emancipation” album was one of the many moments that remains one of the highlights of Bellamy’s career.
“The craziest thing about Prince [was that] I did not know how masculine he was and how cool [he was]. You see a dude with pants with the booty cut out, you’d think he’d [have] a Michael Jackson voice,” he said. “[Prince said] ‘I think you’re really funny, brother man, I watch you all the time, I see you on Def Comedy Jam.’ I’m like ‘What?’”
“[The] ‘Emancipation’ album, that was a prolific album for him as an artist because he was trying to keep the rights to his music,” he said. “… That was such a great interview. Now when I look at all the guys that I interviewed, they’re all gone. I mean, thank God the [interviews are] documented. I’m a part of history. I like that. People still talk about my Tupac interview, because he didn’t do a lot of interviews, so it stands out. It’s like, ‘Wow.’ I’m still dreaming, to be honest. I’m still … like a kid in a candy store.”
Bellamy kept influencing the younger generation of the ‘90s with the popular Nickelodeon show “Cousin Skeeter.” Bellamy voiced the titular character, the puppet cousin of Bobby, played by Robert Ri’chard. Bellamy said he didn’t how popular “Cousin Skeeter” was at the time.
“I didn’t have kids at the time and I didn’t watch Nickelodeon . . . one day I went to a mall and a bunch of kids were there and word got out that [I was] Skeeter. I was like ‘Is this real?’ I didn’t watch Nickelodeon and I didn’t realize people were really digging that show. That show was dope for people. I was like, ‘Damn, I’m happy I’m [voicing] Skeeter.’”
In 2007 and 2008, Bellamy hosted the fifth and sixth seasons of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing.” He said he hoped to help all of the comedians on the show get their moment in the spotlight.
“For me, I just wanted the comedians to win because I knew what it meant for them to get that break on national TV,” he said. “I’m a comic’s comic, trying to help them get ready for their shows, I’m warming up the room so they can get out there and perform because a lot of dudes had never been on TV before; this was literally their first time being on television … I just thought it was a great opportunity to help other comics out here and I think I did … I’ve always heard, ‘Bill you always looked out for us,’ and I did.”
Bellamy shares his fame with his cousin, retired NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal.
“He’s doing his thing … he’s still killing it as he’s retired, so I’m proud of what’s going for him,” said Bellamy. “It’s funny, I always wanted to be an NBA player living his life, and he wanted to be a comedian [and] that’s why he’s so silly. We always have fun, too, and that’s the interesting thing about it. He just took it to a dope level in his profession and I took it to a superstar level in my profession, so it evens out.”
Bellamy also has been a staple in both film and television, with starring roles in “Fled,” “Love Jones,” “How to Be a Player,” “The Brothers,” “Any Given Sunday,” “Getting Played” and FOX’s “Fastlane,” The WB’s “Men, Women & Dogs,” The CW’s “Mr. Box Office,” and TV Land’s “Hot in Cleveland.”
“I’m still impressed by the opportunities of life and how things change and how I’ve gotten even better and funnier had even more experiences,” he said. “ … There’s a lot of positive moments in this game with what I’m doing … I’m appreciating the whole ride. That’s what I hope everybody does; appreciate it as you have it, don’t take it for granted.
“I’m proud to say that dreams do come true and … you’ve got to believe in yourself and take a chance,” he said. “Take a chance on your dreams and take a chance to see where you could go because you just never know; you could really go somewhere with it. That’s my message to everybody.”
Bellamy’s other advice is to avoid doubt.
“A lot of times, I think doubt stifles a lot of people. People just create a wall of doubt. You don’t have to know how, you’ve just got to have the passion [to do] what it is you want to pursue and your passion will create a magnet to get your there,” he said. “It will be like the sail that pushes you towards your dreams. I didn’t know how to write a joke when I first started doing it. I just knew I liked comedy. I knew I liked being in front of people and talking and telling funny stories.”
Some of his fans still recount their favorite jokes to him, some jokes that date back 15 years.
“If [the joke’s] really true, it’s like a hit record, it never goes out of style,” he said. “So, I think that’s what dope about my career … I reinvented myself. I’ve done the work and now my audiences are everywhere. They … grew up with me on ‘Cousin Skeeter,’ they loved ‘Fastlane,’ they loved ‘How to Be a Player.’ Everyone got on my train somewhere.”