By Tyson Paul
As a comedian, one of the lessons you learn early in your career is to never take yourself or your performances too seriously. Dreams of being the greatest of all time like Richard Pryor and aspirations of becoming a comedic rockstar like Eddie Murphy in such a short time, cause many young comedians to focus too much on perfection. This usually leads to them overthinking their progress and being too hard on themselves mentally for not becoming what they feel they’re destined to become overnight. Everything in comedy revolves around timing, and success may look like it comes fast for some, but in all honesty, it was a very long time coming for all.
Making people laugh and have a good time is something Kevin Tate is no stranger to. With more than 10+ years of comedy experience, he’s spent the past decade patiently growing his comedic legacy. He’s a true professional with industry knowledge and diverse comedic abilities well beyond his years. He’s been seen on HBO’s All Def Comedy, GrowHouse the movie, Rel on Fox, and various other television appearances as both a comedian and an actor.
Kevin recently sat down with We Own The Laughs.com Tyson Paul to talk about having his mind-blown at an early age by the rawness that was Eddie Murphy, a high profile sketch that he feels he never received proper credit for, his popular social media show “The Zodiac Show,” and how he plans to be more successful in the next few years. A firm believer in everything you want comes in due time, Kevin Tate may still believe that he’s a few years away from being considered as one of the greats, but to most of his peers, he’s already arrived.
Hey Kevin! Being a comedian, you’re more than likely to see something that you feel is hilarious almost every day of your life. What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen lately?
One of the funniest things I’ve seen is…
Being in a hotel for NBA All-Star Weekend in Atlanta and someone had the smoke towel on the outside of the door. SMH!
Let’s start things off by asking you about some of your first memories of comedy as a genre?
One of my first memories of comedy was being maybe 8 or 9 years old and sneaking a peek at Eddie Murphy RAW as my dad and his friends watched it. Blew my mind!
While collecting research on you Kevin, I discovered that stand-up comedy is actually a family business for you. Would you mind going into detail about your family’s involvement in stand-up comedy?
Strangely, I’m the only one in my family that is in the “Funny Business.” However, my sister Cherisse is hilarious.
Looking back at your childhood, were there any hints that you’d have a career in the comedy entertainment business?
There were settle hints that I could be involved in comedy. I can remember always having a way with words, and sub-consciously searched for the punchline in everything. Also, my older brother Curtis did stand-up comedy in the 6th-grade talent show. Good or Bad, the whole neighborhood was talking about it. I can remember feeling inspired fo sho.
When you’re on stage, do you feel like you’re playing a character, or does your stand-up resemble the real you?
When I’m on stage, I feel like myself up there. I have an “act” however, I speak from a true, authentic place. The tone and dialect are never the same. The stage and the live audience really feed that.
Where are some of your favorite cities and comedy clubs to perform in?
Some of my favorite cities to perform in are Washington DC, Texas, Atlanta, Baltimore, and all of the Improvs. There is always good energy with the Improv enterprises.
You’ve had some of your material turned into high-profile sketches on the highly popular Laff Mob YouTube series. Describe the experience of watching your material visually come to life?
It was flattering to see my jokes re-enacted. However, it was bittersweet because I didn’t know about it until I saw it. I would’ve like to actually be in the video. It has been great in the aspect of social media exposure. Truthfully speaking, it has done more for the actors in the video more than myself. My name was not attached to the project. So Laff Mobb got most of the credit, but what can you say?… It’s Show Business.
You had the opportunity to perform on the legendary Def Comedy Jam stage when HBO rebooted the series in 2017. Now it may not have been the original 90s version of the show, but was it still everything you dreamed of growing up?
Performing for the Def Jam franchise with Russel Simmons was really more than I could’ve ever dreamed of. Just being a part of such a Cultural Gem as Def Jam was an honor in itself. So to be able to stand out on that platform, I’m proud of that and happy for the opportunity.
You have an amazing project on social media entitled “The Zodiac Show.” Some of your best material is relationship-based, would you consider yourself to be a very hilarious relationship expert?
The Zodiac Show is something I take pride in. I’ve been doing it for almost a year now. Every Night I ask unique relationship questions, I haven’t missed a night. It’s super fun and It gave me an opportunity to actually work on different comedy ideas and concepts. It is definitely a topic-based show. I love it and yes I do consider myself to be a “Very Hilarious Relationship Expert” (Laughs).
What is your definition of a Comic’s Comic?
To me, a Comic’s Comic is a comedian that other professional comedians will pay to see.
