The podcast “Drunk Black History,” which gives listeners the opportunity to learn more about little known Black history, airs on Oct. 29 at 10 p.m.
By Nadine Matthews
Special to the AFRO
Brandon “Bootsy” Collins does it all: producer, actor, writer, podcast host, president of the African American Film Critics Association and comedian… whew! Even with all that, he still found time to do a live performance, based on his popular podcast, Drunk Black History on Oct. 29 at 10 p.m. at Caveat in New York City. Guests will include Phoebe Robinson (Two Dope Queens), legendary comic Zillar Vodnas, and Jordan Carlos (The Colbert Show). Collins recently spoke with the AFRO about the show, which will also be livestreamed on www.drunkblackhistory.com.
A different spin on the popular Comedy Central series, Drunk History, produced by Derek Waters, Jeremy Konner, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, each installment features a drunk narrator doing his inebriated best to explain an event from history. At the same time, a group of actors dramatize it.
Ironically, it was over drinks at a bar with fellow comedian Gordon Baker Bone that the Drunk Black History podcast was born. “We started talking about our education, especially as Black men, and realized we didn’t know too much about our own history,” Collins recalled.
The two decided to launch their own show where they and their listeners could learn more about Black History than schools normally teach, in an entertaining format. “It’s the Black version of the Comedy Central show,” explained Collins, “but we’ve really tried to make it be our own, every show. We try to have a different theme, a different order just to keep people surprised.”
Watching Chris Rock’s HBO comedy special Bring The Pain inspired Collins to become a comedian. “Initially, I was drawn to his sarcasm,” stated Collins, who describes his own style as, “Having the attitude of Chris Rock, but the humor of The Simpsons.” He also appreciates the way that Chris Rock’s career has evolved. “I just appreciate his career going from stand up, SNL, to doing classic stand up specials, then producing or writing his own, and directing his own movies.”
Collins shares that controversial comedian Dave Chappelle, however, “has taken me some time to get used to.” He recalled his acute discomfort at his almost all-White school in Ann Arbor, Mich. in the aftermath of an episode of Chappelle’s series, The Chappelle Show. “It was the one with the White ‘Niggar’ family, and at school all these White kids were saying that. It had a bad impact for Black people like me and fueled my anger at Chappelle for that season.”
His respect for Chappelle as a comedian has grown, Collins indicated, but with some reservation. “I wonder who he surrounds himself with, to not inform his opinions more.” Collins pointed to the story Chappelle recounted in his most recent special, The Closer, (which generated much heated criticism in the transgender community), about his transgender show opener. Stated Collins, “It felt very much like, ‘I have a Black friend so I can’t be racist.’”
What makes it worse for Collins is that he feels Chappelle does not seem to be listening to those who are trying to inform him. “I don’t think it would have been so bad, if this wasn’t like the third special where he did this. The reason I’m bothered by it is because imagine if South Park spent an entire season targeting just one group of people. That’s how feels.”
As someone who also is a film critic, with a Latino wife and a part-Latino child, Collins is also very conscious of Afro-Latino presence in media. Of the the film “In The Heights,” he shared, “It was something I talked to my wife about and listened to a lot of criticism from the Afro-Latino community and was like, ‘I get it, I get it!’” Since then, he said, he has made a point of incorporating Afro-Latino history into his Drunk Black History shows. “I have Afro-Latino children and I want them to be proud of their Black heritage.”
Collins, who said he sees himself as a comedian for all audiences, reported that he and Baker Bone are planning to bring the show to other cities across the U.S. in the near future. “We’re really looking to do that, especially because the representation matters and we sometimes just need space for our own so we can feel comfortable and vulnerable and have a good time. I honestly appreciate when White people come to the show, but this is about Black and Brown. This is about us celebrating our history and contributions, no matter how much people try to erase.”
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