Five minutes with Gary Owen

September 27th, 2007

Gary Owen
Performed at JCU on Sept. 24 in Kulas Auditorium.

Job Description:
BET’s “Comic View” host and movie actor.

How long have you been in comedy?
About ten years.

What influenced you to start doing comedy?
Everybody always told me I was funny. I knew I wanted to be a comedian because in junior high I was watching a stand up show and there was a commercial called, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” where this old lady fell down. I told a joke about that commercial and that weekend a comic did about the same joke. I thought, “Wait a minute, I’m thinking along the same wave lengths as this guy. I can do this.”

Who is your inspiration in comedy?
I don’t have one, man. I don’t watch a lot of stand up because I don’t want to think my jokes aren’t from me. I think you can take somebody’s concept without realizing where you got the idea.

Tell us how you got to host BET’s “Comic View.”
It was funny how I got the job. I was in the Navy, stationed in San Diego and I was listening to the radio and heard, “We’re looking for the funniest black comedian in San Diego.” So I called the radio station. I didn’t say I wasn’t black or I was black. I won the contest of Funniest Black Comic in San Diego and first prize was an audition for Comic View on BET. Even Comic View’s a contest. So I won that and became the host for the next year. I had to come back to the Navy every two weeks, but that’s how I got on “Comic View.”

What was the most embarrassing moment you had on the show?
I’ve never had anybody write a joke for me. “Comic View” gave me three writers that I didn’t know and wasn’t vibing with at all. I used one of their jokes one time. I looked at it and said, “I don’t think that’s funny,” but they said the crowd was set up for it. I walked out there and crashed and burned.

How do you get your material?
Just day to day life. Honest to God, sometimes I just ask the crowd what they want me to talk about.

How do you tell jokes about race without offending anyone?
You can talk about any nationality and black people don’t care. But if I were to do black/white jokes for a white audience, there better be black people in the audience because white people always look at the black people to make sure it’s cool to laugh. I just get jokes from observations. I’m going to tell that joke the same way in front of a black or white crowd.

Was there a time someone got offended by a joke?
There have been a couple times when people got offended. But if there’s a thousand people in the audience and one person got offended and 999 people laughed, that person has a problem. You can’t come to a comedy show to get offended. One time I was doing some 9/11 jokes and one lady was taking it serious. I just looked at her and said, “Well, I’m sorry you feel that way.” I had one lady come up to me after Virginia Tech and she had her seven-year-old kid with her, and she said, “I can’t believe you just did that in front of my son.” I just said, “It’s 11 o’clock.”