What were your first impressions and thoughts of COVID-19?
The first thing I thought about COVID 19 was it was just a media scare. I said things like “They would never shut down the USA” and “How can a floating disease that no one can see…Yeah Right!”
Man was I wrong. SMH
How has your mental health been day-to-day during this pandemic?
My mental health has been good during this pandemic largely because of The Zodiac Show I started at the beginning of the Lockdown. As I stated before I do it every night. So, I’ve basically been entertaining the entire time.
Your work is not truly considered as a “regular” job and the COVID-19 pandemic has completely put a stop to around 90% of the comedy business. Comedians have had to not only try and find other means of income, but they’ve had to seriously think if comedy is a path they should still take altogether. What has been your strategy for staying so successful through these tough times, particularly when the path is not always so clear?
Quite Frankly, The Zodiac Show has been fairly lucrative, through merchandise sales (which has been the biggest thing). Also, I was lucky enough to still have some club dates being a feature for Red Grant.
Do you think that Zoom comedy shows will end as soon as comedy clubs re-open or are they here to stay?
As far as Zoom Comedy Shows go, I don’t know if they are going away, but I hope they do.
Can Zoom comedy shows be a great way for comedians to make a living if comedy clubs are limited for the next few years?
However, if Zoom shows do continue… it can definitely be a good source of income for comedians moving forward.
Do you think comedians are at the point now where they’re willing to risk their health for finance by performing live shows in comedy clubs again?
I don’t see comedians performing in Live Shows being any riskier than someone going to a grocery store or a family birthday party. So, I’m sure if there is money to get and a live stage, most comedians would be willing to perform.
Being a comedian in this time period, you have to be a bit controversial if you want to get praise and recognition. Meanwhile, stand-up comedy in this time period, if you don’t watch what you say whether it be past or present, you could end up losing your entire career. What are your thoughts on this crazy time period and is there a line in comedy that you wouldn’t cross?
I think it’s an interesting time in comedy. Kinda damn if you do, damn if you don’t. For Me, I keep my jokes close to my actual life experiences. So as far as crossing a line… It would be me crossing my own line.
What is your definition of success in the world of stand-up comedy?
To me, success in the comedy world is being able to make a living telling jokes. Not necessarily the big movies and millions of dollars. To be able to feed your family from comedy is successful.
It’s easy for anyone to describe personal success in any profession, but how would you describe your failures in comedy? Do you think those failures needed to happen in order for you to be the comedian you are today?
I think a lot of my failures in comedy were business-related early on, which is just as vital as stage failures. So learning from those mistakes has absolutely helped me to be a better professional comedian.
You have the credits, you’re still active in stand-up and television and you have many celebrity comedians following you. Does it bother you that you don’t have the blue check by your name yet on social media? Do you think that the blue check is as important as many comedians strive for?
As far as the blue check on social media, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want one. I understand that everything happens with time and the joy is in the journey. So it’s all in due time.
What are some goals you’re still looking to achieve in your comedy career?
Some goals I still have for myself in comedy are to star on the big screen and have a live talk show.
Funniest encounter you’ve ever had with a celebrity?
One of the funniest moments with a celebrity was when I attended a private domino tournament with Snoop Dogg. He had catered food, drinks, and everything was free at the hotel. Well, I decided that I would eat the cashews that came with the hotel suite. Snopp noticed, and yells (jokingly),
“Maaan, Who ATE THE CASHEWS? All of this free sh*t and somebody ate the Cashews?”
All I could say with salt in my mustache was, “You said we could get what we want.” Everybody burst out laughing. Fun Times!
It wasn’t too long ago that many experienced comedians enjoyed watching a very young Kevin Tate doing his thing on stage. Now that you’re an experienced comic, who are some of your favorite up-and-coming comedians that you like to watch?
Some of my favorite comedians are Eddie Murphy (GOAT) Mike Epps, Katt Williams, and Chris Rock. I’m not quite at their status yet, but I also like to watch Tony Baker out of Chicago.
If you could change one thing in the world of comedy, what would it be?
I wish it was still the majority based on “The Funny.”
If you could choose 1 comedy club and 3 comedians to perform with on your perfect comedy show, how would it go?
If I could put together a perfect comedy show, it would be at The Laugh Factory in Hollywood. The lineup would be hosted by Mike Epps, Tony Baker would be the opener, Chris Rock would feature and I would close out the show. Imagine that.
What can we expect from Kevin Tate for the remainder of 2021?
In 2021, check for my stand-up comedy special.
*Photos courtesy of GreySegments.