By W.G. Ramirez
One moment he’s breaking down the NBA like a sports analyst, the next moment you’d think he was on stage in the city of the team he’s bashing. Other times he’s simply offering up questions to his followers, and from what I can tell, is as serious as Kobe Bryant’s comeback on Sunday in looking for answers.
Like on Dec. 1, when he posed the question: “If u had no way out n had to pick ur demise which would u choose: tangle wit a grizzly bear or deal with an angry out of control elephant?” Or on the more serious side, like the one he tweeted on Friday: “Question of the day: if you could only pick 1 for the rest of ur life which would be mandatory to feed ur soul MUSIC OR COMEDY?”
Regardless of the tweet – be it G-rated, PG-13, R, X or Sports Related (yeah, athletics gets its own rating) – there’s no doubt about it, the 38-year-old stand-up genius who can make you think you’re listening to LL Cool J, Snoop Dogg, DMX and Jay-Z all in one rap, is as entertaining as they come.
And even if a town like the entertainment capital of the world – my own Las Vegas – is missing out on his live show, following Spears on Twitter not only provides followers with a healthy dose of daily laughter, but also introduces the many personalities and thoughts of a star that has yet to shine his brightest beam.
“I get a lot of love from fans across the world,” said Spears, during a recent phone interview, after he returned home from a show in Northern California. “I almost feel like – how there’s a people’s champ and there’s a paper champ – in this industry I’m the people’s champ, but I’m not the paper champ.
“There are only so many people they let into that country club and put on that letterman’s jacket.”
Metaphorically speaking, of course, Spears may not be allowed into comedy’s country club, but it’s very easy to see him being the headliner for those wearing the letterman’s jackets inside those clubs.
Ranging from movie stars, rap artists to NBA stars, Spears has become a hit with his impressions, to accompany his smack-you-in-the-face humor that may deal with relationships, to society, to racial issues. He’s not a modern day Don Rickles, who was known for attacking every nationality known to mankind, but Spears’ “real talk” humor hits home, at times without anyone noticing the reality of his concept, because they’re caught up in laughter.
The only time that stands out for Spears, in which he second-guessed doing an impression was when former Dallas Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin put him on the spot to do a Mike Tyson impersonation – with Tyson sitting alongside him.
“He was like an unchained lion back then,” Spears said. “He might be trained, but any given moment he can flip the switch and claw your face off. He took it with a grain of salt.”
Other times he admitted he’s become giddy when his impressions are brought to light, like the first time he heard Turner Sports basketball host Ernie Johnson mentioned Spears’ impressions of Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley to the two former NBA all-stars.
“It threw me, I was a like a little girl screaming,” said Spears, who transitioned from being a Bulls fan to the Miami Heat when his good friend Shaq signed with the Heat in 2004.
Born in Chicago and raised in New York, Spears makes no qualms about what he was most passionate about growing up – Michael Jordan.
Of course, right?
“I was a Jordan fanatic,” said Spears, a diehard NBA fan, to go along with his fascination for pro boxing. “When Jordan was playing, I was with the Bulls. When he retired, I lost interest in the game.”
It’s no surprise, as most young NBA fans in the mid- to late-80s grew to love His Airness, and then follow him through his championship run(s) in the 1990s. After all, when all you could do was watch TV, and you’re a basketball fan like Spears, Chicago’s flagship station WGN was a cable television goldmine when Jordan played for the Bulls.
“I grew up a television fanatic,” Spears admitted. “My mother had two jobs, so television raised me.”
But something else happened along the way, while Spears would watch TV until he fell asleep, leaving TV to watch him.
“I began mimicking stuff I saw on TV,” Spears said. “I honestly believe it’s something you’re born with. Like the ability to sing, doing an impression is like hitting a note. It’s something I am talented enough to be blessed with.”
But there are serious sides to Spears as well, like when asked his opinion on use of the ‘N’ word, as it’s become the hot topic in the sports world more than ever in 2013.
“It’s never okay for anybody outside out of Blacks to say that, cause history says so,” said Spears, who then rattled off countless historic times of struggle for his race, so fast I couldn’t keep up, but it was clear he was ardent in making his point, from as far back as slavery, through the Civil Rights Movement, to present-day struggles with racism. “Nobody is allowed to say that. I would never say it to a white guy, because if I say it in front of a white guy, I don’t want him to feel comfortable in saying it in front of me. But when we’ve been called that, we’ve always been able to flip that and make it work for us.
“One thing Black people know: not all white people are racists, but as a race they’re known for racism.”
That last line might have been one of the most philosophical things I’d heard surrounding the issue, or anything for that matter, concerning racism. Quick, to the point, and made much more sense than trying to figure out if a glass is half-empty, or half-full.
A lot of our conversation made a lot more sense than plenty of things, like why Spears hasn’t been moved up to comedy’s big leagues, or so it seems. He’s put in his time, he’s leaves audiences in tears and he’s someone to be admired for his climb in a rough-and-tumble business.
“I’m in an industry that’s political,” Spears said “It’s like high school, not everybody gets to sit at the cool kids’ table. I gotta figure out how to play that game. Anybody who has seen my body of work has respect for what I do. Kevin (Hart) can sell out Madison Square Garden. I can’t do that yet.”
I’m not sure how much of that has to do with marketing, rather than talent, quite honestly. Spears has seen and done more than people actually know. His television credentials run deep, dating back to 1993, when he first appeared on A Different World, and includes an eight-year stint on MADtv. Plus, his list of movie credits currently sitting at 10, includes the role of Tee Pee, Rod Tidwell’s “militant brother” in the hit Jerry Maguire.
Spears promises he has some surprises for his fans in 2014, and says he’s yet to peak.
One thing is for sure, after being a fan of Spears for a while now, and speaking at length to him on the various topics, I’d be first in line to pay for a ticket at Madison Square Garden, or even comedy’s country club that has yet to enshrine him.
Heck, I’d just like to see him play Las Vegas.
I guess for now, I’ll stick with Twitter and answer his Questions of the Day.