Comedian James Davis isn’t afraid to be on Dave Chappelle’s hit list.
Davis recently wrapped up the first season of “Hood Adjacent with James Davis,” a Comedy Central show where he mostly pokes fun at the stereotypes and absurdities that exist in black culture. This isn’t the first time a black comic has done this. Chappelle did it in 2003, when he hosted and co-created the successful (and notoriously short-lived) sketch series “Chappelle’s Show.”
Years later, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, both of whom are black, starred on the Comedy Central sketch show “Key & Peele,” which Chappelle has said in interviews (and on one of his recent Netflix specials) seemed similar to the show he did.
But Davis, who is bringing his act to Goodnights Comedy Club this weekend, isn’t worried that Chappelle will call him out for any similarities in their shows.
“No, because if he brings me up, it’s just more exposure for me and the show,” says Davis, on the phone from Indianapolis.
While the thirtysomething comedian would be honored if Chappelle even acknowledged his existence, Davis wants it known that “Hood Adjacent” is a completely different machine.
“I mean, I did one sketch in the entire season,” Davis said. “So, I think it’s different than him bringing up ‘Key & Peele.’ Yes, I do stand-up to introduce segments, but I believe I do a longer opening monologue – I do an opening monologue! I think an educated eye will know that I’m not trying to copy his show.”
Davis, born in South Central Los Angeles, said he uses his series to dispel the notion that where someone comes from defines them.
“I just felt like there was a limited perspective – limited imagery – on what the ’hood is and people who are in the’ hood,” he says. “As someone who has moved in and around the ’hood his entire life, I know it’s much more diverse, complex than what we see in TV shows, scripted shows, news shows. And so I just wanted to show alternate imagery as well as more nuanced imagery.”
You could say Davis wanted to show different sides of black culture when he had aspirations of being an actor. He even dropped out of college in order to pursue an acting career. But while he was looking for acting gigs, he decided to sharpen his performing skills by doing stand-up.
“Once I tried it, and discovered that I wasn’t awful at it, I kept on doing it,” he says. “Because it was a way to keep my acting muscles, performance muscles, creative muscles, you know, while waiting for whatever TV or movie acting gig that I could hopefully get in the future.”
Davis has been doing stand-up for a little over a decade, and during that time, he’s gotten together with the right people. He had a recurring role on BET’s “Real Husbands of Hollywood” as Oliver, an aspiring stand-up and long-suffering personal assistant to star Kevin Hart.
“I definitely got a lot of confidence from working around Kevin Hart and learning from him on set,” he says.
He also briefly wrote for “The Late Late Show with James Corden,” where he got the British talk-show host to do a bit at a sneaker store. He’s quite proud of the sketch.
“He waited in line for a Jordan release in one of the earlier episodes and did Jordan trivia while people waited to buy Jordans,” he said. “That came from me.”
Davis also did some videos for the comedy site Funny or Die, doing a spot-on impersonation of former NBA star Kobe Bryant giving arrogant answers during post-game press conferences.
“Well, I’m a Laker fan,” he says. “So whenever I’m a fan of someone or something, I have a lot of information on them, which makes parodying them easier. I actually was going to do a sketch with Kobe Bryant, but it never happened. But (his people) sent me some Kobe Bryant shoes and gear.”
While Davis comes up with more ideas for another season of “Adjacent,” he’ll be hitting comedy clubs across the country and making sure everyone – even icons like Chappelle – understand where he’s coming from.
“I feel like I’m coming from an authentic, positive-minded place with my comedy, and there’s a purpose to what I’m doing,” he says. “There’s a purpose to the segments and the comedy that I’m executing on the show. It’s good for that to be recognized and for me to explain myself at times, to further give outsiders perspective into my goals as an artist.”