Chris Spencer is really a husband in Hollywood, but when he created Real Husbands of Hollywood for BET, putting Kevin Hart and other funny celebrities together in an awards show sketch proved so popular that it’s a cable TV hit even before the first full season debuts on Jan. 15, 2013.
“The show is so hot, we already got picked up for our second season, and we haven’t even aired any episodes,” Spencer told The Comic’s Comic a couple of days before Christmas. Forget about wrapping the first season. “I’m sitting in the writers room putting together the next 10 (episodes)!”
The key to success, Spencer said, was having a great cast from the start. Alongside Hart, the Real Husbands cast includes JB Smoove, Nick Cannon, Robin Thicke, Boris Kodjoe and Duane Martin, with Nelly credited as a “guest husband.”
“I’ve got a bunch of alpha males all on one screen. Sometimes dealing with the egos is a challenge,” he said. But they’re egos he cast himself. “I created a show and then I got to pick who I wanted. It’s a dream for me. Kenan (Ivory Wayans) had that experience on In Living Color. He created it and got to pick his friends and his friends’ friends.”
Here’s an official behind-the-scenes look at the series:
Spencer credited manager Dave Becky, Stan Lathan and Tim Gibbons for helping making the series an “incredible” experience. “Stan, I mean, he’s been directing since The Waltons. The other guy, Tim, is a guy who works on Curb (Your Enthusiasm).”
Like Curb, Real Husbands is “semi-scripted,” so Hart, Smoove (a recurring character on Curb the past few seasons), Cannon and the others are working off of plot outlines and then improvising their dialogue and ad-libbing the scenes from there. Unlike Curb, BET and Spencer are billing this show in previews as “the fakest reality show.”
Aren’t all “reality” TV series — and specifically the Real Housewives franchise on Bravo — fake in their depictions and set-ups?
“Oh yeah, they cut and come back and do retakes. ‘Hey, that wasn’t ignorant enough! Do it again,'” Spencer said of other series. “What we call it is, it’s scripted. But we have guys who have the ability to play.”
Spencer himself just enjoyed a rare opportunity to play within the long-running sketch comedy world that is Saturday Night Live, as one of two writers (Suli McCullough was the other) brought in by guest host Jamie Foxx to write sketches and monologue jokes for him in early December.
What did you write?
“The Ding Dong sketch was ours. And then the Tyler Perry Madea one. We helped with all of them,” Spencer said. “Along with another comedian, Johnny Mack (who guest hosts Foxx’s radio channel, The Foxxhole) and Oliver Ottley.”
“And we were responsible for the monologue.”
How did you fit in with the regular writing staff and process? What did it feel like as a hired gun, so to speak?
“Yeah, you come in, but they let you know you’re in their shit,” he said.
Spencer said “if the talent comes in with some writers,” then those writers usually deal with anything that involves that talent. But it’s not a completely embedded experience for the week. No all-nighter on Tuesday night into Wednesday morning brainstorming and writing sketches for the next afternoon’s read-through. “Not like they do, no,” he said.
Spencer appeared on and worked with Foxx on The Jamie Foxx Show more than a decade ago. “I’ve been writing with Jamie Foxx together for 10 years,” Spencer said. “We started doing stand-up in L.A. in the ’90s. Constant friendship. So he calls me in to be his head writer.”
His relationship with Kevin Hart also dates back a long time.
“Kevin, when he first came out here, I had a show in L.A. called Chocolate Sundaes,” he said. “You had to do that two times before you become a regular. He was so funny he only had to it one time as a regular.”
“My wife is a casting director. She put him in Soul Plane. So the Spencers and the Harts go way back.”
Any semi-spoilers for your semi-scripted show?
“Shaq is on the show, and he’s fricking hilarious,” Spencer said. “A lot of celebrities…Jay Leno, Ed O’Neill, “Sugar” Shane Mosely, Laila Ali. It was pretty special.”
You can follow Chris Spencer on Twitter @thechrisspencer, or catch his photos on Instagram via cspencer32.
Here is the official teaser for BET’s Real Husbands of Hollywood, starring Kevin Hart, Nick Cannon and more, coming Jan. 15, 2013: