Recycled Rock N Roll

Recycled Rock N Roll

Tuesday, September 20, 2022


This is part three of an interview with Steven Marcus Releford, Niles Abston and Johnny Mac about Y'ALL HAD TO BE HERE, a show combining comedy, improv, podcast interviews and an inside look at the lives of comedians that goes beyond mere stand up to entertain the audience with layers of humor and commentary from a team of who knows what they're talking about. It's an education for anyone who loves the business of stand up comedy and intellectual entertainment for everyone else.

If you are interested in seeing more from the very funny people involved in this project check out BASEMENTFEST, a three day event featuring talent from all over Los Angeles in a venue unique from the rest. The comedic extravaganza will have performers from Y'All HAD TO BE HERE and more with a party atmosphere only personalities as powerful as Niles Abston, Steven Marcus Releford, Johnny Mac, Arthur Hamilton and their fellow comedic performers can provide.

Just like any good TV show, many audience members could never understand the pain, sweat and tears it took to get to the point where Donald Glove could do a show with as much depth as Atlanta

Niles Abston: You have to look at all the groundwork Donald Glover has done to make white people feel safe around him. He is the safest bet for white people when it comes to a black guy. He's "The Black Friend" to white people. He's funny, he can rap, he's handsome...he's been in so many spaces from NYU to improv comedy to 30 Rock, to Community where he's collected all these white tokens in a way so it's like, "Alright, we'll let you make a TV show." And then it's like, "Woah! That's not the show we want you to make, but we like you so we'll let you do it.

Steven Marcus Releford: And it's making money.

Niles Abston: And it's making money. He's been able to do what a black film maker has never been able to do on television because he's been palpable to white people for so long.

He's had to make sacrifices to. It's on YouTube. Chevy Chase...

Niles Abston: He was so mean to him!

Oh yeah. Even Chevy Chase thought the writing for Donald Glover was terrible because he was portrayed as a dumb jock. There's also the problem of how Chase thought it was ok to use the n-word in front of Glover. I'm sure the young man was just sitting in the middle of all the controversy thinking, "I don't want to make any waves." He had to suffer without saying anything to move up in Hollywood.

Niles Abston: That's what being black is. Picking your battles. "I'm not going to say anything about this because down the road I want to direct." I've been told this: "It only takes black people ten seconds in this industry to be 'hard to work with,'" and once the word "difficult" gets used to describe you, especially black women, now people don't want to work with you. Donald Glover was like, "I'm not going to complain over some TV role, I'll just leave." He wanted to make a crazy TV show one day. It's crazy how we have to think like this. White people don't have to do that. They can just live in the current moment.

I've also been told about how there's a lot of pressure on black people from Hollywood executives sometimes to be a stereotype. To be more black. That's part of the reason John Amos left Good Times. The show became a parody of itself and the real people the writing was supposed to portray.

Johnny Mac: And the fucked up thing is that the executives are probably arguing, "But that's what people want." The fact is the audience is black, Asian, white...everybody. So a white executive might say, "Our white audience..." and if they put a black or Asian show on TV, only those groups would watch it. It's actually that the white executive wouldn't watch it. A middle aged white man is telling me that young white people won't watch a show. "Only black kids will watch this show," he thinks that. It's not the truth. That's why you need representation in there, or you need to understand what the big picture is.

Steven Marcus Releford: That's what's cool about stand up. You can tell your story any way you want to. You'll tell a joke, and it works, for either crowd, but the laughs are different, right? It's because it's still a laugh, and a truth, that needs to be heard. That's the same thing with Atlanta, it's like, "Oh, we didn't want you to make this type of show, but we've already green lit it and people love it." It's real. It's truthful shit. I'm laughing in a way that's different.

Niles Abston: He couldn't have pitched that type of show. And everything is based on the pitch instead of the actual product.

He also makes fun of both sides. He makes fun of African American culture and white racist culture.

Niles Abston: Right, from the things he knows, though. It's a genuine place. He's not making up a stereotype to make fun of. If a white person is making fun of black people it's like, you don't even know anybody who acts like that. What are you talking about?

It feels sometimes that Glover is also being very meta. He's making fun of stereotypes...and also making fun of television stereotypes, not the real person or predicament.

Johnny Mac: He makes fun of the white perception.

Niles Abston: Uh huh. He's a genius.

There's a part in his Childish Gambino video for "This is America" where he's dancing shirtless on a car in a parking garage. The camera pulls back. What's the color of the garage and everything around him? It's white. He's absolutely surrounded by a white structure. He's in a giant white parking garage in a white structure with layers going up, and he's still near the bottom.

Niles Abston: That's hilarious! I've never thought about it that way.

It's very subversive, if that's what he meant. He loves David Lynch, he also loves Kubrick. I saw that and thought, "That's how he feels. Look where he works."

Niles Abston: And he had to do so much to get to that point. It's almost like he became a rapper to make that show because he knew one good way for a black dude to get famous is to become a rapper. He did that stand up thing. He did stand up before rap.

Johnny Mac: He did improv, sitcom, rapper, movie star...and then they are like, "What do you want to make?" And he's like, "Fucking finally."

Niles Abston: That's the thing, he totally cut to the front of the line because of rap. It's because he got popular in another place. The only person to ever do that was backwards, like Will Smith got popular in rap and then went to TV. Donald Glover had to do the reverse, which is honestly stupid when you think about it.

Talking to all of you also makes me realize that even back then, Will Smith had to rap as if he was at a Def Comedy Jam because of the popular stereotype. "There's no need to argue, parents don't understand," sounds like a punch line.

You can buy tickets for BASEMENT FEST right here.

Check out more of Y'ALL HAD TO BE HERE by following this link. 

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