Growing up in Hyattsville, Maryland, Fowler got up to some youthful shenanigans with his friends. In one story, he recounts how his friend Omar received a lifetime ban from the Hyattsville Public Library for sending porn to a library printer. Omar now has two small children of his own who will never know the joys of reading because their father (maybe we’re being dramatic and forgetting that they can download books, but let’s go with the dramatization) can’t check out books. Could Give ‘Em Hell, Kid cause the Hyattsville Public Library to have a change of heart and lift Omar’s ban?
“The ban might go deeper than the library, like the mayor would have to get involved, or there is a Mr. Robot scenario that involves Omar hacking into the library system. “ Fowler talks about his love for Mr. Robot, and I suggest somehow involving Christian Slater, and, in addition to everything else the comedian is working on, he needs to pitch his own Omar-centric storyline to Sam Ismael.
Fowler says he had fun growing up, and looks back with fondness on his childhood experiences. Fowler reminisces about “stealing bikes from the library. Don’t feel too bad, because the people just stole the bikes back. It was a cyclical crime.”
In one of the funniest stories of the special, Fowler recounts a story wherein he and his friend Joe stole all the meat from the Quiznos they worked at. “If you wanted a fun night, you went to Joe,” said Fowler. For the special, they had to remove some details of the heist for pesky legal reasons. “Quiznos is pretty powerful; they’re playing with a lot of ranch money.” Joe’s interview segment in Give ‘Em Hell, Kid was one of Fowler’s favorite moments in the special; he wants to upload the full video of Joe’s retelling of the story so that people can get the full Joe experience. Funnily enough, Fowler did a commercial a few years ago for Quiznos, and during an appearance on Extra, he recounted the story on camera. It got the attention of some execs at Quiznos who found the “meat theft” to be hilarious. Fowler said he would be open to becoming a spokesman for the sandwich chain; he says He’d certainly do a better job than Jared Fogle, who has now ruined sandwiches for everybody.
The conversation turns to what it was like for Fowler to grow up “nerdy.” “[I] was an eclectic kid. I loved comic books. If the bible were like V for Vendetta then I’d have read it all the time. The problem with the bible is the author just wasn’t very good. It’s not funny.” We discuss why the African American community is slow to embrace nerd culture. The community is all about “bravado, being masculine,” says Fowler.
Fowler may have been a nerd, but he got into fights all the time. If anyone made fun of his friends, Fowler had no trouble getting into it. Fowler wasn’t just into comics and Greek mythology though. He also liked football. Fowler “sponged off everything,” and he credits his mother for encouraging him to just be himself. That meant liking everything. In the African American community, it’s all about “following trends, so when Lupe Fiasco, Kanye and even Drake, made nerdy cool, it became cool to be a nerd.”
We next discuss what Fowler is into right now. Fowler loves the X Games, Mr. Robot is his current favorite show, he’s a big fan of Adam Wingard, and is a huge fan of horror comedies. “A good horror comedy is a perfect combination of horror, romance, suspense, and comedy, and that’s a beautiful thing.”
Fowler is developing an untitled CBS sitcom based on his own life growing up with teenage parents. He will star as a character based on his father. As Fowler’s standup is a bit edgy, we wanted to know what made him decide to work with CBS, and if he felt the network (which tends to appeal to older white audiences) forced him to tone down and sanitize his material.
A lot of networks were interested in the show, says Fowler and he took everything into consideration when deciding where he wanted to develop his pilot. He’s “not afraid to bring an eclectic mix to a network like CBS. It’s all about writing the best script and pilot.” Fowler doesn’t worry about being held back. He just has to be funny. “I have to be who I am, and people will come to me. You can’t pander. People either love you, or they hate you. You have to stay true to yourself.”
We talk about missing TV from the 90s like Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Martin. “It wasn’t about those shows being black, they were just good shows that everybody watched. Empire and the Carmichael Show are changing all that [for audiences today], which is a good thing. “ Nowadays people divide themselves along political and social lines, but “I don’t care who you are, you’re a human being.” Jermaine Fowler is who he is, and that’s all he can be: An eclectic comic who loves his family and friends, and doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed.
Check out Give ‘Em Hell, Kid on Showtime, December 11, and keep an eye out for this talented comic because his star is on the rise.