By Jessica Dortch
The City of Baltimore is always in for a treat every time writer-actor-comedian J.B. Smoove comes to town, and this weekend, he’ll be starting a ruckus at the Comedy Factory. Still recovering from an epic night at Super Bowl LIV, topping it off with a winning karaoke performance at Dwayne Wade and Gabrielle Union’s Super Bowl party the night before, Smoove made time to speak with the AFRO about his upcoming visit to Charm City. “I love Baltimore. I’ve been coming to Baltimore since back in the day when I was doing Arena Players,” Smoove recalled.
Aside from being one of the hardest working men in show business, at home, he is a proud “#GirlDad.” In the midst of the recent tragedy surrounding the late legend, Kobe Bryant, and a host of others who lost their lives in a fatal helicopter crash over two weeks ago, Smoove believes this is a wonderful time to be a #GirlDad. “I always considered the woman as the backbone of the family,” Smoove admitted. “Through tragedy, [the “#GirlDad” trend] is a beautiful flower that is going to inspire all the dads out here to be there for your kids and to be there for your family. It is a great time to be a dad and get back to our roots, our family, and our base.”
For Jerry Brooks, a.k.a. J.B. Smoove, now based on the West Coast, hails from Mt. Vernon, N.Y., where he was raised. Believe it or not, Smoove got his start as one of the baddest pop-locking dancers in the city. “I grew up in the heyday of hip hop,” Smoove went on to explain that his current stage name is actually a variation of his hip-hop dance name. “My name was J. Smoove and my partner’s name was J. Groove.” Smoove bragged to the AFRO that as a teen, he and his partner would hit up some of the hottest nightclubs in the city. According to Smoove, back in the day, all you needed was a fake ID and a dress shirt to blend in with the rest of the party people.
Smoove has never been a stranger to the spotlight, quickly becoming known as the life of the party wherever he went. In high school, everyone knew who the class clown was, however, Smoove became known as the hallway clown. He recalled, between laughs, how he and his friends would arrive at their next scheduled class ahead of time so they could stand in the hallway and crack jokes on any and everything. His party behavior and light hearted humor followed him all the way to Norfolk State University (NSU), where his “work horse,” a ‘76 Monte Carlo, would carry him and his friends to parties and other gatherings up and down the “757.”
Smoove has always been a great guy with good energy and even better dance moves; but, early on, he knew his future was in comedy. “I always wanted to be a comedian,” he said before rattling off names like Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx, two of his comedic inspirations. Smoove went on about how his parents would send him and his siblings off to bed and invite their family and friends over to listen to “party albums.” The adults would smoke, drink, eat, play cards and laugh while listening to the raw, vulgar jokes told by their favorite comics. When no one was around, Smoove and his siblings would play the records and laugh at the hilarity of it all. “That’s all the fun stuff that made me who I am,” Smoove said.
In his lengthy career, about three decades, Smoove has been featured on multiple prominent projects including Pootie Tang, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Almost Christmas, and Barbershop: The Next Cut, to name a few. Even with all the notoriety, Smoove’s role as Leon on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” established him as one of the best comedic actors in the industry today. Around 2007, Smoove had been working as a writer for Saturday Night Live for three seasons, and when his contract didn’t get renewed, he knew it was time to do something different. “Anybody can chase money, but chasing creativity and freedom is hard to come by,” Smoove insisted. His agent booked an improv audition with Larry David, the show’s main character, and years later Smoove continues to thrive on the show.
“I like to drive my own car. That means that this stand up thing is my vehicle to go anywhere I want – whether it’s acting, directing, producing, tv, film or whatever it is.”
In his spare time, Smoove keeps himself occupied with a string of events centered around family and quality time. He and his wife love entertaining at their Los Angeles home, hosting game night, family dinner, and their infamous New Year’s Eve bash. “The Brooks family? Let me tell you something: nobody loves a good time more than the Brooks family. We laugh, we have a good time, and we love each other,” Smoove gushed.
Smoove also enjoys relaxing on the beach with his close celebrity friends like the singer Joe; actress Gabrielle Dennis; singer Bobby Brown; comedians Cedric The Entertainer, Affion Crockett, and Bill Bellamy.
Aside from hanging out with family and friends, Smoove finds time to attend Homecoming at his alma mater, NSU, and continues to be heavily involved in the Boys & Girls Club of America. But for now, he is traveling the country on his Lollygagging Comedy Tour, while he has numerous projects in the words, due in the coming months.
Smoove will be performing for two nights, Feb. 7 and 8, at Baltimore’s Comedy Factory, located in the Best Western Plus Hotel and Conference Center on O’Donnell Street. Known for taking risks on stage, Smoove will continue his heavily improvised sketch comedy, which is always a crowd pleaser. “Laughter comes from pain that is flipped to be funny and relatable. We all have a day to laugh and enjoy ourselves, that is what lollygagging is.”
The future for J.B. Smoove has never been brighter, as he continues to produce more projects and build his unique brand. Smoove lives by the wise words of his Father, “You work to keep the lights on. Everything else is gravy. As long as you can see what you’re doing, you can make it.”