“It Wasn’t Pretty, But The Beginning Is Usually Pretty Rough:” A TDQ Q&A With Comedian Richy Lala, Part 2

Richy Lala

In the spring of 1990 Richy Lala filmed a pilot titled "The Fresh Prince From Bel-Air." Richy played the part of a rich translplant from Southern California to Western Philadelphia. His new-found friend, played by Will Smith, would help him make a new life in very different surroundings. Studio execs passed on the pilot but soon came up with "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" after tweaking the story slightly.

TDQ: What was your first gig?

Lala: At the Milkboy Cafe in Ardmore, Pennsylvania…once the label for such bands as Digable Planets, they opened a modest music cafe that I produced a show featuring the comics I had been seeing at local clubs…I’d book them and host the show myself…it wasn’t pretty for me…but the beginning is usually pretty rough.

TDQ: Tell us about your gig hosting open mic night at the Funky Buddha.

Lala: When I moved to Florida almost eight years ago now, I first met Will Watkins…who filmed his set in the same show at the Buddha as I did…there weren’t too many places back then to perform and he introduced me to then-host, Renda Writer, a local poet. After religiously attending their open mic for three years, the Buddha and Renda parted ways. The owners asked if I’d host, since then we have gone from a 20-seat venue to a 120-seat venue…with consistently sold out shows. And the door money we raise goes to feeding the homeless…we charge $3 or two canned goods as admission. And everyone is always welcome to drop off canned goods or donate more directly to Boca Helping Hands. We average 30 performers every Wednesday and well over 100 audience members per show. Ten years running, it’s the longest south Florida open mic, from comics to poets to musicians.

As a performer it can be brutal sometimes, but that’s how you earn your chops. Best part about the five years I’ve been there is seeing performers develop. I’ve seen two of our performers on American Idol for the past two years…pretty good record.

TDQ: We read that Carrot Top got his start at an open mic night. If it were you hosting then, would you want something like that on your conscience

Lala: Sure, as a performer, you gotta do what you can. Give me a large amount of cash and see how quickly I sell out. I’d be happy to have a kids show…let alone a standing gig in Vegas.

TDQ: You’re a comedian from Philadelphia, following in the footsteps of Bill Cosby and Bob Saget. So, does that mean you’re destined to get your own family-oriented sitcom with annoying kids or what?

Lala: So funny that you ask that because honestly that’s what my stand up is mostly about. I love family humor, stuff most can relate to…I’d be so honored to have something like that in my life…and trust me when I say my family and I are a sitcom…may be hacky…but it’s so true.

TDQ: Quick: More proud of which Philadelphian- Kevin Hart or Rob McElhaney?

Lala: I’m gonna go with Will Smith…he was a huge influence on my teenage years.

TDQ: What’s the best or worst heckling you’ve ever dealt with, aside from this interview?

Lala: After doing a Jew joke in a redneck town years ago, some guy yelled, “You’re a Jew? Get off stage and go build me a pyramid.” I told him it was the funniest anti-Semitic remark I’ve ever heard. The worst heckler is someone who is either so drunk that they are incoherent or when someone yells s— out and then won’t respond when approached with conversation.

TDQ: Are you on Twitter? If yes, why aren’t you following @dailyquarterly?

Lala: Because my girlfriend runs my Twitter because I’m technologically handicapped.

TDQ: Isn’t your career really all downhill from here after this interview runs?

Lala: Could you please run this interview forever…send me a new question every week and we can just keep updating it.

Visit Richy’s website, and follow him on Twitter @richylala. Check out Part 1 of our TDQ with Richy here.

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