Rip Michaels is not in the business of doing things on a small scale. Starting out as a stand-up comedian and writer in New York and then becoming a writer and cast member on Nick Cannon’s wildly successful MTV improv show “Wild ’N Out,” Michaels eventually moved on to become a producer and co-creator of the “Wild ’N Out” tour that brought the show to some of the biggest theaters in the country.
This Friday, he will be assembling some of his funniest and most successful comedian friends including Bill Bellamy, Lil’ Rel, Sheryl Underwood and Luenell for his long-running April Fools Comedy Jam. This year, the show will take place on its biggest stage yet at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, where Michaels will be hosting and producing the show. This role of master of ceremonies came naturally to Michaels, as he has had plenty of experience in his long career creating his own stand-up nights within the competitive comedy scene in New York.
“The producer part and the host part started because I used to go to comedy clubs and they wouldn’t allow people to go onstage,” says Michaels. “So, I started creating my own comedy shows, and throughout the city, which led me to do my own room. At one point I had 12 different rooms a week that I would do comedy in. That’s where ‘The Comedy King of New York’ [nickname] came from, because everybody who used to call me that knew that I used to have more urban rooms than anyone.”
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Michaels used his talent for organizing and hosting in order to build up the April Fools Jam, and from there, there was no looking back.
“It actually started almost seven years ago at the Westbury Music Theater, which is now the NYCB Theatre at Westbury,” remembers Michaels. “The very first time I did it, it took off. I did 4,000 seats for the very first time and I was like ‘Okay, I’m on to something.’ So, I just kept that same energy through my career. By the time I started to do movies, television and film, I just kept using that muscle as well as being an actor and comedian at the same time.”
With the April Fools Comedy Jam being booked at such a large venue this year, it could have been looked at as a lofty dream by some of Michaels’ comedian friends. But getting together such a stacked bill was no problem, in the end.
“These are my friends so it was a simple phone call,” Michaels says with a laugh. “I was like, ‘You know what, this year we are going to do Barclays Center,’ and they were like, ‘Okay, Rip.’ I was like, ‘No, we are going to SELL OUT the Barclays Center,’ and they were like, ‘Okay, we’ll believe it when it happens.’ So when I called they were like, ‘Oh, you were serious?’ I was like, ‘Yeah!’”
Getting friends together to do comedy in front of such big audiences is almost like paying it forward for Michaels. As he sees it, the bigger the experience for both the audience and the performers, the more it benefits everyone involved.
“It gives me an opportunity to provide jobs to my friends,” says Michaels. “It gives me an opportunity to put money in their people’s pockets and help them feed their children. To bring a show together that would normally cost a whole bunch.
“I always keep my tickets a reasonable price for people — at under $30, so that way everyone can enjoy it. I’m always cheaper than any other program because it has never really been about the money. It has been about the experience. Getting people to see so many comedians at one time and getting so many comedians to perform at one time. Because we’re all friends! I’m a huge fan of Brooklyn and being able to bring it to Brooklyn this year was really special.”
The April Fools Comedy Jam will take place at 9 p.m. on Friday, April 12, at Barclays Center.