Back with a six-pack of talent

Special to The Times

Walter Latham, the king of the "Kings of Comedy," is back in town with his latest venture: another comedy tour, "Latham Entertainment Presents," which arrives Friday.

But don't expect another "Kings of Comedy," Latham's signature piece to date. The unexpected hit comedy tour, which featured Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer, D.L. Hughley and Bernie Mac and visited 59 cities, drew increasingly large crowds as it traveled around the country in 1999, grossing more than $30 million.

It ultimately evolved into a Spike Lee concert film in 2000, "The Original Kings of Comedy," and a Grammy-nominated album.

"I wanted this to be a different sort of show than 'Kings,' " Latham says. If nothing else, it's a different mix of comics including Earthquake, Bruce Bruce, Rickey Smiley, Sommore and Hughley. J. Anthony Brown is the host.

"I didn't want us to have that pressure on us. I just tried to package a tour that offers the audience something special with each individual comic. I wanted it to flow. Even though you're experiencing six different styles, it comes together to feel like one complete show."

After 10 years, Latham certainly seems to have found his calling and along the way injected much-needed energy into the world of urban comedy.

"It was difficult at first to convince people that the idea would work, that you could have a lineup like that and have it be successful," he says of the all African American troupe. "It was a matter of faith, between me and the comics and faith in myself and in what I was trying to do."

Latham hopes this latest tour will again prove his theory that there is "power in numbers," with a range of comic talents designed to offer something for everyone. Still, the most important thing, he says, "is to find comics who reflect the times."

"If you look back over the years from Pryor to Martin to Murphy," Latham says, of comics Richard Pryor, Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy, "they all reflect the times in an honest way, in a brutally honest way. Especially in urban comedy. I listen to all comedy, but for some reason urban comedy ... reflects the broad scope of what's happening from a unique perspective."


Comedy night

What: "Latham Entertainment Presents"

When: Friday, 8 p.m.

Where: Universal Amphitheatre, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City.

Cost: $35-$75 via Ticketmaster.


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