Before he began hosting his nationally syndicated 'Rickey Smiley Morning Show' on radio in 2004, the Birmingham, Ala.-bred standup hosted BET's 'Comic View' in 2000.
Having appeared in films like 'Friday After Next' and 'First Sunday,' Smiley is now gearing up for a guest turn in 'Stomp The Yard 2: The Homecoming.'
BV Buzz caught up with the proud member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. on the Atlanta set of the film and Smiley opened up about everything from his career in entertainment to raising 10 children.
You're appearing in the sequel to 'Stomp The Yard.' Why haven't you done more acting?
I get people offering me to do stuff. I don't do everything; it just has to be the right role. I'm kind of busy with radio and stand-up comedy on the weekend, which I never want to stop doing. Then, I have children and responsibilities. I can't spend my whole life chasing money. I am working on some stuff coming up with David Talbert. We're talking about developing my grandmother character into a full on project. I'll want to make a reality show based on my morning show. I'm really excited about that.
What made 'Stomp The Yard 2' so appealing to you?
I am so excited to be in a movie where there is no killing, violence, stabbing and shooting. I hope that young people are inspired to go to college and join Greek organizations, not just for the step show but for the service. Everything is about doing community service and understanding that all of the fraternities and sororities are all about service. I hope people find the one that they think is best for them and get in and serve people. You are born to serve and life isn't about you. This right here is a great movie and I just hope that it inspires people to go to college. It's too dangerous out here. You have to have an education. A Black man with a degree is about as equal as a White man with a high school diploma. We have to be bigger, smarter, better, faster and stronger just to make the playing ground even. This movie is so important and I'm glad to be working with brothers that just put out a good project like 'Stomp the Yard.' My role is easy because I used to host step shows all the time.
You're a proud Omega man. Are you one of those Que Dogs who breaks out into a party hop as soon as 'Atomic Dog' comes on?
If 'Atomic Dog' comes on I could be sitting in the front row at somebody's mama's funeral and I will set out and hop. If somebody is playing 'Atomic Dog' outside of that funeral and I hear that beat, I will be in aisle gettin' it. 'Excuse me Pastor!'
A lot of comedians do comedy so that they can have careers in film and television. Do you actually enjoy the grueling life of comedy or are you attempting to transition as well?
I like being on the road because I'm a grimy road kind of dude. I still drive to some of my gigs. If it is within five hours, I will just jump in my truck; load up my iPod, some potato chips, Mountain Dew and some Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and just drive. I will think and reflect and listen to my gospel music, my Outkast, my T.I. and just enjoy myself. I've been driving a lot lately, especially since I'm in Atlanta. When I was in Dallas I would have to fly, but if I do a show in Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi or Arkansas, I just jump in the car and drive. I have been kind of enjoying being a real comedian again.
Why do you think people find you funny Rickey?
You have to be born to be a comedian. Everybody doesn't have the 'it' factor. I don't know what the 'it' factor is for Rickey Smiley. I know I'm funny, but some people think I'm funnier than what I actually think about myself. I've been funny all of my life, but some people think I'm funny and I don't even have to say anything. Then, I'll say something and they will laugh, but when I say something funny they will fall out crying. I have literally had people taken out of my shows or run out of my shows and I had one lady who actually passed away at one of my shows. The lady straight up died and I noticed that when everybody was leaving there was a couple still sitting there and the next thing you know the paramedics came. This happened in 2003 and I think it was in Cincinnati. They said that the lady had a smile on her face in the casket and her teeth were showing.
We'll have to nickname you the "Killer Comic!" Have they invited you back to that place?
I've been invited back since.
That's important because you can't laugh people's problems away. People are out here hurting, children are being mistreated, senior citizens are being neglected and people need to register to vote. It's just a lot of things out here that people need to be made aware of. There is some serious domestic violence, breast cancer, prostate cancer, hypertension and all of that stuff. Growing up listening to Tom Joyner, I do recognize that there are some things in the community that we really need to get busy on. In order to get respect from people, you have to have a serious side because there is a difference between a comedian and a clown. I don't laugh and joke all the time, especially when I'm talking about serious issues because you have to establish respect for yourself as a man and they won't if you make people laugh all the time.
How many kids do you have Rickey? I know you've adopted several as well.
I have two biological kids, but in all it's about nine or ten. Some of the mothers are on drugs, parents been killed. I have an apartment in Atlanta, but my home is in Birmingham. They are all in Birmingham so I drive back and forth on the weekend and sometimes during the week. On an average weekend, it's probably nine to fifteen kids in the house. People have to get outside of the box. Your kids might put you in the nursing home. It could be that very one kid that used to come stay over there that lets you stay with him and his wife. You have to sow seeds because that's what you're here for.
It's got to be expensive to raise all of those kids!
I don't own any rims. I don't have a diamond or a piece of gold. I would be filthy rich if I was selfish. I would have a lot of money in the bank if I was selfish. God blessed me because every time I get something, I pay my taxes and tithes and give the rest of it away. I have three jet skis and my wave runners are my life. I love to go in the ocean and ride those waves. I bought them cheap off of Craigslist. Me and the kids find a cheap plane ticket to Fort Lauderdale and we ride wave runners or roller coasters. Everything that I do is for the kids. I don't do nothing for myself. I wear sweat pants and t-shirts everyday. True Religion jeans and these shirts and stuff I call costumes, because this isn't how I dress.
You're radio show has nearly 40 markets and continues to grow. Why do you think people are gravitating to your radio show?
I just try to work hard and everybody doesn't appreciate it. You can go out here and help people and give somebody a piece of bread and they complain that they don't like wheat bread. They would rather have white bread. You can have a radio show and be the ongoing joke on the golf course that Rickey Smiley is considered crazy because he doesn't let people push him around because I have an opinion. I would never let any company in radio water me down to be a radio personality and take away my star status because then they own you and you have nothing. This radio game is tough and cut throat. I had to get that off my chest. I do stand-up comedy and I do movies. I do radio because I want to, not because I have to.
'Stomp The Yard 2: The Homecoming' opens in theaters this fall.
For related stories, read 'Pooch Hall: Talks 'Stomp The Yard 2' & Whether 'The Game' Will Air On BET'
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