Q&A: Bill Bellamy—One Funny Father

Bill BellamyWith many years under his belt working stages all across America, Bill Bellamy has long been established as a comedic force in the world of stand-up; after becoming a household name after appearing on a still-talked about episode of HBO’s Def Comedy Jam (it was there where Bellamy coined the popular phrase, “booty call”) and going on to star in popular films like How to Be A Player, Any Given Sunday and Love Jones, his career rapidly soared to new heights.

While Bellamy enjoys performing, hosting, and making people laugh, when the lights go down, it’s all about being a husband and father for this Newark, New Jersey native. SoulTrain.com spoke with the comedian and actor about having a lasting career, Father’s Day, and how his children make him laugh.

SoulTrain.com: Through hosting shows like MTV Jams and Last Comic Standing, to stand-up comedy, films and your current TV sitcom, Mr. Box Office, you’ve sustained a very diverse career. How does it feel to have longevity in this business?

Bill Bellamy: I feel blessed because the longer you’re in your business and you’re successful, you realize that it’s really rare. You just don’t know how long your career will be; it’s a little luck, a lot of talent, and a lot of perseverance. I’ve just been lucky to have more than one skill-set, so that means I’m always doing something.

SoulTrain.com: Looking at the diversity of your portfolio, stand-up remains a steady part of it; however, to some degree, many of your peers have seemingly abandoned it. What are your thoughts?

Bill Bellamy: I think it’s a mistake in a lot of ways. I think if you start out as a stand-up [comedian] and then you blow up to another level, people [tend to] say, “Well, I’m too big to do stand-up.” But what I think is the good thing—and you can see what Kevin Hart is doing which kind of supports what I think—is that it’s a great way to stay in touch with your fan base and to let them hear your voice. I think that’s important, especially with keeping your brand alive. That’s why I’ve always kept my stand-up as a part of my portfolio. It’s so much fun for me. It’s effortless for me to go out and make people laugh—I’ve been silly my whole life!

SoulTrain.com: As a comedian who now has veteran status, the world of stand-up comedy is very different; specifically, the advent of social media, which many comedians have deemed both a blessing and a curse. Would you agree with that statement?

Bill Bellamy: I agree. With the social media aspect, it’s taken a lot of the mystique out of your career because people want you to have your whole life on your social media platform all day, every day. Back in the day when I first started, you just showed up and you were a star but now, you gotta talk to your fans every day, let them know what you like to eat and all kinds of craziness. But the good part is that you can let people know when you’re [going to be] in their city, you can tweet something funny, or you can put a video together and know that it’ll go right to your fans. That part, to me, is the upside.

SoulTrain.com: Going back to the MTV Jams days, you expertly demonstrated, in many ways, the co-dependent relationship that comedy and music have. How did you parlay your comedic timing and skills into hosting and interviewing guests?

Bill Bellamy: The easy part of it was that I was a fan of the music. It wasn’t hard for me to talk about Mary J. Blige, Puff Daddy, or Janet [Jackson] because I was a real fan of the music. Then, I became a student of the music and started learning about producers and studio time and all of that. I gave you insight that most VJs at that time did not have and then, I knew everybody, so it was personal for me. I was really in the studio with Mary [J. Blige] and Lil’ Kim, and I was in the studio with Diddy during [Biggie’s first] album. I was doing stuff that nobody was doing. So when I was on TV, I was basically giving you a snapshot of what it was like to be in their world through my voice and then I was able to be funny and make it all fun. I mean, just think—at that time, MTV was like Twitter. You just had to see a video. You just had to see the premiere.

SoulTrain.com: Regarding comedy and music, as you know, Don Cornelius frequently paid homage to stand-up by featuring comedians like Arsenio Hall, Marsha Warfield and others on Soul Train; at one time, he even created the Soul Train Comedy Awards as another way to honor the art. What does he having provided that platform for comedians mean to you?

