Before becoming an actor, Lil Rel Howery was a rising comedian just trying to get it out of the mud. Now, he is on his The Best Friends Comedy Tour co-headlining with Tiffany Haddish, giving Black Women comedians opportunities and embracing his status as a legendary comedian.
EBONY: How did you prepare for this tour?
Lil Rel Howery: The way I prepare for comedy tours is by not preparing. I’ve been doing stand-up for maybe over 20 years now. It’s really just getting on the stage and just getting my rhythm back. So for me—before Tiffany and I did the tour— I did my own individual sets first. I headlined a couple of clubs and a couple of theaters, just to get my rhythm. Honestly, it feels really good to get my rhythm back—and it’s back.
Why did you and Tiffany Haddish decide to do a tour together?
The idea of me and Tiffany doing this tour together came from wanting to spend time with my friends. I hit her up like, “Yeah, we should do a best friend tour because we’ve never really hit the road to get it like that.” We did a few shows before but not a full tour together. So, I just thought it’d be cool to do a “his and her” headlining tour [because] you don’t see that often. That is why I think a lot of people are trying to figure out what the show is gonna be. But it’s just literally a really good comedy show with two heavyweights in the game. We both headline in clubs and theatres and we just come together just to do one really good show.
How did you and Tiffany become best friends?
Me and Tiffany became best friends when we met on a TV show called Bill Bellamy’s Who Got Jokes. I won my episode and she came backstage and she forced a friendship. She came backstage, like “You so damn funny. We goin’ be friends” and I’m like “Lady, who are you?” But that’s literally how we met. She came back there showing me love. We exchanged numbers and she was my first LA friend. So when I first started coming to LA to audition and showcase, I’d stay on her couch. That’s who would pick me up from the airport. So during the day, she would go to auditions and stuff and I’d be with her the whole day. Then we’d go hit comedy clubs at night.
Now that is what friendship looks like.
It’s not even one of those fake stories. We’ve been friends the whole time. When she would come to Chicago, she would come stay at my house. We’ve seen each other through marriages and all types of shit. I can’t even describe it. I’m so proud of her because you see somebody come up from the dirt and the mud and we both did. She used to pick me up in this loud-ass Geo Metro at the airport. I couldn’t wait to hear that loud ass car.
What’s missing from Comedy?
What I do think is missing in stand-up comedy is the consistency of how much you have to hit the stage to really develop material. Nowadays, it’s like it’s a popularity contest. If you have all these followers and things from that, they’ll do these shows, and it’d be sold out, but they’re not giving a really good show, because they haven’t done enough stage time. A lot of times when people come to my shows, they leave almost in shock. “Yo, I didn’t know [he was] this funny. Jesus!” This is how I got here. I have great friends that I’ve met to this day from the stand-up world and we were hitting stages every single night in Chicago. No matter what side of town I was on, I was going on stage and didn’t have anything. It wasn’t about the money, it was about the stage time. So if you don’t put those reps in, I don’t know how you really could get a really strong set.
Who was Lil Rel 20 years ago?
20 years ago, before the kids and all that sh*t, man, I was happy to just be going on stage doing what I love to do. Not too long ago, I was thinking about how proud of myself I am. We went to go to a basketball game yesterday, me and my fiance, and when legends call you a legend, it’s fascinating to me. When I meet a young comic and he’s like, “Yo, I started doing stand-up because of you.” That’s consistency and loving what you do. I’m so grateful to be able to keep a career.
What are you doing to move Black forward?
Speaking up and not being afraid to tell studios and executives about our Blackness. When we were shooting the first Vacation Friends movie and Breonna Taylor‘s verdict happened, I just didn’t feel like working. I was so angry. I had to tell them [Disney] “Hey man, I’m not working today. I’m bothered by this. I don’t feel like being funny. This is bothering me.” I applaud the producers and our director for giving me time that day. Then at the very end, the therapists came on set.
Who are some new comedians we should know about?
One of my favorite comics is from Chicago. Marilee opened for me. She’s so funny. Just Nesh, Eva Evans, Tara Terry and Keysha E are great, too. It makes your show better when you have women on the show because most of the audience is women. Who’s more successful than Black women?
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