Video Exclusive: Rickey Smiley For Real
Rickey Smiley is arguably one of the most hilarious celebrities out there. From his classic prank phone calls to “Lil Darryl,” Smiley never falls short in the entertainment department.
But there’s more to Rickey Smiley, and if you listen to his daily morning radio show, you’ll know just how serious he can get. JET spoke with the comedian and talk show host about his life on and off of the set, his new docu-series Rickey Smiley for Real, and the role of faith in his life, career and success.
JET: Rickey Smiley. Man! I am excited that you are here. When I found out that you were coming I was like, “Yooo! Rickey Smiley is in the house.”
Rickey Smiley: One of the craziest comedians ever.
JET: Yeah, but you know I wasn’t necessarily interested in talking to you because you’re funny. I was more interested in talking to you because what I gather from your radio show and all that you do is a man who is really aiming to present himself authentically. You don’t seem to put on airs. What you see is what you get.
RS: The last interview that I just left said the same thing. I’m real. I’m not pretentious. I don’t play any games and I’m very passionate. I just keep it honest about everything. That’s the only way you can be. If you tell one lie, you gotta tell another lie. And I’m just not gonna put on airs. I’m cool with who I am, and that’s just growing up around old people [and] being around my grandmother. My grandmother hated fake people. If anybody got something pretentious going on, it would set my grandmother off to another level and I’m the same way. Like you said, what you see is what you get.
JET: I can imagine that those characteristics are what contributed to your longevity in the business. You’ve been entertaining folks for what, 25 years?
RS: November 7 [marked] 26 years since the first time I walked on stage at a comedy club in Birmingham, Alabama.
JET: Take us back to that first day.
RS: We walked in a comedy club. I’ll never forget the song that was playing: “Been around the world and I I I…”—the song by the White lady with the blonde short hair cut. I can’t think of her name. But that song was going, and I remember the comedy club owner coming out. He shook all the hands of the comedians that was going on set for open mic night, told us what to do, said, “You got five minutes. Clean material.” We signed our name, he gave us the order and that was the first time I actually went up on stage.
JET: How’d you get up there? How did you end up doing comedy?
RS: A friend of mine who I was going to college with was a comedian and took me to the comedy club. And I was like, “I think I’ma try that.” And it worked out. I got better and better during open mic night as the weeks progressed. So four months after open mic night, [the promoter] said, “I’m gonna pay you $100 and I’m gonna put you on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday with a comedian by the name of Mark DiChiara.” I’ll never forget it. And I remember sitting in my car with tears in my eyes and couldn’t believe that I was gonna get $100. ’Cause my rent was $335, so I was like, “Shooot, that’s a portion of my rent right there,” and I kinda been doing it ever since.
JET: That’s what’s up. Now comedy isn’t all that you do. You’re also part of a live band.
RS: I play instruments. Sometimes I travel with a live band. I play piano, I play the organ, trumpet, the baritone, the French horn. I love classical music. A lot of people don’t know I listen to soft rock all day. I listen to classic rock. I like the Eagles. I like Fleetwood Mac, Elton John, Billy Joel. I can’t sing, but I can teach parts because I was a minister of music at my church back in the day.
JET: One of the things I noticed about you is that you are very strong in your faith. It seems to come out in every area of your life.
RS: Oh yeah! I’m not ashamed of God. He’s been good to me. On my worse day I still ate. I still had a roof over my head on my worst day. So God has been awesome. He’s been faithful and I’m not ashamed to let anybody know I love God and that’s real. You know, I sin just like everybody else, I cuss like everybody else, I get mad like everybody else. But at the end of the day, it’s no shame in my game about God.
JET: Yeah. I think that’s how it has to be. In order to be who you are, you have to be able to freely express all parts of yourself, regardless of who you are offending.
RS: Right. And I don’t care about who get offended, because whoever gets offended didn’t create me. Nor did they wake me up this morning. God did. So as long as I don’t offend HIM, that’s what counts. I don’t care about no people and what they say and what they think. Nobody. Whatever religion they are, do your thing. That’s between you and the God that you serve. But I am very sure about mine.
JET: Definitely. You have a new docu-series coming out Rickey Smiley for Real. Tell us about it.
RS: It really shows how busy I am. Like this weekend, I’ll be [doing stand-up] in Baltimore. Next weekend I’ll be in Cleveland. So I get off the radio on a Friday, do Dish Nation, jump on a plane and fly somewhere, take an hour nap, do two more shows and then two or three shows the next day. Or travel to another city that day. Every blue moon, I might wake up and don’t have to do nothing and those days, I just sit in one chair and watch TV all day. Make sandwiches. Make one trip to Walmart. Cook some ox tails. Some greens.
JET: So the docu-series… I couldn’t help but notice how the press release described your current relationship status. It described you as “a notoriously picky bachelor with a habit of picking the wrong women, or ending relationships for the smallest reasons.” It also referred to you as a complete mess in the romance department. What’s going on?!
RS: I’m not a complete mess, man! Chicks be needing car parts. You know how many alternators I done purchased? How many tires I done bought? I can look at a chick and say, “She probably needs a fan belt. She needs an alternator.”
JET: (Laughs) Wait: Are you saying that you actually have to fix these women’s cars?
RS: Yes! I’m for real. That’s been a problem.
JET: You don’t think you’re too picky?
RS: No. I’m not just gonna be with anybody. People in [my house] taking pictures. Taking pictures of the house [and] putting it all on Instagram, doing all of this extra stuff, putting my business out there. Women that don’t operate in discretion, women who don’t bathe! Women that don’t wash their hair. They’re beautiful. They look good on Instagram, but they don’t wash their hair. When I give you that hug, I go in for the sniff. That neck be raw.
JET: (Laughs) So what you gonna do? Be alone forever?
RS: I just have to wait for Jesus to bring her on my porch, man. Sometimes that neck be rawwww. RAW. Ring around the neck, that collar.
JET: At your age, they don’t know how to groom themselves?
RS: Grown women! Armpits be on fire. I’m talking about need some Degree. Mitchum.
JET: (Laughs) You took it back! Tussy.
RS: Tussy deodorant. Write your name up under your arm and it’s under your nail like you got French tips. I dated a chick who worked at a funeral home and we was gonna meet up. Met up there, didn’t know the chick worked at a funeral home. I took Uber. She shows up in a hearse. You understand? Like, “Let’s go back to my spot.” But I’m not getting in no hearse.
JET: So the problem isn’t that you’re too picky, it’s just that you’re running into the wrong women.
RS: Right. It’s just hard to deal with a woman that’s been handling dead people all day. Plus her hands was cold. (Laughs)
Want more Rickey? Listen to “The Rickey Smiley Morning Show” weekdays from 5am-9am. Click here for a list of stations. Also catch Rickey on “Rickey Smiley for Real,” which airs on TV One every Tuesday 8/7c.