Bill Bellamy: It was pivotal and groundbreaking because what he was basically saying, just like he was saying with the [musical] artists, was that this was the hottest black talent moving. He gave them a platform through his show to come and do their stand-up and it was so incredible because a lot of those comedians weren’t mainstream at that time. How were they gonna get on TV? They got on TV through Don Cornelius.

SoulTrain.com: Father’s Day is just around the corner and you’re a dad of two—a boy and a girl. From an observational standpoint, and having one of each, what about your children amuses you?

Bill Bellamy: I always tell people they’re like AM/FM radio—my son is this way and my daughter is that way, and they’re never in the same place at the same time. And if they are getting along, it’s only about two minutes before they get into another fight. They are just like a married couple.

SoulTrain.com: Any other observations that either amuse or amaze you?

Bill Bellamy: The really funny part to me is how my kids are growing up versus the way I grew up. They don’t know anything about how I grew up. They’re growing up out here in California, where it’s sunny every day, and don’t even know what a real snowstorm looks like.  I mean, they don’t know about things like that ghetto a** dog that got all the other dogs pregnant—you know the one, right? That one ghetto, ‘hood dog that got everybody else’s dog pregnant? My kids don’t know anything about that life.

SoulTrain.com: Because you’re old school with very young children, how do you handle that huge music generation gap?

Bill Bellamy: One time—and this is how ridiculous their generation is—my daughter said to me, “Daddy, One Direction is the best boy band ever!” I told her, “You must be out your damn mind—you might wanna go on YouTube and click on New Edition or The Temptations or Boyz II Men!

SoulTrain.com: Do your children know who “Bill Bellamy” is?

Bill Bellamy: They know now but they didn’t know a couple of years ago. I wasn’t really telling them about all that stuff because I wanted them to just be kids. Then all of a sudden, we’d go out and people would act crazy and they’d ask, “Daddy, why do you know everybody?,” or “How do they know you, daddy?” And I’d just always say, “Well, I just got a lot of friends!” Then one day, my daughter Googled me and said, “You’re famous, daddy!” So there goes that social media thing again…

SoulTrain.com: Even after all this time, Father’s Day still doesn’t get any love. Why?

Bill Bellamy: We just totally get trumped by Mother’s Day. Father’s Day might as well just be Flag Day. We just get no love. It’s like parent-teacher day at a school; it’s there, but nobody ever really participates. And as for gifts? I’m probably gonna get something really corny. My son will probably make me some artwork or something that’s gonna be a mess, but it’ll be cute. I guess.

SoulTrain.com: You’ve been known to mention your kids when you’re on stage; however, other comedians don’t incorporate their kids into their routine at all. Is this simply a personal choice?

Bill Bellamy: It depends on the individual and what you’re willing to expose to the world. Whatever happens naturally, I don’t run from it. I don’t not talk about my kids because I don’t want to it—it just depends on the audience, what I’m thinking at the time, and things like that. But I definitely like talking about them because a lot of people have kids and they can relate to the fact that parenting is 24/7. You don’t get to punch out.

SoulTrain.com: Since your daughter has already been Googling you, of course, she’ll soon catch on that dad is famously funny for the movie How to Be a Player and for “booty call.” When she asks you about these, what will your response be?   

Bill Bellamy: Man. Both my kids have already asked me when they could see How to Be a Player and I said, “When you’re 37. Yep—you just call me when you’re 37 and I’ll even watch it with you.”

SoulTrain.com: What’s next for Bill Bellamy?

Bill Bellamy: We’re waiting on a movie I’m in called The Bounce Back to come out. You all are gonna love this one. I star in it along with Shemar Moore and Nadine Velazquez, and it is a film about love and bouncing back from heartbreak. It’s really a feel-good movie. We’re also trying to get The Brothers 2 done, too, so keep your eyes out for that, and I’ll also be performing on the 2016 Soul Train Cruise, so look for me there, as well!

–LaShawn Williams

LaShawn Williams is a freelance writer and editor from Chicago, Illinois. She is an arts and entertainment enthusiast who has a serious thing for stand-up comedy, music and dance. Follow her on Twitter: @MsWilliamsWorld.

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