In anticipation of his upcoming one-hour comedy special on Showtime, Jermaine Fowler (who was battling the flu) spoke with New Rockstars to discuss Give ‘Em Hell, Kid, family, and his love of horror comedies.
If you don’t know the name Jermaine Fowler, you will soon. The Maryland native’s career is heating up with a comedy development deal at CBS and one-hour Showtime special which debuts on December 11. A veteran of CollegeHumor, co-creator, writer, and star of TruTv’s Friends of the People, and featured performer on MTV2’s Guy Code and Comedy Central’s Comedy Underground With Dave Attell, Jermaine Fowler is poised to become a household name.
One of the things that is most striking about Give ‘Em Hell, Kid are the first person interviews with Fowler’s family and friends. Comedians tend to draw from personal experience for their material but for Fowler they are not only an integral part of his routine, but his crew, audience and critics.
“After every show audiences would come up to me and ask if my stories were true.” Fowler said. “I got tired of being asked.” For the special, Fowler wanted to do something different, so he decided to incorporate interviews with his family and friends, but he wanted to do it in such a way that it didn’t “hurt the momentum” of the special.
Fowler’s father Jerome Sr. has not only had a major influence on his son’s comedic career but has been a colorful father to all four of his children. In Give ‘Em Hell, Kid, Fowler discusses a hilarious incident where Jerome Sr. drove his kids into the worst areas of D.C. to scare them into getting good grades (imagine a family friendly episode of The Wire wherein a dad takes his kids on a field trip to “Hamsterdam.”)
“My dad grew up in D.C., which was one of the worst places to grow up back in the 80’s. He knew people; friends, cousins, whatever [living there]. He did what he had to do to scare his kids straight, and it worked.”
Give ‘Em Hell, Kid takes an emotional turn when Jerome Sr. gets choked up when talking about Fowler’s move to New York, and having to accept that it was time to let his son go out into the world on his own. One doesn’t expect an emotional interlude during a comedy special, but it really helped to highlight just how much love and support Fowler enjoys, and why he wants to celebrate that during his special. I asked Jermaine how it made him feel to watch his dad cry on camera, and if it made him emotional, or if it was one of those, “stop embarrassing me in front of Showtime, dad” moments.
“[Jerome Sr.] he’s an emotional man. He’s a teddy bear.” This wasn’t an unexpected reaction. He cries all the time. Most guys that Fowler grew up with ended up selling drugs or getting into crime, but Fowler stayed on the straight and narrow and stuck with stand-up. He credits his father and his family and friends for this. The people involved in Give ‘Em Hell, Kid all played a role in getting Fowler to where he is now. There is a woman that is on the special who let Fowler sleep on her floor every time he was back in Maryland to perform in a show because she knew that he had nowhere else to go. “[I] wanted to create a feeling of warmth [with this special],” Fowler said. He likes working with people he knows, and wanted a familial atmosphere onset.
Fowler talks a lot about his siblings particularly his twin brother Jerome Jr., and his baby brother Jamal who can now win every family argument by saying, “remember that time you thought I was special needs?” However, his sister remained silent and Fowler doesn’t really talk about her in the special. I decided to see if I could dig up some family drama and turn this interview into a TMZ expose, but soon learned that there was nothing gossip-worthy to see here.
Fowler’s jokes about his sister weren’t ready yet; he’s saving that material for his next special. Fowler has material about his sister joining the military and dating one of his friends. “Introducing material that wasn’t fully worked out yet would have hurt the momentum,” he said. Fowler’s sister is shy, nervous, and he says she was relieved she didn’t have to talk during the interview segment.
After moving to New York, Fowler had some crazy experiences, but none more so than the apartment where he kept catching his neighbor having sex in the halls. “That kid made me afraid to leave my apartment! It was traumatizing.” The building was in Bushwick, and was probably the strangest place that Fowler has lived. The neighbor was only fifteen. He couldn’t have sex at home so he took his action into the hallway, which caused Fowler to not want to check his mail. Silver lining: this kid gave Fowler some great material to work with.