The moment Mike Epps realized his comedy tour would bring him to hurricane-battered Atlantic City, he promptly decided to donate a portion of his ticket sales to the storm relief effort.
Then he did the next logical thing: He began working on some Sandy-esque material.
“I like to think people would be willing to help [me] out if something bad happened,” Epps says, beautifully leading the punch line. “Like, if I was late on my child support, maybe they’d do a relief thing for me.”
Ba-dum bump. (Where’s a real rim shot and a cymbal crash when you need one?)
But seriously, folks, Epps feels it’s important that he do whatever he can to lessen the impact Hurricane Sandy had on many of his fans throughout the region. He isn’t pretending that handing over some of his income this weekend is going to solve all storm-related problems.
“I don’t feel like I can help everybody, but to give back some of the proceeds, I think it’ll help a few people,” he tells Atlantic City Weekly. “Give people encouragement, make people laugh. If I can make people laugh in a situation like this, and give back a little something, I feel like I did my part.”
Be forewarned, however. Epps will probably crack a few storm-related jokes during his two shows Saturday, Nov. 17, at the House of Blues at Showboat.
At the end of the day, Mike Epps is still a comedian, and he’s got a job to do, damn it, and that’s to make people laugh. Especially some of his fans who likely suffered losses during the storm and who will likely at his shows.
“I think cracking jokes about pimps with flashlights, prostitutes with rain coats, that’s always funny,” he says, chuckling at the line he makes up on the spot during a phone call late last week.
Don’t get the mistaken impression that Epps is insensitive to the plight of storm victims. He knows many people are facing a major crisis in their lives, and he’s sensitive to that.
“I think I’m going to approach it like I’m a part of this, too,” says Epps, who’ll turn 42 the day after his House of Blues gig. “I’m speaking from a victim’s viewpoint. I’m going to be there as one of y’all.”
Now that most people who were victims of the storm are all cried out, Epps believes those same people are on the cusp of exploding — with laugher.
“That’s an audience waiting to laugh, that’s an audience wanting to get some things off their minds,” he says. “That’s an audience that’s coming out to have a good time. I think that’s just how God works sometimes. He gives certain people certain challenges, and they really come in handy in certain situations. This situation right here is really going to come in handy for me, because nothing is a better cure, nothing is a better medicine, than laughter.”
After performing stand-up comedy in high school and then honing his technique in comedy clubs, Epps caught his first break on Def Comedy Jam in 1995. Then came the role of Day-Day Jones in the movies Next Friday and Friday After Next and the part of Black Doug in The Hangover series of comedies.
But Epps is careful not to become stereotyped as just another comedy actor. Earlier this year, he appeared opposite Jordin Sparks and Whitney Houston — in her final film role — in a remake of the movie Sparkle.
It was a dramatic turn for Epps, whose character was a stand-up comic by day and an abusive and evil drug lord by night.
Something is happening in Atlantic City’s main casino venues this weekend that — barring another hurricane or some other act of God — will probably never happen again this year.
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