Tabari McCoy: LAUGHING WITH A PANTHER
We sat down with Tabari McCoy to talk about the Cincinnati comedy scene and his sophomore release on Rooftop Comedy Productions, “Laughing With a Panther.” Check out the preview and enjoy the cover art!
Rooftop Comedy(RC):How has Cincinnati’s comedy scene influenced your comedy?
Cincinnati’s comedy scene has influenced me in one very specific fashion: It’s allowed me to get better by inspiring me to get better. Sure, we’re not New York. No, we’re not Los Angeles. OK, we’re not Chicago, San Francisco or even (insert your city here so that you will like me and feel better about me by thinking I gave a shout out to your city’s scene). But I will say this: We have had and still have a lot of talented comedians who have come through the Cincinnati scene: Greg Warren, Josh Sneed, Ryan Singer, Geoff Tate, Dave Waite, my best friend in comedy/Rooftop label mate Mike Cody … Even Katt Williams has Cincinnati/Dayton area connections – my point being the scene here has influenced me simply because it’s made me get better.
RC: What is the best thing about the Cincinnati comedy scene and why do you feel it’s unique?
OK, here comes my long-winded response, edited for those with short attention spans/ADHD/better things to do than read along as I babble on. If you’re going to perform in Cincinnati and you’re serious about becoming a good comic, you’re going to get better because there are more opportunities to get on stage here than one might think, the majority of the comedy outlets here CARE about developing good comedians and the audiences here know a good, original comedian from someone just going up on stage and spewing nonsense. Likewise, the comedians here are not all the same – you have urban comics, alternative comics, storytelling comics, one-liner comics, gay, disabled, single, married, younger, older – we are like the IKEA of comedy: People drive from miles around to come visit us, find at least one thing they like even if they act like they’re just browsing and then come back again to eat the food they all talk about like they don’t like it to outsiders. And yes, that was a chili reference.
What makes our scene unique, though, is the fact that Cincinnati draws comics from Bloomington, IN – which has a GREAT scene of its own – Dayton, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Louisville and Lexington who all WANT to work here. I think that says something about Cincinnati, other than the fact it has several major highways that connect and pass through Cincinnati.
RC: Who do you most admire on your scene right now?
I always joke about it and recently said it to him, but you have to give Geoff Tate credit for the fact that if that dude eats a sandwich, he’ll have 15 new minutes of material. His turnaround time from pen to stage is Louis C.K.-like, save for the TV series, the movie roles, the Conan appearances, the Rolling Stone cover … Well, you get the point.
RC: What was your goal with your latest album “Laughing With a Panther?”
To get it recorded and sell it! What kind of question is that?! Seriously though, I really wanted to record an album for a couple reasons: One, to prove to all these bookers/managers/talent agents that I should be booked in their clubs as I have the time necessary to go on stage, do a good job and in the words of Eric B. & Rakim, “move the crowd.” Two, I have about 90 minutes of material in my head – I literally forgot 15 minutes of jokes I MEANT to get on the album – and I wanted to get it recorded to retire some of it and force myself to work on newer, better and more tightly written material, using this album as a “jumping off” point. Last but not least, I wanted to get this album recorded because I have no idea how far I’ll go in comedy , but I will always have proof that I did this, I made people laugh and no one can ever take that away from me (cue introspective, Denzel Washington in Malcolm X-style music).
RC: I had to have the reference of the cover art explained to me. Can you do me a favor and tell us about that and why you chose that particular parody?
Here are a few things about me that anyone who really knows me will tell you is true: I love hip-hop. Like, LOVE hip-hop (but not the show “Love & Hip-Hop;” that show is just “ratchet” as the kids say). And I can rap, especially freestyle, very well. I used to emcee battles when I was in college BEFORE the movie 8 Mile came out, son! Thus, it’s safe to say that my love of hip-hop and for groups like A Tribe Called Quest, EPMD, Kid N Play, Digital Underground and The Pharcyde among others runs deep.
Back when I was a kid, though, LL Cool J was pretty much the top dog as far as solo emcees go – and his album Walking With A Panther is still one of the most original, crazy, ‘what in the world inspired THIS?!’ covers of all-time. Wanting to avoid the standard comedy album cover where it’s a guy (or gal, let’s be fair to both genders) making some kind of wacky face and incorporate my love of hip-hop, I started looking through my hundreds of CDs and vinyl and was like ‘What can I parody that will still accomplish both goals and still be funny, almost inside-joke level for those in the know and intriguing enough for people who don’t so that they’ll go ‘What is this?!’ Then, I saw LL Cool J headline a concert this summer with De La Soul, Doug E. Fresh & the Get Fresh Crew (with Slick Rick!) and Public Enemy and I was like, “Yup – I’ve got my title/cover.”
So thank you, James Todd Smith – I may be critical of some of your acting roles, I’ll forever be a fan of you on the M-I-C.
RC: How do you set goals for yourself in comedy and what does your daily comedy work schedule look like?
My goals for comedy are quite simple in terms of how I set them:  Keep working to become a better and better comedian that can perform in front of all different kinds of audiences because  You never know when you might get a call to do a show that could change your fortunes for the better (or worse, if you’re not prepared) and  whenever I think of something funny/have something funny that happens to me, WRITE IT DOWN IMMEDIATELY.
Besides those things, my comedy schedule consists of the following:  Call clubs/email bookers weekly if not daily. When you have no agent and don’t live in L.A. or New York, you have to work 10 times harder MINIMUM to get booked. (Who knew the key to playing Lexington, Kentucky, Kansas City, Baltimore, Denver and/or Milwaukee was living thousands of miles away?);  Read about as much comedy happenings online as possible to stay up on the industry;  Remember to ENJOY comedy.
I started doing stand-up for being a fan of stand-up for years. Comedians are our last, completely honest truth-tellers in society: You can say something in a joke that is very poignant and it’s hard to cry when you’re too busy laughing. The ability to go up on stage, share your thoughts, opinions, experiences and perspective to make a complete stranger laugh and forget about their own troubles is the greatest power of all-time, save for money, athletic ability, revolutionary technology … You know what? I think I’ve just made myself sad, so I’m going to stop here and just tell people to buy the album!
Stay up on all things Tabari and buy the new album…
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