When "King of Pop" Michael Jackson died, some people wondered if, when and how comedians would react to the news. After all, plenty of stand-up comics had been telling jokes about the musician and his eclectic and allegedly not-so smooth criminal behavior for long enough that Michael Jackson jokes became a hack category long before he died two weeks ago at the young age of 50. Living in NYC, I was able to visit comedy clubs within hours of Jackson's sudden death and see firsthand how comedians and audiences handled the breaking news. Too soon? Perhaps for some, but most comics I witnessed knew enough then and now to address the veritable chimpanzee in the room without going on a tasteless offensive. And then there was Godfrey. Godfrey, a regular at the Comedy Cellar when he's in NYC, hasn't been able to stop talking about his love for Michael Jackson, whether he has been onstage, upstairs in the Olive Tree Cafe or outside on the sidewalk, showing off his dance moves. Last weekend, he devoted much of his set to MJ. Overnight, he got around to editing and posting some of it online (note: contains NSFW language):
"I'm so mad he's dead," Godfrey told me the other night on the sidewalk outside of the Cellar. "He shaped me as a human being. It was like having breakfast with Mike." He recalled collecting lots of Michael Jackson gear when he was a kid growing up in Chicago, including both red and black jackets, posters and more. His mom even got him tickets to see the Jacksons on their Victory Tour stop at Comiskey Park. Clutching a new collectible magazine devoted to Jackson's life, Godfrey told me how Michael Jackson also shaped many black comedians, from giving Eddie Murphy a classic bit, to providing inspirations that helped both Chris Tucker and Eddie Griffin achieve their own stardom.
A couple of weeks ago, I had surprised Godfrey by showing up in Chicago at his taping for the upcoming TBS stand-up showcase, The Very Funny Show, at Zanies comedy club on the city's North Side. The tapings were done during the inaugural Just For Laughs Chicago festival, and will begin airing in November 2009.
You can catch Godfrey late at night most nights at the Cellar in NYC (and when he's in LA, at the Laugh Factory), and later this month, he'll be performing at several shows during the main Just For Laughs fest in Montreal.