All Rushion McDonald wants to see is eight minutes. The Houstonian can't stress enough how important it is for a comic to have eight minutes of good jokes. "You do Letterman, you gotta do a showcase," says the stand-up veteran. "You do Leno, they gotta see your eight minutes. Well, basically, that's all we're asking the comics now."
He's referring to the 250 or so comedians who want to appear this fall on Black Entertainment Television's popular stand-up showcase, Comicview. McDonald and his partner, Original King of Comedy Steve Harvey, approached the producers of the long-running show about doing a national tour, like Def Comedy Jam did in the early '90s. The producers and the network thought it would be even cooler do a tour and then air it on TV.
McDonald and Harvey immediately started booking talent. "The general purpose of bringing Steve and myself on board was to hopefully enhance the quality of the stand-ups that are appearing on BET's Comicview and also to get acts who wouldn't normally appear on BET's Comicview," McDonald says.
If there's one cable TV show that's in dire need of a creative overhaul, it's Comicview -- where if you miss one comedian telling a joke about how different white people and black people are at having sex, disciplining their kids, robbing liquor stores, etc., another comic is coming up next with the same damn joke.
McDonald, who ran Houston's famed Hip-Hop Comedy Stop in the '90s, is relying on the same eight-minute approach to booking that he used back then. It's what he needs to decide which comics to use, what material he likes and how to organize the show. McDonald's methods have been resisted by comics who've already appeared on the show and feel they shouldn't have to go through the screening process. But as McDonald puts it, no one wants a show full of a dozen comics telling repeat material.
"It allows me to balance the show out a little better, to make it more focused," he says. "I'm not saying that, you know, Steve and I know everything, but I think it puts a little more discipline into the selection process. Hopefully we can put the show on and keep it just as enthused and exciting as ever."
Along with wrangling talent for Comicview, McDonald is scouting new acts for another, still untitled BET show. And with writing credits ranging from The Parent 'Hood, The Jamie Foxx Show and The Parkers, he's also landed a sitcom deal over at Disney. On top of all that, McDonald is managing the career of longtime pal Harvey, whose schedule is full with his soon-to-be-syndicated morning radio show, movie productions, and hyping his recently released CD compilation, Sign of Things to Come.
So those comics who get offended when McDonald asks for their eight minutes should be glad someone like him is giving their hack-comic asses the time of day at all!