Comedian and actor J.B. Smoove likens his standup style to a circus performance.
“You know the sword-swallower guy is going to be there and the flame-throwing dude is gonna be there and the guy walking on the tight rope,” Smoove said. “But you don’t know if he’s gonna fall or not. It’s like a circus in that you know my style, but you don’t know what the hell I’m going to do – because I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
Smoove is bringing his “Lollygagging Tour” to the Pageant on Saturday night (September 14). He’s a comedy chameleon with the dexterity to shift back and forth between physical and conversational comedy. “I like to do physicality – but a wide range of things that make the audience laugh, and makes me laugh,” Smoove said. “I like to entertain the audience, but I like to entertain myself also.”
Smoove counts his listening skills among his greatest assets in bringing the funny. “A lot of people think comedians talk a lot– and we do talk a lot,” Smoove said. “But we also have to have the ability to listen very intently to what the audience is laughing at.”
Hearing the laughter makes his brain turn. “I start milking it to give them what they really want to laugh at tonight,” Smoove said. “The next show might be different. I listen to what they are laughing at and try to give them more of it – that goes for on the stage, on the set of a TV show or movie, a commercial or whatever that may be.”
Fans won’t know ahead of time which J.B. they are going to get. But when he steps on stage, his wardrobe gives away where he will draw his funny from.
“If I’m suited and booted, I’m going up there to do a real relaxed set – mostly talking,” Smoove said. “If I come out there in those damn army pants and that tight t-shirt – that medium that I can feel on my body – that is so tight I can feel my heart beating – I’m flopping all over the place.”
He didn’t say which type of outfit he’s packing for his St. Louis show, but he did let the audience know to be ready to laugh either way.
“You don’t know what the hell I’m going to do – because I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Smoove said. “I like to improvise. I like a certain level of mystery. I like that feeling – where people don’t know what to expect. Just know, when I come to St. Louis, you are going to get a little bit of everything.”
Smoove has a shared connection to the city through more than one of our kings of comedy.
Cedric The Entertainer gave him a spot on his short-lived sketch comedy and variety show “Cedric The Entertainer Presents,” which ran for 23 episodes on Fox.
“That was the second sketch comedy show I ever did,” Smoove said. “Cedric is my guy. That show didn’t’ get it’s just due. Man, what a great show that was.”
His devotion to comedy came by way of the comedy albums – known as party records – made famous (or infamous) by St. Louis native Redd Foxx, Richard Pryor and others.
“Our parents and their friends would get together on a Friday or Saturday night in the living room playing cards make us go in the bedroom and watch TV,” Smoove said. “They would have those albums playing. I would say, ‘Man, they are laughing their [expletive] off in there.’”
When his mother would be at work, Smoove would play them over and over again. He was always the life of the party and developed timing and wit from the records, with the help of his cadre of funny friends.
“They would never get on stage, but they were just funny characters,” Smoove said. “They were feeding me these moments we can always talk about. My high school and college buddies can get together this very day and laugh about things that happened 30 or 40 years ago.”
He’s worked with some of the biggest names in comedy since his breakthrough on the legendary HBO series “Def Comedy Jam.” He spent three years as a featured player on “Saturday Night Live” and has been a recurring character on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” since 2007” in addition to his work in on film and television, which has paired him with the likes of Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld.
“I’ve been really blessed to have been doing this for just over 30 years,” Smoove said. “And thirty years of being busy in every element – TV, film, standup – I’ll take it.”
He’s thrilled that through his career he’s provided an outlet for others to let off steam, which inspired the title of his latest tour.
“It’s a word that allows you to relax and release your brain and not worry about work,” Smoove said.
“This is a way to separate yourself from the craziness of life – to come lollygag with me a little bit.”
J.B. Smoove’s Lollygagging Tour will play the Pageant on Saturday, September 14. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit www.thepageant.com or call (314) 726-6161.