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House of Payne: Comedian Gary Owen Speaks to RSR about Boxing and his Entertainment Career

Exclusive Interview by “Bad” Brad Berkwitt

“I think Floyd (Mayweather, JR.) will knock Manny (Pacquiao) out. Floyd is just too strong and too big.” – Gary Owen

He was described on his Official Website biography as “always being the class clown” in High School. Later, he went on to join the US Navy in 1992, where early on sailors that served with him during his first tour of duty with the US Navy Ceremonial Guard located in Washington, DC. BM1 Daron Brownelee, (Ret) said, “Gary was always funny back then and always walked around with a smile on his face.” Another former ship mate CTA1 Samuel Gonzales, (Ret) echoed the same sentiments and went on to say, “It was really cool to see Gary a few years later on BET’s Comic View because I always felt he was very funny.” (Interesting side note to these comments is that I actually also served with both Brownlee and Gonzales a few years later and to this day, remain very close friends with both. It truly is a small world.)

Owen would go on to complete his successful Tour of Duty with the Ceremonial Guard where he was assigned to the Display Ship Barry (DD93) which is located at the Washington Navy Yard in SE Washington, DC. From there, Owen would wind up in California after completing his job training as a Master – At – Arms.

It was during this time while stationed at the Naval Installations Base on Coronado Island in San Diego that as his website bio described, “He found his true calling.” It was stand up comedy. Owen, would go on to win the “Funniest Serviceman in America.”

In July of 1997, Owen auditioned for BET’s COMICVIEW. Two appearances later on the multi-cultural comedy showcase, he won a one hour Grand Stand Show. It led to him being selected the winner from the final four Grand Standers for that year. This led to him being the Host for the following year. Gary would go on to appear in big screen movies such as the 2003 hit Daddy Daycare with Eddie Murphy, and as a lead in the cult movie from 2008 titled “College” to name a few.

Today Gary travels throughout the United States performing his stand up routine which both Valarie and I found out at the Big Easy Comedy Festival last month down in New Orleans is hilarious.

RSR readers, it gets better….. Gary also happens to be a huge and actually a very knowledgeable Boxing fan as well. In fact, I think he may have been more excited to talk about Boxing than he was about his comedy career.

So without further ado, RSR welcomes Gary Owen….

BB: For the RSR readers, what are you up to today?

I am currently touring and also am appearing on Tyler Perry’s Show “The House of Payne.” This summer, I have a Showtime show with Mike Epps called “Mike Epps Presents” and I also will be appearing on Martin Lawrence’s First Amendment Show again.

BB: I actually saw you for the first time live at the Big Easy Comedy Festival down in New Orleans. How did you enjoy performing at that?

It was a lot of fun. I really like New Orleans and shot a movie down there called “College.” During the shoot, I lived down there for six months off of Bourbon Street.

BB: You were born in Cincinnati, Ohio. How would growing up there mold your comedy routines over the years?

That is correct and I still live there. Honestly, I was average at both academics and sports, but I was always funny. I could always make people laugh and that is all I wanted to do and I mean nothing else, but make them laugh.

BB: I am always amazed at the things I find when I do research for an upcoming interview. In your case, I found out that you were in the US Navy and actually we were stationed at the same location, (US Navy Ceremonial Guard). We actually probably knew a lot of the same people. With that said, when were you there and what was Navy life like for you especially being at such a prestigious job right out of Boot Camp?

Wow, you were there as well. That’s cool…I was there from 1992-1994. (I was there from 96-98). I went through Training Platoon and then they sent me over to the Washington Navy Yard to work on the US Display Ship Barry (DD93). The first big thing I did was actually President Clinton’s Inauguration in 1993.

I did six years in the Navy. After Boot Camp, I went to the Ceremonial Guard as we talked about and from there, I went to my “A” School at Lackland Air Force Base to become a Master – At – Arms (MAA). Once I graduated, I went to Fort McClellan in Alabama for Brig School. After that school, I was stationed in San Diego, California, and literally the second day I was there, I blew out my ACL playing basketball so I couldn’t go on a ship. I wound up getting Shore Duty while doing rehab for my knee at Naval Base Coronado where I was a cop.

