I’ve been a fan of comedian Billy D. Washington for a while. He’s a smart comic, talented in a lot of ways. He can work clean, he can do political satire, he can write from a more observational aesthetic, and he plays a mean piano. Last week, a post he made on Facebook caught my attention. He said he’d been watching all these new stand-up comedy specials, the gold mine frenzy we’ve had lately, and he’d decided to “compete” again. I got in touch with him immediately to see what he meant, and he said he’d been concentrating on making a living to raise his kids. They’re out of the nest now, and he was looking to be “relevant” again. To get the call when CNN is looking to find out about the comedy business. To get on late night again.
That’s something I think happens frequently to comedians. Maybe they start out with that dream of fame and fortune, but practical concerns get in the way. They either quit or find a way to make it work from a financial perspective. Washington never stopped doing comedy, but he stopped chasing the fame and fortune dream. What he’s looking for now may be a little different. Something in between. Opportunities to show a broader audience what he can do.
I hadn’t spoken to Washington since he came to Boston probably a decade ago. I hope I don’t go that long before I speak with him again. He brought up some aspects of stand-up I had never heard before, like the demise of the “non-celebrity” black comedian. We spoke about how the fact that he can do so many kinds of comedy may have meant he became less identifiable. He’s not the ace satirists, the music parodist, the clean comic. He’s all of those things, depending on the bit, which makes it harder to brand him.
When the conversation is over, stick around to hear “Get Away,” the debut single from Brooklyn band BIRDS from their album Everything All At Once, out Friday August 18 from Greenway Records. It’s great fuzzy pop, something to prop you up a little bit.
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