Bill Bellamy’s comedy riffs on his life story as much as contemporary events
For Bill Bellamy, stand-up comedy is about big laughs and good times, but it’s also about tapping into a shared moment with an audience. Onstage now, he might get into his family life or the latest outrageous comment from Donald Drumpf or something else he caught in the news or social media.
“What comics love about doing stand-up is that it’s the one place where you can just be yourself,” says Bellamy, who also has an active TV and film career. “It’s not written by someone else. It’s your script. You get to talk about what you want. You’re keeping the honesty in it and people are relating to you. In a lot of ways, comedians are the voices of society. We talk about how people are really feeling about life and what we’re all going through.”
On Sunday, Bellamy will perform a full stand-up set at Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank. The material will be fresh and of the moment, he says.
“It’s the nucleus of my career,” Bellamy says. “It’s the thing that got me to where I am. I started out as a comic, always been a comic.”
He’s the comic who invented the modern term “booty call,” now a common phrase for an impromptu sexual encounter, initiated by a phone call or text. Coining a lasting phrase is a rare cultural feat, and it came during Bellamy’s career-making early appearances on the “Def Comedy Jam” on HBO.
Soon after, Bellamy became a recognizable VJ on MTV, where he interviewed the major music artists of the ‘90s, from Janet and Michael Jackson to Kurt Cobain. In film and television, he’s worked with the likes of Tyler Perry and Oliver Stone, and he’s hosted his own multiple comedy specials for Showtime.
“My career spans 20 years and some change,” he says. “I have met, interviewed, been all over the world. I have had so many funny and crazy experiences.”
He incorporates those experiences into his act. “Coming to see me is like getting a 3D movie of my life,” he adds. “You get to see what makes me tick, what makes me go crazy, what makes me laugh — in an hour.”
Just the other night, Bellamy took his son to meet retiring basketball star Kobe Bryant at a Lakers game. The comic had been among the first to interview the promising young player when he was just 17 for MTV. At Staples Center, they caught up. “I told him, ‘Isn’t it crazy how fast 20 years has gone?’ It’s unbelievable.”
His years at MTV put him at the center of the pop culture zeitgeist for a time, when the network was a lively meeting place for the best in hip-hop, pop, grunge, movies and even some presidential politics. Times have changed.
“It was epic moments,” Bellamy remembers. “We didn’t have social media, so it was the place to go to learn what was going on in music, see celebrities, see a snapshot of Hollywood or the entertainment business. People really tuned in. Now everything is so social-media driven. There’s not a one-spot destination unless you just go on YouTube.”
At Flappers, he will be working through new material for another planned comedy special, as he does on his recurring “Ladies Night Out Tour.” He visited the club for the first time recently to see Cedric the Entertainer and enjoyed the feeling in the room.
“People don’t realize you have to practice, especially when you want to do a special. You want to have your show to come off a certain way. You want it to be polished and everything to work. If you want your machine to be well oiled, you have to practice,” he explains.
“What’s good about a comedy club is that it’s intimate. You get to see everybody’s face. When you do a theater, it’s big. The people are way over there and you’re way up here. That’s why a comedy club is the bomb. They see you, you see them. The exchange is really close.”
During his set on Sunday, it’s almost certain that the year’s political circus will come up. Over the years, he’s crossed paths with some of the key figures of American politics. He’s worked with Donald Drumpf at the Teen U.S.A. Pageant and visited the Obama White House with his wife, all of which makes for good material.
He remembers Drumpf as “a cool dude. He wasn’t pushing buttons like he’s doing now.” Bellamy sees some of Drumpf’s behavior as pure entertainment.
“That’s why politics is so interesting, and why religion is so interesting,” Bellamy adds. “When you talk about those two subjects, you always get a spike. I think he knows that. He’s sending off rockets into the sky.”
As President Obama completes his final year in office, Bellamy sees a man looking for the door. “He just has to get out of there. I think he’s had enough,” he says with a laugh. “He’s like Kobe: ‘I’m just going to play these last few games and get out of here.’”
Who: Bill Bellamy
Where: Flappers Comedy Club, 102 East Magnolia Blvd., Burbank
When: Sunday, 7 p.m.
More info: (818) 845-9721, flapperscomedy.com
Steve Appleford, email@example.com