I enjoyed almost all of my six years in except for the three months I actually got put on a Ship which was the worst three months in my entire life. It was tough being with all guys and that ship had no women on it! It seemed everyone I worked for in the MAA shop was straight assholes for some reason. They would say, “Gary go out and write someone up if their stencil was not right on their dungarees.” I would come back to the office and let them know everyone was cool. They got pissed and would say: “No, you don’t come back without writing someone.” (Big laughs from both of us) I started doing my comedy in the Navy and having some success. Then, I got picked up to Host BET’s Comic View and went back to base to inform them I was getting out after my time was up. They tried to tell me no you are not, and I was like, “I will do Cocaine on your desk right now.” I was like “look, I appreciate the $24,000.00 a year and the free dental, but I am out.”

BB: How did you get into comedy?

As soon as I got to California, I called around to comedy clubs and started appearing at them. I always knew I wanted to do it, but didn’t know how to become a stand up comedian.

BB: Growing up, who were some of the comedians you looked up to?

Eddie Murphy was the first really big comedian I followed and was amazed he would do an hour and half on stage. I know all the black comedians always say when they were growing up, they always listened to all of Richard Pryor’s Comedy Albums. Well, I went to an all white High School and we did the same thing, but we listened to Sam Kinison’s Comedy Albums.

I couldn’t believe some of the stuff he was talking about like Jesus and stuff. Eddie and Sam are my favorite two.

BB: You have done television, movies and performed your comedy live on stage. Talk about each a little and what you like and don’t like about them.

Honestly, I owe my career to black television shows because they are the only ones who have ever put me on. People think I have done a lot of TV, but I only have done BET and First Amendment which is on the Starz Channel. I have never done Showtime or HBO. But I have done TV1 with Tom Joyner who has done a lot for my career and in fact, the most so far. For some reason, I present my stuff to white producers for example at Comedy Central and they just don’t get my humor and turn me down every year.

The movies I have done so far…I just auditioned for them and got them. I just like working no matter what medium it is in. I have done some good movies and some terrible ones, but I was in them no matter what. A terrible movie to one person may be a great one to somebody else. In the movie I was in called “College” was eaten up by the critics and tanked at the Box Office, but today, it has been on TV and of course, DVD. From it, I get more stuff than anything else because though it made a lot less than any of the other movies I was in, I was one of the leads so it’s different.

Put it like this on not liking it. You hate everything like Hollywood, movies and the rest when you don’t get the part, but when you do, you love them all! You got to play the game and stay positive because once you go negative you have to worry about everyone else and then it stifles you creatively. Brad, in my mind this is always how I say it… I know I am funny and I know I am famous, I just need everyone else to know it. I can be in a room with Chris Rock, Dion Sanders and Barry Bonds and I will be looking around and thinking, “Why is nobody asking for my autograph?” I know it sounds cocky, but that is how I feel. Then I can be in a room with Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence with people who are going crazy. I am like I am just as funny Mother F^&%#$@, but you just don’t know it. (Big laughs from both of us.)

BB: I find it very cool that you are living proof that comedy and music, two areas that I have felt have always crossed the color lines around the world, truly do because you are loved by the African American community. How do you feel about that?

Well, I think when white people think black comedy, they immediately think Def Jam or the Apollo Theater getting booed. It’s so much bigger than that. I do not pander to the audience, I just tell them about my life as I see it. Yes, I am married to a sister, but I am not on stage grabbing my dick or saying “What’s up, with that. You know what I am saying?” I don’t talk like that, but I know there are white guys that do. The same way I would tell black people a joke is the same way I would tell white people the same joke. Black people know when you are trying to snowball them and when you are not. And you really need to know your audience too. If say I am at a County Fair in North Dakota, I am probably not going to do my Ying Yang Twins stuff or maybe the Black Church routine you liked that I did down at the Big Easy Comedy Fest in New Orleans because they may not get it. Now turn it around and say I am at the Big Easy Comedy in New Orleans, I am not going to do a Tim McGraw – Garth Brooks joke I have. Know your audience always, but don’t pander to them.

