Interview: Nick Cannon returns to stand-up comedy in style

Coming on the heels of the television premiere of his first-ever stand-up comedy special Mr. Showbiz this past weekend on Showtime, Nick Cannon goes wide with the digital release of the album version today (Buy here).

You’ll be able to snag the album from New Wave Dynamics in all retail stores by May 31.

And this is all while the dude is hosting his own daily morning radio show, Rollin’ with Nick Cannon on New York’s 92.3 NOW FM as well as executive producing and starring in MTV’s new reality series Son of a Gun.

We got the chance to chat with the multi-talented performer about returning to his roots in stand-up comedy, balancing his craft with being married to one of the most famous women in the world (not to mention, just becoming a father to twins) and why he’s not concerned with what the critics may think of him. Check it out!

A lot of people don’t know that you started doing stand-up comedy when you were just 15 years old. Did you feel like you wanted to do this album now, or that you had to do it make sure people knew about your history?
I’m a comic. I’ve always been a comic. And that’s what I’ve always aspired to be. So, I mean, I’ve had some successful sidetracks, you know– the acting career, music, hosting, even all of the entrepreneur efforts that have been really successful for me. So a lot of people know me for those things. And you know, even my personal life is kind of overshadowed by what my real craft is.

So, I felt like I needed to actually show people that this is what I do. And actually once you get that and grasp that, then all my other efforts and anything that I do in entertainment will probably even make more sense. At the end of the day, I’m just a comedian.

Yeah, and we get to see and hear some of your early stand-up footage on the album and special.

That was actually an audition for the Apollo I did in North Carolina. Like, the winner of that got to go to the Apollo in New York. And that was one of the first times I was on stage in front of people that wasn’t a church audience. The way I got on stage first, is you know, in front of – I was opening up for my dad, who was a preacher. So, then front that point, you know, I was probably professionally doing my thing, like you know, getting paid seven dollars a set at the Improv in Hollywood and actually traveling a little bit on the road at like fifteen years old.

When you started out, you performed with guys like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle, right?
Yeah, man. And Chris Tucker. All those guys started really young, and I would see these guys and they would be like ‘Yo, why’s this kid in the comedy club?’ And then they would kinda take a minute out of their time because they were like wow, he’s fifteen and trying to do this. And they when they started, they were fifteen and trying to do it. So they would always give me little words and wisdom and stuff.

I remember I was right there on the brink when Chris Tucker just started to take off— just right when Friday popped, right after that time, and seeing him and people like know, and even Eddie Griffin and like you said Chappelle and Rock, they were always just there. Like watching their success and watching their work ethic kind of inspired me at a young age.

Was there one guy in particular that kind of took you under his wing?
Chappelle was really like that. I opened up for Chapelle when he went on the road in 2005. I mean obviously he put me on his show. I mean, he made that famous phrase “Fuck Nick Cannon. Nick Cannon’s ‘ilarious.” He kind of looked out for me on many different levels. He showing me and helped me embrace the craft of being a stand-up.

Are are you still in touch with any of these guys?
Oh, absolutely. I’m definitely in touch. You know how comedians are. They kind of live in their own world and then when you see each other at the club or at an event, that’s when you kind of catch up. Probably not every day on the phone with these guys, but they definitely still are people I admire, look up to, and every now and then will call for advice and those types of things.

Are you concerned at all with what the comedy community is going to think of your first stand-up album?
Not really, ‘cause I know I’m funny. I’ve been funny. However they take it they take it. I’ve been successful being funny for a long time. Comedy has always been therapeutic for me. And I feel like that’s the beauty of being a stand-up— is that it’s raw and uncut and you get to say whatever you want to say and once you say it, who cares? It’s like, who cares how the people, or the critics or all those type of people may see it because the proof is in the pudding.

If there’s laughter there, then you know who was funny. And that’s the beauty of comedy. It could be as subjective as you want it to be and have your opinion, but as long as you get a laugh, that’s what it’s all about. And the laughter is there, so, I welcome any kind of criticism because we all get criticized. We’ll be criticizing till we die but what’s really the point?

I like that you don’t shy away from talking about your wife, Maria, on the album.
Yeah, I mean, I definitely didn’t want it to be the Mr. Mariah Carey show, but I definitely knew that I had to talk about it. I mean, it’s my life. And that’s what my comedy is about. So, there’s going to be some things about me growing up, there’s going to be some thing about me being a husband, becoming a father, but then it’s going to also be my perspective, and my point of view on what’s going on in the world. I think it’s the same thing with every comic. Some people do their comedy about how much they hate their wife. You know? And that’s their act. I mean, mine is about how much I love my wife and that she’s my dream girl, you know? So, it’s no different from anyone else doing stand-up. You have to be real and authentic to who you are.

