Mike Epps – More Than Jokes
By Andreas Hale
Ever since his breakthrough role as Day-Day Jones in “Next Friday,” Mike Epps has remained on the scene in both standup comedy and film. It’s been more than a decade and even Epps is sometimes surprised at all that he’s accomplished. As he continues his standup tour, Epps takes time to speak with TWV about being funny all the time, what makes him laugh, having his jokes used for Eminem and Royce’s “I’m On Everything,” working with Tupac’s mother and if there will ever be another “Friday” movie.
TWV: You’ve been doing standup for damn near two decades, does it ever get old?
Mike Epps: Life is material. People ask me why I do standup all the time. It’s definitely therapy for me. If I wasn’t doing standup, I’d be sitting in a room talking to a psychiatrist every weekend. This is my therapy. I get to go on stage and crack jokes out of things that usually would hurt my feelings or situations that I normally wouldn’t be able to say in casual conversation. I do it for so many reasons. I’ve gotta stay busy. Movies are always hurry up and wait. When I’m waiting, I get in trouble so I stay out on the road. I work with kids, I work with at risk teens. I make sure that I keep myself occupied.
TWV: You were on The Breakfast Club with my folks Angela Yee and Charlamagne and you mentioned that the standup game is colder than the rap game. What’s going on out there?
ME: The standup game is pretty cutthroat. People don’t understand that comedians are the biggest gangsters in the world when it comes to being petty about jokes. You can look at the list of comedians out there – I don’t have to say any names – it’s been tough in the game for a comedian. The mental capacity that you have to have being a comedian… one of the worst things in the world for us is that people don’t take us seriously. We have to really prove to you that we are serious about things. We get in trouble doing that. That goes for your peers dealing with comedians in the comedian community. Comedians go to jail and get killed like everybody else. It’s just tears of a clown. It’s dark on one end and happy on another. It’s cutthroat. They aren’t giving out a lot of money on the comedy game. Those that are getting a little something, you know they are getting hated on.
TWV: Like yourself?
ME: Yeah, but they ain’t going to do it in my face. I know that. They’ll do it indirectly and we can keep it that way.
TWV: Do you ever wake up and say “I don’t want to be funny today?”
ME: No. I don’t have those feelings. Some days I just am funny. You might catch me hot and I don’t feel like being funny and the people say “Damn, he ain’t no comedian.” If you catch me funny, I’m funny. If you catch me upset? Sh*t… you just going to catch me upset. I’ll tell somebody in a minute that I don’t feel like playing. They’ll say “Well, you are a comedian.” And my next move from there is to figure out how to take your ass down after I told you that I don’t feel like playing. That’s how I deal with life because people take advantage of the fact that you’re supposed to be funny. It makes it hard because this is just a job for me. I leave it at the job. When I get off that stage, it’s back to life. I have to be able to teach, be a father, a husband and a business man as soon as I’m off the stage. When I’m on the stage? It’s a party! I’m having a good time. You can say anything you want to me, I’m going to tear your ass up after you say it, and we’re going to have a good ass time. When I’m off the stage, I’m still cool, fun and happy but it’s business?
TWV: You live a life making other people laugh, but what makes Mike Epps laugh?
ME: I laugh at everything! I’ve been dying laughing off of Senator Weiner lately. That’s my kind of comedy right there. I love to see somebody at that stature play themselves. Him and Schwarzenneger.
TWV: What do you think about Weiner? Do you think if he would have owned up to the photos would they have left him alone?
ME: Sometimes when you get caught up in something like that, don’t nobody know how you got in it. You’re just caught in it. He ain’t the best looking guy to be sitting there tweeting himself. He looked like a newborn bird standing in that mirror! You ever seen a newborn bird? *laughs*
TWV: Let’s shift gears a little bit. Are you aware of Eminem and Royce using your joke about kids on everything in their song “I’m On Everything?”
ME: That sh*t is the rawest song out right now! I’m not just saying that because I’m on it, but that sh*t is banging. I’m a hip-hop comedian. I chose comedy but my life could have went either way. I could have been a rapper, a convict or a rapper. I could have done that if I wanted to. I wouldn’t try to be a rapper now because my sh*t is probably terrible compared to these new rappers. I’d probably be sounding like Melle Mel compared to them. (starts rapping) “Yeah! I want to rock down to the trees!” I’d be dropping some old Melle Mel flows on their asses. These young kids are rhyming crazy these days.
TWV: Comedy is like therapy, but you actually do more than that. Is it safe to say Mike Epps is more than a few jokes.
ME: You ain’t lying. Right now I’m in the hood of Indiana and I’m about to talk to some kids who are graduating high school. I’m about to explain the importance of being successful and staying out of trouble while you are successful. I’m always trying to do stuff for kids man. I’m trying to be some kind of voice of hope for them. If they see me and hear me, I might be able to change one or two of them.
TWV: Are we ever going to see another “Friday” film?
ME: A lot of people don’t understand the politics of movies and show business. The “Friday” franchise started with Ice Cube and New Line Cinema. New Line Cinema owns the property. It’s not a Mike Epps and Ice Cube decision. A lot of the time it is the movie companies that own these films. After they own them, it’s all about them giving us the revenue to play. I don’t know. We might have to put another franchise out there.
TWV: Many people may not be aware that you work closely with Tupac’s mother Afeni Shakur. When word recently hit the web that Pac’s shooter revealed himself, how did that moment feel?
ME: I think that God works in mysterious ways and I really do think that the Lord put it on that man’s heart to come out and admit to something like that. I look at it as a gift and a little closure to his mother being that it was around his birthday. I didn’t know Pac personally. I stumbled up on his center in Atlanta on a blessing. I was talking to some kids. One of my friends had a daughter who was going through some correction problems. I was talking to her at the center. We went to get something to eat and right next door was Tupac’s center. I was like “Wow, I didn’t know this was here!” We went over to the center and checked it out. While we were in the center I asked if they did any fundraisers and they said no. I really loved Tupac’s music and this was a guy who was a big figure in the hood for the kids who were the have nots and had problems in school. He needed to be recognized for all of the positive things he did and not the negative. I met his mother and I liked her philanthropy work. This was the third year of our Tupac event and the 40th anniversary of his birthday. We put it all together with the help of my man TC. We had Erykah Badu there, Roy Ayers, Rick Ross, Bun B, 8 Ball & MJG, Meek Mill, Pill, Jasmine Guy and myself. This was the biggest year and we’re going to keep on doing it.