I will tell you a funny story. I did a joke one time in West Virginia when the movie “Ray” came out with Jamie Foxx and it was more of a filler joke. It was not said to get a huge laugh or anything like that. All I said was, “If you are a young black actor and you want to win an Oscar, you still have a shot because the Stevie Wonder story is still out there.” Then I said, “If you are a white kid and you want to do it, the only person we have is Ronnie Milsap.” I swear to God, that entire crowd was white and they died laughing. And then I came to find out after the show, Ronnie Milsap came to their County Fair every year to play it.

BB: If you had to pick only one night in your career where you thought, “Gary, you nailed it tonight,” which one would you pick?

Honestly, I just did the Tom Joyner yearly cruise and the first night I did it, I nailed it. Everything was working for me. I did a show recently in Roanoke, Virginia, and also really nailed/enjoyed it. My spot was in the middle and I learned this about stand up. I always respect the headliner because sometimes I am the headliner as well. When I am not, I stick to my time. If you are supposed to do 15 minutes, do 15, and not 20 minutes. If you do it and then the next comedian does it, by the time the headliner gets up there, he is very late. By then, the crowd is tired and cannot laugh anymore no matter how funny the headliner is.

But you asked for one, and let’s go with my recent appearance at the Roanoke Civic Center in Virginia of all places.

BB: Do you think comedy has changed since you first got into it and if so, how?

It’s always changing, but in the end, funny is funny. It doesn’t take a bunch of talented people to get you, but just one to know what to do with your career. Right now Tyler Perry kind of gets me and I don’t know where that is going to lead to. If you are funny, you are funny.

BB: I want to throw some names out to you that you have worked with over the years and give me a quick thought off the top of your head…

Jamie Foxx

One big Party.

Eddie Murphy

Eddie is very funny and the first time I met him was on the set of Daddy Daycare and he knew who I was. That validated for me who I was as a standup comedian. Then he repeated one of my jokes, and I was very happy about that.

Tyler Perry

He is my hero right now. He has me locked in on his TV show right now. You will never hear me say anything bad about him.

Martin Lawrence

I like him and his entire family a lot.

BB: If you were stranded on a desert island and you could only have one movie and one CD, what would they be?

The movie would be Coming to America and the CD would be a compilation of 80’s music which I love.

BB: What “words of wisdom” can you impart on the young man or woman wanting to break into the comedy world?

Do you…

BB: Are you ready to talk Boxing?

Hell yes, that is what I have been waiting for.

BB: Tell the RSR readers how you first started following the sport of boxing?

As long as I can remember. I never fought, but I did train and know how to properly throw a punch and move around the ring, but I am not sure I can properly get hit (Big laughs from both of us). I can hang out at a boxing gym all day long. There really is a sweet science to it and people who do not know the sport can’t get that.

BB: Who are your top three fighters of all-time and why?

Lennox Lewis is my number one. I think him focused and afraid made him a beast in the ring. The only two fights as you know that he lost, was when he was unfocused, but he avenged both of them easily by KO. I also think he was one of the most underrated and unappreciated fighters in boxing ever. My second is Marvelous Marvin Hagler. I still think Hagler beats Sugar Ray Leonard nine times out of ten. I think Hagler won their fight back in 87 too. Number three is Floyd Mayweather, JR. I have never seen him get hurt except recently against Sugar Shane Mosley. He didn’t go down and I hate everything about him and I love him too. I hate how he is the villain and I don’t think he is really like that.

BB: When Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, JR., fight, who do you think will win and how?

I think Floyd will knock Manny out. Floyd is just too strong and too big. Pacquiao will take the early rounds, but in the end, Floyd will figure him out as he always does. If Pacquiao was the naturally bigger man, I would go with him, but that is not the case here. This fight has to be made and it will be the biggest grossing fight in history. For sure, it will not be in Dallas, but in Las Vegas because they will not let the biggest money maker in boxing get away from them.