Does Mariah have any input as to what you say about her onstage?
My wife has the greatest sense of humor in the world. And some of the times I write my best material around her. She’s very funny, and knows how to not take life and you know all of this entertainment stuff seriously. So, she’s the coolest when it comes to that.

Yeah, it seems like she has a good sense of humor.
Right, absolutely. Yeah, she’s all into it.

Let’s talk, if you don’t mind, a little bit about you becoming a dad. I mean, obviously your life has changed drastically…
Yeah, in the last few days…

So how are your days spent now? Are you changing diapers? What are you spending the most time doing right now?
Yeah, my week’s just diaper changing and trying to get as much sleep as possible. Trying to get on their schedule. I mean, I already don’t sleep but I’ll get up in the middle of the night changing diapers and all that stuff. A lot of feeding. I really don’t take part in that part of it, I just oversee that whole thing. I can’t really do much there. I don’t have any milk.

So Mariah is breast feeding?
Yeah, absolutely.

I saw a picture of you online. You’re obviously squeezing in some time to work out.
A little bit, little bit. I gotta be able to protect my kids, man.

You talk a bit on your album about your verbal fight with Eminem. Are you guys ok now or what?
Yeah, man. I mean, to me, at this point, even when you see I talk about it in my stand-up, it’s like I don’t really take it seriously anymore. If that dude ever did have any ill will towards me or my wife, it’s like, you know, I forgive him, I love him for it. I’m supposed to love my enemies, so I can’t even be worried about that. I’m enjoying my life too much to be mad at anybody, really.

We talked about how you got started in very early. And you talk a little bit about your upbringing on the special. It sounds like you came from a pretty supportive, pretty close family. So many times, stand-up comedians get their start because they come from a dark background. But it doesn’t seem that was the case for you.
Yeah, I was reading this comedy book and they were talking about all the things you have to be like to be a good stand-up— and you could tell it was written by, I think it was written by a white female. She was like you have to have some type of hardship, you have to have an opinion, and all this stuff, and then at the last second, she says unless you’re black because – and the entire statement was all of those things come with being black.

I mean, at the end of the day, no matter how you believe my upbringing was, or how it was perceived in the media, I’m still a black man in America. There’s still that natural chip that we have on our shoulders, or whether it’s truly validated because of the way society is.

I mean, I grew up in a typical low income African American household. So, if you see my comedy, that’s where it comes from. And I think that the majority of, you know, comedians, of my generation kind of experience that. So, I mean cats like Katt Williams and Kevin Hart— we kind of all have a lot of same similar experiences.

That makes sense. So what, after the special airs and after the album comes out, what are your stand-up plans?
I’m getting back on the road. I’m ready to do another one.

So you’re not joking around. This wasn’t like a one-off thing. You’re going to start doing this again.
Yeah, once I got back in it, I was in it for the long haul so I’m ready. I’ve already got my new set together. I’m already an hour strong. So I’m ready to get back on the road and start perfecting that, get it to two hours, and, you know, do what I gotta do to get ready to film my next special.

What was it that finally got you either motivated to start doing stand-up again?
I have been doing it. It wasn’t a secret. I would always go to the Improv, or whatever comedy spot and just go up and do it. I hadn’t been on the road. I wasn’t going out booking dates. And a lot of that has to do with my schedule. This was the first time I was able to really go and rock theaters and colleges. I had to get myself in the mindset to be prepared for that and you know, just to go out and live like a regular comic lives on the road.

And at the same time, I’m married and having several other jobs, running a television network, you know, my morning radio show, all that stuff I have to do. So I had to strategically say ‘alright, I can go out you know, every other weekend. I could go do this. If I happen to be in this city, is there a club that I could go and be at?’ So, it was a lot of that. It took a while to wrap my head around that. And I had to get in that comic space; you gotta be in a certain type of headspace as a comic, and write jokes every day. I had to make sure I allotted enough time for that.

I would wish you luck, but honestly don’t think you need it.
Thank you, man. I appreciate it anyway. There’s nothing wrong with getting luck.

For more info on Nick’s comedy, check out To buy a copy of Mr. Showbiz, click the image below!

Dylan P. Gadino

Dylan is the founder and editor emeritus of Laughspin.

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