Some comics travel for their trade because of their love of the art form or some inner need for attention or the hope of delivering to mankind a new plateau of understanding through the power of laughter.
Lavell Crawford has a brutally honest reason for what keeps him going in comedy, an answer that perfectly matches his stage persona.
"I got a family and rent and I gotta take care of my wife and kids," he says with a laugh. "So bills keep me going."
Still, it's obvious he wouldn't be spending 325 days on the road for the last 25 years if he didn't enjoy being on a stage and he's got a new legion of fans to perform for after getting plenty of TV face time on Last Comic Standing and AMC's Breaking Bad as Saul Goodman's beefy henchman Huell Babineaux. Crawford is in town to do a string of shows starting tonight at the Addison Improv.
Of course, Crawford is no stranger to TV. He's had a number of TV specials and appeared as a contestant on the fifth season of Last Comic Standing where he finished second to Jon Reep. Being Huell, however, on Breaking Bad broke new ground for his audience.
"I've had fans from Last Comic Standing and the [Shaq's All-Star Comedy Jam] and my own specials too," Crawford says. "I've gained fans from all that but this brought in a whole new audience that never even knew I was a comedian, which was cool so that just means you have some good turnover. That's the one thing about entertainment. You've got to keep reinventing yourself. It's good to have something that's in rotation on Netflix and iTunes and such."
He says he's also working on his next special, hopefully with Netflix - the online media behemoth that has given comedians of Crawford's caliber and star power a place to have their specials shown rather than just sit on a store shelf.
"We're working to get there," he says. "We've got a couple of deals. "We're probably going to make a deal with Netflix because that's the best way to go nowadays. A lot of times when you it in stores, it just sits there and sites there but Netflix puts it in people's house. It's a lot easier and it makes the money come a lot faster."
Crawford says his people are pulling for Netflix because it's the easiest way nowadays for rising comedy stars to build their audience.
"[Netflix] is a Godsend for comics who are already in people's ears and their eyes," Crawford said.
He was also working on a TV show with comedian Ralphie May called Brother From Another Mother, an Odd Couple style show about two reunited brothers with a more politically incorrect bent. Sadly, it never materialized.
"It was a good opportunity and it didn't work out," he says. "You never know. We may come back to it later on in life."
Besides, he's bound to get another TV offer with all the touring and comedy shows he's been doing after spending so much time on other shows. Crawford says he's hit a strange high point with some of his fans who just want to hear him doing jokes that they already know by heart like his stories about going to grocery with his mom or taking the kids "down to the lake."
"Most days, I'm always writing stuff and adding on something," he says. "Then, it's strange but I've got fans who want to hear the same damn jokes all over again. So I just write how I feel and I do what the hell I want to do. As long as it's funny, that's what they pay me for."
Still, Crawford says he understands why they want to hear it and he's happy to do it as long as it makes them laugh.
"I think it's relatable," he says. "Most of the funniest comedy is relatable but I don't believe in going too high brow because we live in an era where people don't really read anymore. You being a newspaper writer, you probably know that for sure."
See Lavell Crawford at the Addison Improv this weekend. Tickets still available to the 11:30 p.m. Saturday show.
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