George Wallace on becoming a Centric Comedy Icon, staying in the stand-up game

Mr. George Wallace is an all-star comedian, and this weekend, he’ll be celebrated by his fellow comedians as a Comedy Icon during the Centric Comedy All-Stars special.

Wallace told The Comic’s Comic it’s more of a lifetime achievement award. You can see what it actually is when host Bill Bellamy, co-host Anthony Anderson, Tony Rock, Sherri Shepherd, Earthquake, Gary Owen and more perform on the special, which premieres Saturday at 9 p.m. Eastern/Pacific on the Centric (a BET cable channel) during the Soul Train Awards weekend.

“It used to be for people who were dead, but last year, Earth, Wind and Fire received it,” Wallace said today over the phone from the Flamingo in Las Vegas, where he is in his tenth year as resident headliner. “I’m just honored.”

The special notes that with more than 35 years of experience in show business and stand-up comedy, Wallace has performed more times in Vegas than any other African-American who “doesn’t have a hit TV show, movie or a platinum album.” What he did have then and still has now are jokes. Lots and lots of jokes. His comedy icons? “Richard Pryor, of course,” Wallace said. “Redd Foxx and Johnny Carson. Joan Rivers. Moms Mabley. I’ve been doing it 36 years, I’ve been blessed. Bill Cosby. Especially the guys who worked in Las Vegas. Sammy Davis, Jr., he was a comedian but he did everything.”

Wallace “came to Vegas for 30 days and I’ve been here for 10 years.” How did that happen? “I didn’t even think about it,” he said. “I came out here for 30 days. It was pretty nice. I stay another 60 days, 90 days. ‘Why don’t I stay the rest of the year?’ All of a sudden, it’s 2013.”

As February turns to March 2013, Wallace reflected on the Catholic Church’s temporary lack of a papal leader. “I thought about him yesterday as he was on the helicopter, he made a brief stop at the YMCA to drop off some Boy Scout Cookies,” he joked. And now that the cardinals are voting for a new leader,  a bold prediction: “You’re going to see some real black some this time. A black pope!”

Wallace didn’t just drop that line on the phone call today. He also wrote it on Twitter @MrGeorgeWallace.

On Twitter, Wallace is King of the Shout Outs.

After our phone conversation, he let his fans and followers know: “Shout out to the month of March.the march of Dimes, the Ides of March, the Million Man March, all the Marching Bands. And March Madness.”

He said he loves being on Twitter for the interaction, and, yes, the shout outs. “I’ve been doing radio for 15 years, 110 markets across America,” he said. “I got tired of Facebook. I don’t even do Facebook anymore. People trying to sell stuff. I got into Tweeting. I just love it. I still don’t know what I’m doing. I’ll Tweet 30 things one day and then not do anything for a few days. I do shout outs to anything. Shout out to the electricians and plumbers for starting the baggy-pants syndrome. Shout out to escalators for hauling fat-ass people who can’t walk up steps. I do crazy ones. Shout out to Sears; Roebuck know what it did.”

You and Colin Quinn are two of my favorite comedians on Twitter. Twitter makes everyone think they’re professional comedians even though they aren’t. You two show how to really have fun with it.

“Colin Quinn is a good friend of mine,” Wallace said. “You can be funny. You can also be sarcastic at the same time. It’s just a way for us to vent about what’s happening in the current news.”

One thing that happened this week in comedy was the super-group live show at the Comedy Cellar earlier this week when Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock riffed together onstage for more than an hour, and followed that up the next night with Kevin Hart. What’s the best show you’ve ever been a part of?

“I’ve done shows with so many people, from Robin Williams to Richard Pryor, Anthony Anderson, Jerry Seinfeld. So many,” Wallace said.

With his resident show at the Flamingo, he’s in total control, too. “I own the show. I produce the show. I direct the show. I do all the marketing. Everything,” he said. “The great thing is you never know who’s going to stop by. Just two weeks ago, Joel Osteen stopped by. Joel Osteen, one of the greatest comedians in the world. Nobody knows that. He tells jokes every Sunday before his sermon.

“I’m the last show Dick Clark saw before he died.

“Last Friday, you’re too young to remember, but Ruth Buzzy stopped in.

I remember Ruth Buzzy!

“You sound like you’re 19.”

Good living.

“Shout out to good living! Ruth Buzzi stopped in, and I gave her a new black purse. I said, ‘I’m tired of you beating down people with that old purse.’ I want to just give away presents. I want to be Oprah so bad. I want to be a rich black lady.”

And to think, Wallace is still on his way there, selling himself and his jokes since the day he walked into The Comic Strip in NYC as a salesman. “They went along with my deal, and I said, ‘By the way, I’m a comedian, too.’ They told me to come back and audition. I went back in the next night. And I never stopped.”

That’s serendipity.

“Serendipity is an ice cream shop in New York City and a restaurant in Las Vegas,” he said.

With a lifetime achievement award, what’s next on your list of things to accomplish?

“My ultimate goal has been to work Las Vegas. I did not realize until three years ago that I was headlining the fabulous Flamingo,” he said. “You have to have a new goal. I want to get back out into America and start doing some tours. I did Tavis Smiley. I want to do The Tonight Show soon. Just did The Fox Theater in Detroit, 6,00o seats, sold that out….do some of these big cities. Reinvent George Wallace. Some of these new kids don’t know me. I went to Mo Better Monday at the Improv in Hollywood. 400 kids went crazy over George Wallace. I’m a comedian. I don’t goof off. Let’s bring the laughs and do it. I asked them, ‘How much you pay to get in? Free?’ Get ready for some free jokes, then, because you get what you pay for.”

Stand-up comedian Kevin Hart is hosting Saturday Night Live this weekend. Is SNL something you’d like to do?

“I would love to do that, if I had the opportunity,” Wallace said. “Let’s Tweet ’em right now!”

Centric Comedy All-Stars premieres at 9 p.m. Saturday, March 2, 2013, on Centric. Check your local cable and satellite listings.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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