Bryan McCree is 35-year veteran comedian and actor from Flint, Michigan. He’s appeared on MAD TV, Comics Unleashed with Byron Allen, and Comedy Central. He’s also had roles in the award-winning movie Chameleon Street and Lunatics: A Love Story. We asked him some questions…
1. How do you describe your comedy?
I would describe my comedy as observational reality. Presented with racial introspection, sarcasm, act outs and a shit ton of facial expressions. I like to utilize all the senses during my routine. Well not so much the sense of smell because I am pretty sure no one is interested in smelling my material.
2. How did you get started in comedy?
I know it sounds cliché but I got started in comedy on a dare. A friend of mine from my old neighborhood was in a comedy troupe, and he had been encouraging me to get into comedy based on my prowess in playing the dozens and watching me clowning around in the neighborhood. I was with that same friend one night at an open mic night when he dared me to do some stand up. I accepted the challenge and actually made people laugh that night. From that moment I knew that comedy would be my life.
3. You grew up in a show business family. How did that influence your comedy career?
So, my father was a professional musician focusing mainly on Jazz. He was a child prodigy that could play almost any instrument by ear. Meaning, he didn’t require sheet music. He just knew what to play. His instrument of choice was the upright bass. My Great Aunt was on Broadway. It was a really cool experience and I think that the big take away for me was that you could do something creative and actually make a living at it. The other benefit from my early exposure to the arts was being able to meet and interact with all kinds of unique personalities and different colors and cultures of people that I might not have met under normal circumstances. In elementary school I always had the best, what did you do on your summer vacation stories.
“Bryan McCree what did you do on your summer vacation?” “Who me? Oh I went to some Jazz supper clubs to watch my dad play with his band, and hung out with a blind man who could play harmonica, and he let me taste his beer.” You could do cool shit like that back in the 60’s. If you wanted bring your kid to a Jazz club and let him sip on a little beer nobody fucked with you. Now days if you keep your kid out past 9:00pm the neighbors are calling CPS.
4. You’re also an actor, and have appeared on television shows like Mad TV. Tell us about some of the work you’ve done. What advice would you give to stand-up comedians who also want to break into the world of sketch comedy?
I’ve been featured in high profile regional commercials. One of which was for the Detroit Tigers. I’ve had appearances on Comedy Central and I appeared in a few independent films. One of those films won the Grand Jury prize at The Sundance Film Festival. In the movie Chameleon Street, I was allowed to showcase my comedy chops in one of its classic scenes.
As far as advice for someone that is interested in breaking into Sketch comedy I would say this. In my early career I did Theater, and then Comedy Improvisation. Anything and everything unplanned can and usually does happen during the run of a play. It teaches you how to think on your feet, I think those experiences prepared me for everything else that I would encounter during my show business journey. So take an improvisation class or do some community theater.
5. You have a bi-racial family. How does this inform your comedy?
Having a bi-racial family gives me an interesting point of view. It’s inspired some of my favorite jokes. Here’s one: Christmas and Thanksgiving are complicated at my house. White and Black people dining together, you don’t know what to serve. Collard greens versus green beans, Sweet potato pie versus pumpkin pie, rock versus powder. You’ve got some choices to make.
6. You have three children. Beyond being a source of material, how does fatherhood affect the career of a comedian?
Fatherhood is one of the great challenges of being a stand-up comedian. It’s tough to find the balance between touring and family life. Both parties have to be willing to give and take. The comic has to realize that he cannot live every weekend on the road like he did before he had children. The family must realize that you will not be there for every recital or field trip. It takes a very understanding family to deal with the road comic’s predicament.
7. Your hometown, Flint, has been dealing with a horrible water crisis over the last few years. As a comedian, what do you do when your city is in crisis, both on stage and off?
Oh boy, the Flint water crisis. Well, when in crisis I do what comedians do. I make fun. As an artist I am always inspired by my surroundings and my current circumstances, so of course I am doing material about it. Living in Flint is a huge part of my life and I will always represent my city on and off stage. Win, lose or draw, this city has helped shape who I am today. The water crisis has also inspired me to create a comedic sketch entitled “Hands Up, Don’t Squirt (The Flint Water Crisis).”
Back when Flint was topping the national crime statistics I created a mockumentary entitled Flint is Safe.
So yeah my hometown will probably always be fodder for my humor.
8. What projects are you currently working on?
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