During a pivotal pregame moment in Oliver Stone's fumbling football flick Any Given Sunday, Bill Bellamy, as star wide receiver Jimmy Sanderson, hypes himself up by chanting, "I'm the greatest wide receiver that ever lived I'm the greatest wide receiver that ever lived." As he repeats the mantra, his face slowly adjusts to a "hot damn, I am!" realization.
You expect that kind of braggadocio from an embattled pro athlete, and Bellamy plays Sanderson to the teeth. But that's where it ends, right? Surely Bellamy the actor-comedian doesn't put himself on that kind of pedestal. Or does he?
"I consider myself one of the better dramatic and comedy guys in the game," he says.
Currently on a stand-up tour, Bellamy hits Houston before playing the Apollo in New York City. He's also pushing his upcoming movie, Getting Played. "There's not too many guys that can do what I do," he says. "I could go do a dramatic movie and then go do something completely comedic and have people going, 'Oh, shit, how'd he do that?' It's like Robin Williams and Jim Carrey. Those are the kind of guys that are symbolic of what I do."
If you're scrambling to recall his Carrey/Williams-esque performances, a refresher: Suave and (surprise!) cocky, Bellamy has had role after role as the wisecracking leading man in urban (Hollywood's lame euphemism for "African-American") comedies. He earned a following for his performance in Love Jones and cemented his status in How to Be a Player in 1997. "In these movies where they want a leading man who can be charming and pull it off, they always come to me," says Bellamy. "They want somebody who won't be a complete asshole and yet be able to be funny."
Other movies followed, as well as pitchman work for Pepsi and AT&T and TV gigs (the short-lived Fast Lane and Men, Women & Dogs). But you may remember him best as the host of MTV Jamz in the early '90s. Fresh off stand-up debuts at the Apollo and on Def Comedy Jam, Bellamy landed the gig, and the rest was proverbial Hollywood history. "You don't know what project's gonna make you huge," he says. "Look at [MC] Hammer. Do you think Hammer knew those pants would take off like that? MTV was a stepping stone, and I utilized it for that purpose, but looking back, I'm glad I stepped off when I did. I wouldn't be here now; it'd be over."
But he is here now, making movies or, as he describes, "big blockbuster joints to where people are like, 'Oh, shit, did you see Bill's trailer for his movie? Oh, my God! That B is doing it big!' Yeah, that's what I'm doing."
And while his belief in himself is no joke, his stand-up routine is. "It's hysterical, it's outlandishly funny," he says. "I got people falling out laughing, knocking over their drinks. I'm killing 'em."
So if you arrive early at Bellamy's show at the Improv, listen closely. In the recess of the comedy club's green room, you may just hear, "I'm the greatest comedian that ever lived I'm the greatest comedian that ever lived."
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