By Reginald Allen
For the Birmingham Times
Those who follow Delshawn “Detroit Reid” Reid on social media might recognize that his posts end with the hashtag #ComedyIsPain. Most might see it as a brand, but for Detroit Reid it’s a mantra. Similar to the phrase “hakuna matata” from Disney’s “The Lion King,” the maxim relates to not only his personal life but also his journey as a stand-up comedian.
“It means to me all the pain that I’ve been through as a kid,” explained Detroit Reid. “I embrace it through laughs and comedy. I love my job, man. It’s the best to make people smile and laugh through the worst situations.”
Detroit Reid, 28, was in Hollywood, where he performed on July 22 at the Laugh Factory, a breeding ground for aspiring comedians looking to make it big. It’s a landmark opportunity for Detroit Reid, who’s been in the comedy game for almost five years.
Securing a spot on the stage that’s launched the careers of many doesn’t come easy, but that’s not to say his resume doesn’t speak for itself. Detroit Reid has opened for comedians Mike Epps, Lavell Crawford, Gary Owens, Marlon Wayans, Steve Brown, D.C. Young Fly, and Michael Blackson.
“Every [comedian] who makes it goes through that club on Sunset Boulevard,” Detroit Reid said. “Richard Pryor, Martin Lawrence, Dave Chappelle, everybody. I’m very excited to go and do the stage that all these legends have paved the way for me to be on.”
The Detroit, Mich., native earned his stage name from his best friend’s brother shortly after moving to Alabama in 2003. As his comedy career started to take off, Detroit Reid debated dropping the moniker, but the brother’s sudden passing inspired him to keep it.
Rome wasn’t built in day, and Detroit Reid said his ascension in the stand-up realm didn’t happen overnight, either. Like many entertainers, his family and friends always told him he had the gift of humor, but when it came time to show and prove, he froze.
Detroit Reid recalled being a no-show for his first gig, an open mic at Birmingham’s now-defunct 7Lounge. Owing it up to nervousness and anxiety, he just skipped the event all together. After spotting a flyer for another open mic, he said, “I made it my business to be on the next show.”
It was at the sophomore performance that he met his now close friend “Trey Mack” McClain, who was also green in the industry. Trey Mack offered to open the show and “went up there, killed it.” When it came time for Detroit Reid to hit the stage, he performed a set so strong that the owners had to bring him back.
Under the tutelage of 95.7 JAMZ’s Jermaine “FunnyMaine” Johnson, comedian Terry “Terry Tee” Thomas, and actor-comedian Rodney Perry, Detroit Reid said he grew as a performer, learning how to treat the highly competitive craft as a business.
That meant being creative for out-of-town bookings. Needing a reliable car for gigs, a friend suggested that he work at Drive Time, a car dealership chain that offered employees any car on the lot for cheap if they remained on staff past two months. Even with keys in hand, Detroit Reid said balancing a full-time job and out-of-town shows took a toll.
“I used to get off an eight-hour job and ride four hours to New Orleans or [two hours] to Atlanta to [perform],” he said. “Then I would come back with my clothes in the car—oversleeping outside my job and still being late.”
It wasn’t long before Detroit Reid was out of a job. He was then able to concentrate solely on comedy. This year marks his fourth as a comedian, second full-time.
“I promised myself that before I get fired or the next job doesn’t work out, I will pursue comedy full-time because I felt it was destined for me,” he said.
Things are looking good for the millennial comedian and father-to-be. With his unborn son, Legend, on the way, Detroit Reid said he’s going to grind harder, not that he wasn’t already putting in the extra effort. With his Laugh Factory debut, Detroit Reid believes a national tour or a show overseas isn’t that far behind.
“I want to be the best dad ever and lead by example by striving for greatness,” he said.
Follow Detroit Reid on Instagram @comedian_detroitreid.