Some may remember him as the pastor in Tyler Perry’s hit film “Meet The Browns” or as the funk-soul musician on “The Steve Harvey Show,” but now funnyman Jonathan Slocumb is making a name for himself in a new way. Following in the footsteps of the likes of Bill Cosby and Sinbad, he’s managed to take the title “clean comic” to all new hilarious heights, all while still keeping it PG. JETmag.com had the chance to catch up with Slocumb and talk about his latest ventures, including becoming the national spokesperson for Solo Noir Men’s grooming line, his hosting gig on Magic Johnson’s ASPiRE TV network and carving out his own lane in the cutthroat world of comedy.
Tell our readers a little bit about yourself. How did you get into comedy?
I’m a Black man. Born and raised in Atlanta. I’m a comedian. I ironically got my big break in Chicago. I was opening act for Take 6 at Chicago State University and from there things just happened because they have a broad audience of gospel and jazz. Right after that I did Def Comedy Jam. People knew I was the Black guy that did clean comedy and it just kind of went from there. Doors opened in television and film and recording. Then later I got known for liking to dress on stage. People know me for that.
You’re a clean comic but do you curse in real life?
It depends. I’ve got a 9-year-old son. I’ve learned how to cuss. I’ve changed a lot of things about myself over the past 10 years. I’m not the guy that says if somebody cusses that they’re bad people. I used to think that because I was super spiritual but God let me understand him better.
How do you compete with other comedians in the business like Katt Williams, Kevin Hart and Mike Epps who do use profanity?
Years ago, I entered the Red Fox Miller Lite comedy search. I was well known, this is right after Def Jam. And I thought I needed to use profanity in my material. So one of my best friends is a professional cusser, like every sentence there is cussing. For the first time I wrote my material down and I told him to put in cuss words where it fit in. So when I did my show, I cussed and I won. But it didn’t feel right. For me it felt like a KKK with the hood on at an NAACP convention. That’s how I felt doing it. I was like I don’t fit in with this. So that was my last time using it. From that point on, I never felt that I needed to be a certain way.
The thing for me is, comedy is something everybody needs. But I think that we as urban African-American people, we need more of a selection of options. But they throw us one of something and they think that’s the end all. And I never believed in that. So my audience is not as large as Kevin Hart’s or Katt Williams’ or the Kings of Comedy. But the fact is when people want a certain type of comedy and quality, non-offensive, then I got it. I never bash Kevin Hart, Katt Williams, anybody… that’s their language. People use that language but some people don’t want it. So when you have a Sinbad and myself and several others, we are the ones that people go to . So there’s never been pressure for me. I just wanna know where my lane is. And I know there are people out there who would spend money to get quality, non-offensive comedy.
What do you think about the state of Black comedy?
I want for people, if you don’t like something, then don’t support it. I hate bashing. I hate when people talk about “I can’t believe he did this and that.” They have a following. If you don’t like that, turn the channel and watch what you like. Comedy is entertainment. And whatever your choice is, whatever you like, then find a person that you can relate to. Everybody can’t relate to Mo’nique, but some people love Kim Coles. So find who you like and support it. As far as the state of Black comedy, it is what everybody has seen but it’s time for people to know that there is much more of a choice and that’s what my goal is.
You’ve also been called the “couture comic.” Where did that name come from?
The couture comedy thing came up by a former publicist I had and it came from somebody else who said it to her. They said, we like him because his comedy is high quality, but its not regular it’s kind of like a couture. So it’s kind of like how Armani has a line but he has a couture line as well. It’s like a specialized. And everybody can’t get this kind of comedy because the face of Black urban comedy is one-sided. You gotta be in a space where you want clean, wholesome, non offensive. You gotta want that. And couture of anything, it costs a little more and you gotta really look for it to get it. So it’s kind of a specialized offering of urban comedy. That’s where it came from. And I like to dress so it’s kind of a double entendre.
How did you become the face of Solo Noir skincare line?
At the Stellar Awards, they had a gift suite and there was a little satchel with products in it. I liked the presentation and decided to research the line… For Andrea Polk, a Black woman to come out with a skin care line for men was unheard of and I actually believe in it. It’s organic. It’s unbelievable. So I’m now the new face of Solo Noir. I could’ve gone to some other skin care line. They’re out there. But I believed in what Andrea had and I tried it. And my brand being a “clean comic”, because I don’t use profanity on stage, it kind of goes hand in hand.
You went to Chicago State University recently to talk to students, young men in particular. What was that like?
We were at CSU talking to the young men about proper skin care. I want to educate our young men that self care is not a gay thing. Clean your face. Use some products. I want to educate Black men to embrace cleanliness. Cleanliness is not just the right suit. Not just throwing on a cologne…Just encouraging young Black men to have a better image as far as who they are. Saggy pants and all that represents something negative now. If you’re walking down the street, you look a certain way, you’re going to be immediately thought of as being in that genre or that category. So I said to them “Find your identity and let the cleanliness be a part of that.” I just want brothers to become wholesome gentlemen. I just know there’s a lot of educating that has to be done and how better to do that than through a comedian?”
How did you end up hosting “Groundbreaking Comedies” on ASPiRE TV?
For years, I’ve done the audience warm up at the Trumpet Awards. This year one of Magic Johnson’s business partners, Brad Siegel, who runs GMC, was in the audience. Brad called me up and told me he’s doing a network with a well known NBA hall of famer. They wanted someone to be the face of comedy for the network, someone brought my name up at a meeting and after that they signed me.
What will ASPIRE TV bring to audiences that’s different from what they’ve seen on other Black networks like BET, TV One and Centric?
One of the biggest things you’ll see different is Magic Johnson. He’s the man. The main thing for him is groundbreaking. It’s gotta make sense. It’s not just that we wanna give people a whole lot of Black programming for Black people. It’s gotta really make sense. And that’s what he’s been focusing on. If it’s not groundbreaking it’s not on ASPiRE TV.
Catch Jonathan Slocumb on ASPiRE TV’s Groundbreaking Comedies every Tuesday and follow him on Twitter @jokeumslocumb