"Netflix is the new place to do your special now," Cedric the Entertainer tells me, mere hours before taping his very first special for the streaming service at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium. "That's where it all goes down now."
He would know. Cedric melted my innocent teenage brain back in 2000 when he brought the house down alongside Steve Harvey, D. L. Hughley, and the late Bernie Mac in Spike Lee's raucous stand-up film, The Original Kings of Comedy. Today he's working harder than ever, having wrapped his five-season sitcom The Soul Man, revived the Barbershop franchise with The Next Cut (and it's, no joke, one of the best movies of the year), and clocked more than a year of stand-up with Hughley, George Lopez, Charlie Murphy, and Eddie Griffin on the "Get Down Tour," with all proceeds going to children affected by the Flint, MI water crisis.
Now he's squeezing in Live from the Ville, his first special since 2010's Take You Higher for HBO. How did it compare to Kings of Comedy 16 years ago? I had to ask.
Why was this leg of the tour the right time for the Netflix special?
This year I've been performing this big tour and I only do 30 minutes a set. I just kind of felt like, with it being six years or so, it is time for that stuff to either be [filmed] so the people could see it and that I could move on. I wanted to capture it where the rest of the world, those who don't get to come to my shows, they have an opportunity to see this. Especially soldiers and people like that, who end up getting a lot of this product while they're away. This is how they stay close to home.
It's really hard for comedians to have material that is sustainable for long periods of time, and in the way that I do it, where you really craft, develop, and turn [a joke] into a great joke. There is a limited shelf life for those kinds of things. Once you have some really great pieces, you recognize that, OK, it might be time... comedians call it "giving it away." Like when you shoot your special, you know I'm about to give all of this away.