“I used to think if I worked hard, really hard, I could afford some of the things I thought I wanted. But what I found out was what I wanted was far more wonderful than all the material things in the world. It’s serving and helping others,” said comedian, film and television actor Tommy Davidson, set to take the stage at the Helium Comedy Club on Sansom St. Aug. 9–11.
“I found that things that were important to me were things like going on tour to Afghanistan during the holidays last year or helping the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in their youth programs,” said Davidson. “I feel like it’s a way of giving back. I get to do a lot of things other people don’t get to do, so helping them with their struggles in life helps to balance things out.”
After high school graduation, Davidson enrolled at the University of the District of Columbia, but soon dropped out, preferring, instead, to go into a different direction by making people laugh.
He started his career as a stand-up comedian in the mid-1980s in Washington, D.C. As one of the cutting edge, young stand-ups, he was spotted by major concert promoters who booked him as the opening act for A-list touring acts including Patti LaBelle, Kenny G and Luther Vandross.
It wasn’t long before Davidson came to Hollywood and was performing at a number of clubs, including the Comedy Act Theatre, where he met Robert Townsend. This led to his first national television appearance with a starring role in “Partners in Crime,” and was his ultimate conduit to Keenan Ivory Wayans. That meeting led to him auditioning for and ultimately joining the talented cast of the primetime variety show of its day, “In Living Color.” He, Jamie Foxx, Jim Carrey and Damon Wayans made TV history with their originality.
On the show, Davidson played various characters, including his impersonations of Sammy Davis Jr., Stevie Wonder and Sugar Ray Leonard among others.
“One of my favorite impersonations was Sammy Davis, but I really liked doing them all,” Davidson admits. “Some of them are easier then others, but once I get at least one piece of the person down and start doing them, it all starts falling right into place.”
To Davidson, “In Living Color” was a masterpiece, “and I was in the right place at the right time and ran into the right person. For the show, they matched a bunch of special people who were also great like me and put us all together on one show,” he said.
His visibility on that show led to three Showtime specials: “On Strength of New York,” “Illin’ in Philly” and “Takin’ it to DC.” Other projects followed, like Disney’s animated series “The Proud Family,” and as a host on FOX’s “The NFL Show.”
More recently, Davidson played the role of Cream Corn in “Black Dynamite,” and has finished production on a full-length feature titled “Black Scabbith.”
With many other credits on his résumé, Davidson continues to do stand-up because he enjoys it.
“My performances are vibrant and energetic,” he said. “Usually my show is different every night, because I just do whatever comes into my mind. I do impressions, talk about my life, growing up. I talk about topical issues, what’s going on right now. I do music, too, and singing impressions.”
For the future, Davidson said he’d like to have his own television show, his own music albums and continue his film career.
“There are several things in the fire, but nothing I can talk about right now,” he said. “I’ll talk about them when the time comes.”
For times and ticket information, call (215) 496-9001.