Bill Belamy’s eclectic career is proof that you never know what’s gonna gonna break through.
The stand-up comic and actor has starred in, hosted, and cameoed on more than 100 shows during his 30+ years in the business. He’s just shot the very buzzy Tiffany Haddish – Octavia Spencer vehicle Madame C. J. Walker for Netflix, and has clocked in a number of spots on Issa Rae’s critically adored HBO series Insecure.
For what it’s worth, the comic himself doesn’t know his calling card project either. “To me, I think it all works, you know? I think as an actor, you don’t know what one thing is gonna be, but right now in my career, if I had to say three things that opened me up: one would be MTV, two was How To Be A Player and three was Any Given Sunday. And some people will say Fast Lane, some people will say Love Jones. There are so many pieces to my story. It wasn’t one BIG thing. I didn’t have like one big show like Family Matters, like Jaleel White did. That’s the biggest thing he done his whole career,” the jokester finishes, laughing. “People be like, ‘Oh my God! Urkel here!’”
Whatever Bellamy’s ‘story’ may consist of, he knows that stand-up has been an essential, recurring ingredient. “Stand-up is the best because it’s your direct link to the fans,” he says. “It is a wonderful exchange, just up close. You do your movie; it comes out and maybe it’s good, maybe it is not. You don’t know! You don’t get to see your fans at the movie theater. When they come to see you in a comedy club, you hear their voices, you shake hands, you take pictures, it is absolutely bomb. That’s where I started, that’s where it all began for me. So I’ve always just kept it apart of my portfolio, I never let it drop. I never wanted to stop doing stand-up because I love it so much.”
While he was born and raised in New Jersey, the comic who will be headlining a weekend at the Houston Improv claims that the Bayou City is very near and dear to his heart. “Houston is one of my biggest markets!” he yelps, with a giggle. “I don’t know why, but Houston, they just love me like a baby cousin! I must have an aunty over there that loves me or something. What’s cool about the Improv in particular, some real cool history, we did our Last Comic Standing auditions there. I had the opportunity to come back, hosting a big NBC show. Put a lot of the local Houston guys and girls on television. It was really dope. I shot my “Ladies Night Out” tour in Houston. I’ve always tried to incorporate Houston in my life, because they’ve been one of the most amazing cities to be apart of my whole career, really.”
For many, stand-up is different game than it used to be – and there’s a lot of feedback on what’s best to joke about. For Bellamy, that feeling seems pervasive. “I feel myself being looser, and I feel the world is getting tighter,” he surmises on the state of his industry. “Right now everybody got something to say ‘bout what you say. People forgetting to laugh, you know what I mean? People are forgetting why we are here. We’re not psychologists, we’re not here being journalists. We’re being funny people who are giving you a social commentary about the world, about what’s going on. Putting a spin on it, you know?”
In the wake of certain comics facing backlash for their views onstage, Bellamy counters with a reverence of the "old school" ways of communication. “I just watched Bill Burr, his special was really funny. But he took it outside the country just so he could… it’s hard to imagine, you know? If that’s your sense of humor, if that’s your style — you really can’t change your style! After 30 years, 25 years, that’s your style. You’re gonna be, ‘Oh my God, I’m doing Christian comedy?’ No! You gotta do what you’re comfortable with."
"That’s what I love about being a comic. That’s the thing that gives us our freedom. When I’m doing my show, I’m doing the jokes that I wrote. I’m saying my own script basically; you know what I’m saying? I think as an artist, we deserve the opportunity to write the songs we want to write. And tell the jokes we want to tell. Write a song about love the way you want to, dawg. Don’t say you can’t love that way. I like that some of us are still staying old school, some of us are still staying true to their craft. Saying what they really, really, really want to say. I think that brings back the credibility to it, man. I think a lot of the fans want to hear the truth to. They want to hear the real Bill Bellamy.”
And if those real life views get pushback from the audience? “I’ll remind them to stop playing!” he laughs. “You thinking the same thing, I’m not the only person!”
Performances are schedules for 7:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. on Friday, October 18 and 7 and 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 19. 7620 Katy Freeway. For information, call 713-333-8800 or visit improvhouston.com. $30-40