For Raleigh show, Wayne Brady makes stuff up

Published Thu, Mar 06, 2014 08:00 PM
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Wayne Brady will perform in Raleigh Sunday. Getty Images

Submitted by Glenn McDonald — Correspondent

Wayne Brady began his show business career at a young age, working theaters, theme parks and improv clubs in Florida before he was out of high school. He’s since gone on to a widely varied career on stage and screen, but is still probably best known for his ace comic chops on the improv comedy TV show, “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”

But wait, there’s more! Brady has also appeared on Broadway, hosted several TV variety shows, and recorded an R&B album and a children’s music album. He currently hosts the CBS game show “Let’s Make a Deal” and stars in the latest iteration of “Whose Line Is It Anyway” on the CW network.

Brady will perform Sunday night at Meymandi Concert Hall as part of his “It’s My Line” Tour. (Get it?) He recently spoke to the N&O about the Rat Pack, “30 Rock” and the practical value of improv comedy.

Q: What can people expect at the stage show?

A: Well, it’s an improvisational show, similar to “Whose Line Is It Anyway” and stuff they’ve seen me do on TV. The entire show is completely script-less. As soon as I come out, I have the audience give me the suggestions that I’ll be building the show from. From there, it’s just a walk through whatever is in my head.

Then I do improvisational music. The audience will create song titles and we play them on the spot – sometimes it’s a style, sometimes it’s an impression. Also, it’s an adult show. It’s never obscene, but we talk about adult things.

Q: Were you into comedy as a kid? Were there any comics you particularly admired?

A: Well, I’m not a comic in that sense. I’m an improvisational actor who does improvisational comedy. I got my start in the theater and on TV. So the people I grew up idolizing were the guys that did everything. Like Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr. – the entire Rat Pack, really. Guys like Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier. Danny Kaye. Carol Burnett. Later, Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg. That’s a distinctly different school of comedy. These are people who could transform in front of you. Those are the people I’m attracted to, that I hope I’m in the legacy of.

Q: You were working professionally in your teenage years and even younger. How did that experience help you later on?

A: I think it’s because I was a professional when I was young that I conduct myself in a certain way. I understand the value of a gig, I understand the work it takes to do the same show, day in and day out, and make it feel different. I put in years doing improv, doing a show every other night, where you got better and better and better – and then you sucked again. There’s a real value in that experience. I pride myself on the fact that I’ve been this guy since day one.

Q: You’ve done a long list of guest spots on some great TV comedies – “Everybody Hates Chris,” “Chappelle’s Show” and a very funny episode of “30 Rock” where you get shot by Tina Fey. How was your “30 Rock” experience?

A: It was amazing. Tina Fey is someone who’s really at the top of her game. She’s a genius, and I don’t throw that word around too much. She knows what she wants, knows the end result, and she got there through a lot of hard work. It wasn’t overnight. Between her and Alec and that cast of pros that really know how to make funny – that was an amazing experience.

That’s my kind of comedy. There’s a rhythm to it that you can hear. It’s build, build, build and here comes the funny. It’s so cool. Only the best people can write that. And I can say that I got shot in the butt by Tina Fey.

Q: The ethics of improv comedy – staying in the moment, listening, supporting your scene partner – are these things you can apply off the stage?

A: Yes, absolutely. In fact, I have a book coming out soon that’s about just that, using improvisation in your daily life. It’s just called “Making Sh*t Up.” Because that’s what we do on a daily basis. It’s an ongoing conversation at work, with your spouse. It’s how you get through life.

I have a special place in my heart for improvisation, because when I’m onstage I have no choice but to be in the moment, right now, and I love that feeling. It’s just you and the audience, and for that hour or so, it’s a completely focused cone of energy. It’s very cool.

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