Charles McBee is from Toledo, Ohio. He has only been doing stand-up for
about three years, yet you’d swear he’s been doing it for much longer. He
has a laid-back, confident style that comes from being naturally funny. It puts his audiences at ease.
YS: When did you first realize that you wanted to be a comic?
CM: When I first realized it, I didn’t necessarily think that I would become one. I just knew I wanted to be, but I didn’t think that it was something I could do. It was in college. Dave Chappelle came out with this special. It was called “Killing Them Softly”. And that’s the first time I said to myself, ‘I want to do that’. But I just had no idea how I would go about doing it. So it was a few years later that I finally actually got the courage to do it. I was about 19, maybe 20.
YS: So how would you characterize his/your style of humor?
CM: Well I don’t think I’m similar in the sense of style or performance style, but just the way he sees things, I kind of see things the same way. ..with Dave Chappelle, he’ll say something, and I’ll say, ‘I feel that way too!’. It’s that kind of a similar connection that you have with somebody. They have what we call in comedy, we have ‘parallel thinking’, where it’s like two comics kind of think about things similarly. So when I watched the special, it spoke to me in that way. And I felt like, even though I never met him before, we probably were the same.
YS: How long have you been doing comedy?
CM: Not long. About three years. I was 25ish, 26, when I first started. It was a few years before I got the courage. I wasn’t even here in New York. I was back in Ohio still in college. Then I moved here. I moved here when I was 25, did acting for like a year and realized I wasn’t as in love with acting as I thought I was. Going through that whole rigorous process I realized my passion wasn’t into it as much as somebody else who was an actor. So with comedy, even though it was still a rigorous process, the thought of me being able to express my own ideas…if I do a crappy show, I’m still at least doing my own material, my own thing. And I don’t know what it was exactly that pushed me over the line, but it was one of those things that keeps you up at night. You keep feeling that tug, that tug, that tug. And then when I found out how easy it was, in the sense of open mikes, there was no excuse. Either you do it, or go back to Ohio, you know. So I finally did it, did open mikes and was like, ‘alright, this isn’t so bad’.
YS: Who are some of your favorite comics?
CM: Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, and Bill Cosby is probably my idol, my Yoda, if you will. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen his special, Bill Cosby Himself, where he talks about his kids, and talks about all that kind of stuff. To me, it’s one of the most brilliant, well-written performed specials that I’ve ever seen. You can listen to it now, you can listen to it 100 years from now, everyone can relate to it, but it’s not hacky. It’s so original, but everyone can still relate to it. And it’s so visual, that’s what I loved about it….you can hear it and you see everything, the way he inflects things, the way he words things a certain way. So with that, I feel like that’s an artist, as opposed to that’s a comic telling jokes. He’s probably my greatest influence as far as being a true-life artist.
YS: What’s your favorite thing and what’s your least favorite thing about doing Comedy?
CM: The one thing that I was sure about back then [during childhood] was that I can make people laugh. That I could communicate in a way that made people laugh. And so, even in my adult years, that’s still one of the things that…I know I’m good at. This is one of those things where I can really shine and excel. So that’s the best thing about it is just knowing that this is something that I’m really meant to do, not just something that I would want to do or wish I could do or think I can do. It’s having that sense of know. The worst thing about it I think is the behind-the-scenes stuff. It’s show business for a reason and if you get caught up in the business part, then it can be very draining and crashing creatively because you start to compromise your creativeness. Because creatively you say, ‘this is me, this is how I express myself, this is what I want to do’. But then the business side says ‘well, this is what they’re looking for’. Then you go, well maybe I should change. And those things collide all the time. You kind of have to tread lightly and take everything with a grain of salt and just know what you’re willing to do, and what you’re not willing to do. I guess that would be the bad part if there are any bad parts about it.
YS: What is your writing process like?
CM: I write very sporadically. The thing about me is, it’s a gift and a curse in a sense, because the way I write is it’s very easy for me to come up with a playlist and a punchline. When I first started, it was mostly, what do I think is funny? Which to me, is the wrong place to start from. Like I don’t think that all comedy necessarily has to come from a dark place, but it is a truthful place that you really care about. So that when you’re talking about it, it’s something that you really, truly want to express as opposed to, “hey, is this funny?”. I just look at what am I going through, what do I think about? What bothers me, or doesn’t bother me? What makes me happy? Anything that kind of gets me going. Then I write about it, whether it be family issues, or career. And then you can always put the twist on it to make it funny.
YS: Do you have a favorite club to perform in?
CM: Not really. It can depend on the night really. There’s certain clubs I’m just really comfortable, like the Comic Strip. I’m really comfortable performing there because I’ve performed there so many times. I love any place that’s packed, whether it’s a small place or a large place. I don’t care. When a place is full, it just feels good.
Web series (on YouTube): “It’s a Chucked Up Life”.