Talking to Orlando Jones is like getting a free stand-up show. No matter what topic—a pop-culture figure, a world event or a day-to-day occurrence—the Hollywood veteran will have anyone listening and in stitches as he seamlessly meanders through spot-on commentary and impersonations.
The “Sleepy Hollow” star will play a set, alongside Alex Scott and local comedian Reid Clark, at TheatreNOW this Saturday, July 12th. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the venue’s nonprofit, Theatre Network of Wilmington, Inc., which aims to provide an outlet for children and locals interested in theatre.
“I’m excited to [perform] in a place like this, where it has a connection to the community,” Jones states. “There’s a charitable component. For me that’s important as an individual, because I see myself very much as one of the kids who did not have something like [TheatreNOW] at their disposal.”
Born in Mobile, Alabama, Jones’ youth comprised a sampler of the South—living in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida. “I was fairly quiet as a kid actually,” Jones tells. “I don’t think I became aware the entertainment business was a business until Gladys Robertson, my public speaking teacher in high school, said: ‘You should really [be a performer]!”
He attended College of Charleston, but soon dropped out, having landed a writing gig for a spinoff of “The Cosby Show” with Lisa Bonet’s “A Different World.” He went on to write for a slew of TV shows, and helped launch Fox’s cable network, FX. As well, Jones became one of the original cast members of Fox’s late-night sketch comedy show (derived from humor magazine MAD), “MADtv.” in 1995. Ultimately a storyteller, Jones is inspired by greats like Bill Cosby, Woody Allen and Richard Pryor, all of whom who worked on both sides of the camera. “Though writers don’t often admit it, they’re acting when they’re writing,” he says. “They’re acting out the way they think the character is going to behave.”
Aside from a plethora of film and TV acting credits, Jones has performed in stage productions like “Othello.” With the stage as the foundation of all entertainment, a liberation comes from live performance, according to Jones, and with little censorship. “You pay [extra] for HBO to curse at you and show you titties,” he quips. In 2012 Jones embarked on his first stand-up appearance at the Miami Improv.
“People have always thought I was a stand-up comedian, and I’m like, ‘actually, no,’” Jones comments. “I’d written for a bunch of stand-ups; I just hadn’t gone to do it, because most of the stand-up comedians I knew were trying to get a job in the movies and television. I had that job already.”
Since his first stand-up experience, he’s squeezed in shows wherever he can; a difficult feat given the 90-hour work week a one-hour show like “Sleepy Hollow” requires. Despite the grueling labor, Jones wouldn’t have it any differently. He doesn’t view it as work; it’s his passion. Getting along with the cast and crew, too, makes it all worth while. “[It’s] is extremely bizarre, because it doesn’t always happen that way,” he muses.
His work on “Sleepy Hollow,” as Captain Frank Irving, has brought him back to the South. “I enjoy being home, it’s not somewhere I thought I would end up living again,” he describes. “I live on location; I always have. I am that vagabond.”
Wilmington will definitely be a part of his upcoming act. “Everybody in [that] room lives here,” he says. “So it’ll be fun to talk about my experience.”
Jones doesn’t write a static set of jokes. He works off the audience and has an innate ability to gauge their reactions, which informs him on the trajectory of the show.
“You can’t go by some diehard script,” he says. “To me that’s the fun of communication: to figure out where your common interests lie and then explore those things. That’s what I enjoy about live ‘performancing’ and immediate reaction—and calling it live ‘performancing’…”
He writes everyday, so no two shows are alike. As well, he has those kismet moments where material develops onstage. His comedic banter knows no boundaries; he lampoons whatever pops to mind. Past topics have included the likes of Kim Kardashian.
“It’s fun to make fun of it: Somebody managed to take a girl from a sex tape and make her into a star of a family show on E!” he describes. “Hell, if I’d known sleeping with black dudes paid that kind of money…”
He also discusses family life, as inspired by his wife and 4-year-old daughter who now reside in Wilmington. “[She’s the] best work my dick has ever done,” he jokes.
Comedians Scott and Clark will round out the show. Both comedians revel in dialogue driven comedy and take the mundane events of their life and flip it into comedy. Scott was born and raised in Washington, D.C. He moved to New York in order to pursue comedy, and even spent nights in Central Park while playing any gig he could land. He’s since found success and even won the 2003 Kings and Queens of Comedy contest.
Clark has performed local venues such as the Nutt Street Comedy Club. He distinguishes himself with his blue, dark humor and touches on subjects such as politics.
Orlando Jones, Alex Scott and Reid Clark
Saturday, July 12th, 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. • Tickets: $45
TheatreNOW, 19 S. 10th St.