When Plymouth native JB Smoove returns to North Carolina for shows Friday and Saturday at Raleigh’s Goodnights Comedy Club, dealing with the guest list will be almost as significant as preparing material.
“I have a lot of people coming in,” Smoove says while calling from his Los Angeles home. “I have family in Raleigh and family an hour and a half from Raleigh, and also in Fayetteville. I’ll have a crazy guest list. The good news is that I’m playing four (shows), so I can spread it out.”
Most of the bits Smoove, 50, renders each night are different, so the shows won’t be the same. “I have bullet points when I take the stage,” Smoove reveals. “I change things up every night. My advice for young comics is not to get caught up in jokes. If your jokes fail, what do you have left? Let your personality come out. You need something to lean on if something fails. I’m like how Daffy Duck was in those cartoons with Bugs Bunny. Remember he would dump gasoline and gunpowder on himself? That’s me onstage. What I do happens once, more so than not. If I try to do the same thing every night, maybe I telegraph it and it doesn’t work so well. I like to just roll with it. Sometimes it’ll take me 45 minutes to get to my (prepared) jokes.”
No wonder Smoove fairs so well on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” since much of that show is improvised. Smoove plays Leon, displaced from Hurrican Katrina and living in protagonist Larry David’s luxe home. Smoove scored the recurring role in 2007 and says he embraces the extemporaneous.
“I’m perfect for that show,” Smoove says. “It’s been amazing being part of ‘Curb’ since I was a huge fan when I worked on ‘Saturday Night Live.’ I remember writing sketches and thinking about ‘Curb.’ It was so funny. I wondered what the process was.
“We would get an outline of what was going to happen but I never looked at those,” Smoove says. “I wanted to be in the moment. So after wardrobe I would go up and just look at Larry’s face and we would just go. I didn’t want to overthink it.”
Smoove will get more chances to not “overthink it” since David announced that “Curb Your Enthusiasm” will return to HBO.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am,” Smoove says. “We start working on the show in November and I’m guessing that the new shows will be on the air at this time next year.”
David is close to the vest as usual about forthcoming episodes. “Larry hasn’t told us anything,” Smoove says. “He’s so secretive. I believe most of our cast is back.”
Smoove fans don’t have to wait a year to catch him on screens big and small. He stars in the BET reality show parody “Real Husbands of Hollywood” and he co-stars in the forthcoming film “Almost Christmas,” which also features Danny Glover.
“The movie will be out in November and it’s like ‘Soul Food,’” Smoove says. “The matriarch of this family passes away and the patriarch, which Danny plays, has to recreate Christmas dinner. It’s a lot of fun doing the movies and television.”
But Smoove is all about stand-up.
“That’s one of my passions,” Smoove says. “I’m not one of those guys who just wants to act. I love the stage. I love the immediacy and I love coming home to North Carolina. That’s my home state. It’s going to be such a good time coming back and performing before family, friends and fans. It’ll be special when I come back to Raleigh.”