Born in North Carolina but raised primarily in New York, writer, comedian and actor Jerry Brooks, better known professionally as J.B. Smoove, is probably recognized for his recurring role as Leon on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
But, says the hard-working Smoove, who will be appearing at the Helium Comedy Club on Sansom Street tonight and tomorrow night, “In the beginning, I was willing to do everything and anything I could to get experience and to learn my craft.”
With training that began every Friday night during workshops at the Uptown Comedy Club in Harlem, Smoove got to perform and try out his skills every Sunday night on the club’s stage.
“That was my training ground,” he says, “the place where I got to develop my own style of humor. And after that, I kept as busy as I could so my resume would look good once people began to notice me. That way they’d be able to see how much I’d done.”
And indeed he did, from having recurrent roles on MTV, as well as featured guest spots on
“The Chris Rock Show” and “Premium Blend,” and following up with much, much more. By this time he had moved out to Los Angeles.
“I worked at Showtime at the Apollo, Comedy Central, BET. I did a lot of commercials and as many movies as I could get hired to do. I did a lot of cool things and feel blessed to have done all those cool things and met so many cool people,” he says.
After three years on the West Coast, he decided to move back to New York and was hired as a writer on Saturday Night Live, although he also had bit roles in sketches, including playing Jimmy “J.J.” Walker in a parody of the 1970s sitcom “Good Times.“ He was also a recipient of the 2007 Writers Guild of America Award for Best Comedy/Variety Series.
“The first time I went to ‘SNL’ it was with the idea of becoming a cast member, but I didn’t make it. But I did manage to get hired as a writer,” Smoove says,. “I was able to appear in some sketches as well as do warm ups for the show. I also got to do a lot of work for Conan O’Brien’s show too. Again, I was trying to learn as much as possible.”
Smoove says he also learned a lot growing up, describing himself as the life of the party guy.
“Doing standup was not m original goal. I was always a fan of standup comedy and a fan of guys like Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, Bill Cosby and others.”
But his humor took a turn when he was in a college edition of The Dating Game. He remembers that out of the three bachelors chosen for the potential date, his answers were so funny that he ended up winning the game.
“But I was so excited about everybody laughing at my answers and thinking I was so funny, that I never even took the girl out,” Smoove says. “But what did come out of that was my decision to try to make my living from standup.”
Today, his break-out role on HBO’s ”Curb Your Enthusiasm” has firmly planted him as one of the best comedic actors around. And, he insists, he’s enjoying every minute of it.
“The best part of my career is just being able to share myself with my family and be able to do things I couldn’t have done before. You know, I don’t mind being a B level actor for the rest of my life it that’s what it takes to still be able to go places and do things without being mobbed.
“I just want to enjoy myself and not worry about cameras on me all the time,” he concludes. “To be truthful, I’m in no rush to get to be an A list actor. I just want to enjoy myself. Years from now I hope to have a few major films under my belt, become a big time director, relax and travel with my wife, and just enjoy life.”
For times and ticket information, call (215) 496-9001.