Countless people in comedian-actor Lavell Crawford’s life have affected him personally, such as his wife DeShawn, kid L.J. and his mother and father who he reconnected with eight years ago. They and the rest of his personal life are the deepest part of his stand-up comedy act, as you’ll witness at Sansom Street’s Helium Comedy Club this week. The Better Call Saul star is performing for four nights from September 20 to 24.
Better Call Saul star Lavell Crawford is ready to take the stage
“L.J.’s no baby now, he’s 7,” says Crawford, proudly. “My family is more a part of my act than ever, and I’m never precious about it. Being a father, having a beautiful wife – being a family man – is all fair game, even the things that go wrong. My father wised me up to the ways of life; Nothing’s taboo because there ain’t nothing taboo. It’s a way of life. The only things I don’t touch are the things that make no sense.” And yes, that means that Crawford rarely touches politics. “I’m in the middle. If I gotta touch on politics it would be but a drop. The manipulation of Facebook and the media against the President, all this picking sides, it’s so dumb to me. Then again, anyone who wants to be the ruler of a whole world is a monster. Look, if you’re a fan of superhero movies, you know that Lex Luther wanted to be President too, think about that. Besides, we don’t really have a say in what goes on anyway. We only vote so that we can bitch about it.”
All that and two professional meetings – one with legendary blue comedian Rudy Ray Moore, and the other with Vince Gilligan, the creator-producer of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul turned the big man’s career around for the best.
We get to talking about Moore – whose life will be captured by Eddie Murphy when he appears soon in the Netflix biopic Dolemite Is My Name – through discussing classic comedy albums from the likes of Redd Foxx and Bill Cosby. “All of Rudy’s Dolomite records are strong,” he says. “I got to meet him, and he gave me the best advice ever that a comedian could give. He told me to ‘use everything I got, and leave it all up on the stage – from your weight to your life, talk about it.’ Now his whole act is sexual, but when I met him, he was intelligent and wise. He produced and released his own albums and films. And as dirty as he was, he also did church comedy tours. Showed me that I could do it all. I’ve done churches, and I’ve done gigs where I was the only brown face in the room. And dirty? People tell me I can be vile, but I can be clean when the money’s right. I can hold a cuss for hours for cash.”
Then there’s the role Vince Gilligan gave Crawford: Huell Babineaux, the bodyguard, assistant, and pickpocket for Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad, and, now, Better Call Saul. The comedian sounds grateful beyond belief that he has that role, still. “It changed my life and opened doors, those shows,” he said. “I can’t say much – you know that – but did you see last week, that scene with the piñatas. I busted over 500 of them it was awesome. There was candy everywhere. I never had a chance to hit one as a kid, but I played baseball and I loved swinging that bat.” Then Crawford does give away a little bit of a hint of what’s to come during Better Call Saul, when he says, ‘keep watching, You’re going to get to see more about where Huell came from. We know Saul was the catalyst for it all, the puppet master… You’re going to enjoy yourself.”
Ask Crawford, the stand-up, if anything is bugging him lately that he will want to get off his chest on stage at Helium, he laughs.
“Nothing bugs me… look at my life, and how good it is,” he says. “I love doing stand-up as often as I can. It’s my therapy. It keeps food on the table The only thing that bugs me is watching how caught up people are with the media. I can make fun of that, and the human mind, all day long. Believing in monsters that don’t exist….. “
Lastly, Crawford has a bit of history regarding the City of Brotherly Love, not only because he has done stand-up here in the past, but because he appeared as a character in the FX’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Crawford loves the city and is pleased to be back. “I like cities with soul. Every city has one But you can see your soul, inside and out. Plus, alot of good things come out of Philly, you got that steak you eat. That’s nice.”