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If Reggie McFadden Laughs, It's Probably Funny

Comedy: The 'In Living Color' actor and writer, whose stand-up routine includesrole-playing, says he won't humor just any old joke teller.

August 28, 1996|JON MATSUMOTO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Reggie McFadden remembers smiling and laughing a lot while growing up in Brooklyn. So it made perfect sense when this jovial, happy-go-lucky kid grew up to become a stand-up comedian.

He doesn't laugh as much these days.

"Because I've worked in the comedy clubs, because I've heard every joke in the world, because I'm a comedian, it's really hard to make me laugh now," the 27-year-old Los Angeles resident said in a recent phone interview.

"Out here in L.A., everybody is always smiling. You talk to people, and they crack a joke, and the joke isn't really funny. Some people laugh anyway just to make the person feel good. I don't do that. If it's not funny, I'm not laughing. "[It's like,] go back to comedy school!"

McFadden's comedy education began when he was 18, much of it conducted in Manhattan coffeehouses on open-mike nights, when aspiring funny men and women would try out their material.

He moved on to playing the usual comedy clubs; in 1990 he landed a small role in the movie "Jacob's Ladder." His big acting break came three years later with a guest appearance on the Fox sitcom "Martin."

"I've been taking acting [lessons] as long as I've been doing comedy," said McFadden, whose stand-up routine combines jokes and anecdotes with role playing.

His role on "Martin" led to appearances on other TV comedies, including "Coach" and "Hangin' With Mr. Cooper." He also worked on "In Living Color" as a regular performer and writer during the sketch-comedy show's final, 1993-94 season.

During this period, McFadden also became a member of Def Comedy Jam, an irreverent touring show featuring black stand-up comics. For several years beginning in 1993, he performed with Def Jam whenever it hit the road.

Last month he played Montreal's Just for Laughs Festival, one of the world's most prestigious comedy showcases. Three weeks ago he realized a longtime dream by appearing on "The Late Show With David Letterman."

"I had auditioned for his show 12 times," he said. "I've been waiting a long time to get on his show. So when I went out I said, 'There's not going to be any mistakes.' "

McFadden used a bit that mentioned crack cocaine, which he said Letterman's producers were reluctant at first to use, but then allowed.

"It's more of a physical joke," he explained. "I just talk about how [crack] is spreading around so much, and I can't understand it.

"I tell them how my neighbor smokes it right on the porch like [he's drinking] lemonade," McFadden continued. "He'll talk to me while I'm walking down the block. He'll say "Hey, how was work? Are they keeping you busy?' I wouldn't know what to say: 'How's the crack going? The pipe staying hot?' "

*

McFadden said he's exploring the possibility of starring in his own TV show and plans to do a one-man theater show called "Unnecessary Drama," which he hopes to mount in Los Angeles within the next few months.

"It's about stories of my youth," he said. "Before I started doing comedy, I would go on what I would call adventures. I would hang out with somebody I didn't know or I would go into an abandoned building.

"I would get on the train and get off at the last stop and walk around the neighborhood and meet people. When you do that, you learn things," he said. "So these are different stories of crazy things I did and crazy people I talked to. Then it has my flair because I'm mixing the physical [element of performance] into the stories."

* Reggie McFadden appears tonight through Sunday at the Irvine Improv, 4255 Campus Drive. Show times: Tonight-Thursday, 8:30 p.m.; Friday, 8:30 and 10:30 p.m., Saturday, 8 and 10:30 p.m.; Sunday, 8 p.m. $8-$10. (714) 854-5455.

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