They want that drop in the Casino and with a fight like this, all the high rollers will come out!

BB: What do you think of the recent fights in the stadiums which is a throwback to years gone by?

I love it! They always say boxing is on the way out, and it’s not! I love the UFC, but there is nothing like the feeling you get in your stomach before a big fight in boxing. I even get butterflies and I am like what the f&^%, I am not getting hit!

BB: Do you have funny stories about fighters you have known or met?

Not really funny, but Lennox Lewis came to one of my shows right after he beat Evander Holyfield in 1999. He was one of the most gracious and nicest guys who asked for a picture with me and I was like are you serious? I am actually decent friends with Winky Wright who I actually compare my career with. He just needed a shot and he was ready when it came by beating everyone he was supposed to beat and then coming in prepared for the big fight. There are worse people to lose to than Bernard Hopkins and Paul Williams who couldn’t stop him. I met Mike Tyson once after he bit Holyfield’s ear and was a little afraid.

BB: If you had to pick one fighter since the day you started following boxing, who do you feel moved the sport ahead the most and why?

Muhammad Ali, of course, because he changed the entire sport of boxing. He played to the media, but he didn’t play their game. Sugar Ray Leonard was next who made it into crazy money for fighters and also opened up the door for them to get big endorsements.

BB: Is there one boxing match in all your years of following the sport that you would say that was the single most exciting fight I have ever seen?

Buster Douglas vs. Mike Tyson. At that time, nobody was touching Mike. It had all that crazy stuff around with Buster coming out from Ohio where I am from and his Mom had just died. He looked like he was about to cry before the fight started and I wondered if he was scared or what? But then the fight started and in the first 30 seconds, he was coming after Mike. I so vividly remember this fight because I think I was working at Taco Bell and was like in the ninth grade back then. My Mom had picked me up and I asked her if the fight had started yet? I rushed her to get us both home so I could watch the fight. There was no feeling like when I watched this fight and to see Mike get knocked out was just amazing.

BB: Who are some of the fighters you follow today?

I love to watch Kelly Pavlik who is like my Tiger Woods. He is a nice guy and from Ohio. He is one of the few white champions out there and you have to root for the underdog because there are very few white champions today and they truly are underdogs. I like both Floyd Mayweather, JR., and Manny Pacquiao as I said earlier. I really wish we had a solid heavyweight from the US.

BB: Do you feel the sport of boxing has moved ahead or backwards since you first started following it?

I think it’s a big roller coaster especially the money in it. For every fighter that is a millionaire, there are thousands who are living in apartment barely making ends meet.

BB: Who is your favorite Boxing Commentator?

I like Jim Lampley who has been there for like 20 years and you are used to his voice. Larry Merchant is like Floyd Mayweather, JR. You love to hate him because you know he is going to ask a messed up question or cut someone off. I will go with Lampley.

BB: What is your favorite boxing movie of all-time and why?

Rocky. I loved the story about him being the underdog and the ending was great because it didn’t end the normal way. Also, people forget, it was really a love story more than it was a boxing movie.

BB: If you could change one thing in boxing today, what would you change and why?

I would like to see them have a union. It’s crazy that you cannot fight in one state say because of a medical issue, but in another, you can. They need to have a union so they can enforce unified rules across the board so no matter where you fight or what country, everything is the same.

BB: Do you favor a mandatory retirement fund for all boxers and if so, how would you like to see it accomplished?

Yes, I do! Now I don’t want some guy who came into boxing and fought five rounds to get a pension for the rest of his life. There has to be a minimum number of rounds or say years you have been boxing. They should take a percentage of a fighters’ purse and also promoters should pay in as well because they are not taking punches, but making a lot of money off the fighters. If nothing else, they should have their medical covered!

BB: Finally, what is the saying you live your life by?

“I don’t know.” (This was Gary’s actual saying)

To find out more about Gary, you can visit his Official Website.

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