Nashville-based comedian, poet and actor Renard Hirsch recently taped his first appearance on the all new “BET Gospel Comic View – A Time to Laugh” hosted by Gospel singer Vickie Winans. Renard is writing a series of articles for NashvilleStandUp about his experiences. Last time, he told us about the audition.
A representative from BET called me on a Thursday and told me that they really enjoyed my set and asked me if I would like to come down to Atlanta and film for the upcoming season of “A Time to Laugh,” At first I was like, “I don’t know. I was kind of hoping that I could make my first television performance on HBO.” Then after a few minutes of begging I finally agreed to appear on the show. My friend Cuzz who was mentioned earlier told me he got the same call and that they also wanted him to perform in some of the skits. So we exchanged congratulatory pleasantries about how we would never have to work another day job again and about how we would never have to spend another sexless night because of the plethora of church girls and ushers that would now be throwing themselves at us because of the show. That went on for a few minutes until our voices and laughter got high like some girls who haven’t seen each other in a long time. (Come to think about it the whole thing turned kind of gay, I probably should have hung the phone up right after he told me congratulations. But anyway I was on my way to Atlanta!)
Before I go any further with this story I must tell you about my history in Atlanta. Atlanta and I have not always been the best of friends. My friends and I would always go to Atlanta every year when I was in College when TSU would play Florida A&M. The first time I did comedy in Atlanta was at the Atlanta Uptown Comedy Corner. This is a “hood” / “urban” / “ghetto” club, if you will. But I didn’t know this; I had only been doing comedy about a year and was very new to stand-up. I thought it was going to be a nice classy establishment, so I dressed up really nice. Which was a mistake. I was immediately booood off stage and the El Debarge comments were relentless. It was Apollo night and they bood everybody that came to the stage except the host who was Nard, Double D, and Roland, who had all appeared on Comic View several times.
Then I went back a few years later with some friends and this guy walks up to us with his hand behind his back like he is holding a gun asking his boys, “Is this them? Is this them? IS THIS THEM!!!?” (He was about to shoot us!) Next I had a wreck while I was watching this pretty girl walk down the street. (Mine eyes had seen the glory, Yes Lord!)
Another time I ended up stuck in the car with this other comic who was trying to buy weed in the projects. I kept telling him to keep on driving cause I was too light-skinned and they were gonna think I was a narc and shoot both of us. After that, two of my friends got into a fight and one tried to hit the other in the head with a Seagram’s bumpy face bottle. The next day, my friends and I saw one of our old friends on the Subway on the other side of the platform looking gorgeous with her chest in full bloom. She tells us to call her that night and yells out her number and right before she gives us the full number the train pulls up so loud that we could not hear the last two digits. We stayed up all that night using the process of elimination trying to get the number with no success.
Last but not least, my friends and I were walking on Peachtree Street and this gay dude pulls up in this big Cadillac and yells out, “I would F*%K the S*#t out of All of Y’all,” (Insert what ever the gayest voice is in your mind when you read that last sentence). He was talking about my friends and not me, at least that’s how I tell the story. I know you are thinking, “Renard you need to stay out the hood in Atlanta,” which would be good advice but all these things happened right in the middle of downtown ATLANTA!
So, to recap: Getting bood + Almost Getting shot + Having a wreck + Weed shopping in the projects + Friends fighting + Not getting Chestesha’s number + Potential loss of anal virginity = RENARD AND ATLANTA ARE NOT FRIENDS.
So I made my way to Turner Studios in Atlanta around 12:50. My call time was 1:00. I got escorted in by a nice young lady who was giving me the eye, so I’m starting to feel a little better about Atlanta, and fill out the tv release forms only to realize that I left my wallet at my friend JC’s house (the r&b singer not the savior). He lives around the corner so he goes back and grabs it for me. Then they send me in to make-up. They filmed five shows on Friday and five shows back to back on Saturday, and I was scheduled to tape at 2:00. Then I go into the green room and see a lot of the comics from the auditions. I ran into Small Fry (who is dressed up like somebody from The Color Purple for a skit that she is doing) and thanked her for the heads up on the auditions. Then I saw my friend Chris Jones, who was dressed up as Jesus for a skit. Next I go raid the Kraft services table – they had everything from donuts to granola. I chose the donuts.
Each show had Vicki Winans come out and tell a funny story, then a skit, a musical guest, and two comics. In between takes some of the comedians would walk around with the mic and do crowd work and entertain the audience. When it was time for me to perform the stage manager took us backstage and told us where to stand and where to leave the stage. I was nervous but I was ready and couldn’t wait to hit the stage. Right before they were about to call my name, comedian Chris Jones – still dressed as Jesus – came over and prayed with me and told me to do my thing. That was all I needed. When they called my name I ran out to the stage to a thunderous applause (that I was not expecting) and bright lights flashing all over the place. It felt like Hollywood.
They were a great crowd. Halfway through my set one of the producers mics came on and made a loud noise that the whole crowd could hear. I didn’t know if they were going to stop me or what, so when they didn’t I just made a funny face at the audience and kept on with my routine. We only had 6 minutes to perform, so when the wrap it up sign came up I wrapped it up and got off stage. I went back to the green room feeling good about my set.
A few minutes later this lady came from the BET staff to tell us not to recite any music lyrics and informed me that they would have to cut my Alicia Keys joke because they did not have the rights to it. Even though I auditioned with the Alicia Keys joke and they told me to do all the same jokes from the audition plus a few extra ones. I wasn’t mad but if I had known that, I would have just done a totally different joke, but oh well.
After I finished taping I decided to stay and watch the other shows and meet some of the other comics that I hadn’t worked with before. Kirk Franklin made an appearance; he was in town because he was scheduled to tape Sunday Best in the same studio tomorrow. On the last show, while the producers were getting ready for the next segment, one of the comics was playing some improv games with the audience and he called comedian Griff (who was telling jokes backstage and had us dying) to the stage to help him out with a skit and Tiny (this really big comic) yelled out something at Griff as he was headed to the stage and Griff was like, “Hey you don’t want to jone with me, homie” (play the dozens, i.e. jokes about you or your mama or how black, fat, broke you are). Then Tiny yelled out that Griff looked like Ving Rhames then Griff said, “You know what that is the last time, Tiny I’m on you!” Then the taping turned into a full out roast with about six of the comedians and a few audience members going back and forth at each other for about 15 minutes. It was hilarious!!
After it was over they thanked all the comics and the audience members and kicked us all out. I had successfully performed my jokes, ate some good food, and met some awesome comics. I had a great time and Atlanta and I have reconciled for now or at least until the next trip down I-20. Much love Atlanta; hopefully from now own we can play nice.
See Renard Hirsch perform in Nashville March 24, 2009 at 8 p.m. at Spanky’s.