[INTERVIEW] These Seattle Comics Talk About Getting Their Big Break On Kevin Hart's New Comedy Central Show
If you’ve never seen it, Kevin Hart’s “Hart of the City” is a show where Kevin Hart showcases some of the best undiscovered talent in the country. Last season he went to Sacramento, Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, Miami, D.C., Birmingham and Philadelphia.
Season 2 kicks off in Seattle, Washington. Home of Starbucks, Microsoft as well as Ralph Porter and Manny Martin
Seattle’s Hart of the City features comedians Bo Johnson, Ralph Porter, Manny Martin and Kanisha Buss.
It was taped at Keys on Main in Tacoma, Washington at one of Nate Jackson’s monthly show. Nate you may know from Nick Cannon’s Wild ‘N Out on MTV. Nate’s been having shows in Tacoma for as long as I can remember. The guy consistently delivers packed shows and crushes every time he takes the stage, so it was the perfect choice to showcase Washington’s talent.
Ralph and Manny happen to be two of my closest friends in comedy as well as everyone here at Podaholics.
Manny Martin and I met around 2009ish at the Comedy Underground. I had moved from Boston and was making the rounds at the open mics when I see this good looking “kid” that looked like he should be modeling for Nike rather than doing stand-up. We became close pretty quickly and started grinding together and eventually became roommates. As I started hosting at the Parlor Live in Bellevue, Manny was always my back up if I was out of town or couldn’t host. He eventually replaced me as the host at the Parlor when I moved to Los Angeles.
Ralph Porter and I also met around 2009. A comic asked if I wanted to go check out this show in Tacoma at a place called Jazzbones. I had heard of Ralph before meeting him from other comics and he was spoken of like he was almost this mythical creature. The respect his name garnered was unmatched anywhere in Washington. He was looked at as an elder in the comedy game and had been the host of this weekly show at Jazzbones for over double digit years. I walked into Jazzbones and I see this guy that appeared to be in his early 30s, but the vibe he gave off and the way he carried himself was like a guy who demanded your respect, had seen anything and everything in the world, almost like a Shaolin Monk of comedy, but with swagger. Ralph and I immediately vibed. He offered me a spot the following week at Jazzbones and we’ve been close friends since.
I wanted to interview both of these guys right now. The day before their national TV appearance airs. Right in the middle of their “break”. What’s it like? What’s going through their heads? How do they feel? I wanted them to share all their emotions, ask them how they felt, so that’s what I did!
Podaholics: How long have you been doing stand up?
Ralph Porter: 25 years.
Manny Martin: Let’s see it’s been like 9 years now.
P: Hart of the City is one of the hottest shows currently on Comedy Central. How did you hear about it and what was the process for getting selected to perform on it?
RP: I got a call from Joey Wells. Joey had asked me “what do you think about doing, season 2 of Hart of the City?” and I said (sarcastically) “you know man, I got too many other things going on, I don’t think I wanna do that…” hahaha on the real, I was like HELL YEAH MAN! For sure. I was happy that he called me for starters. Just to give me that call you know and put me on, it was real cool. He said it was something he had preached to Kevin and that’s how they did Season 1.
You know, just going to cities and stuff, cats that’s been in the game or you know been doing it for a few years and trying to get them some light. Joey knew me, he knew I’d been in the game, but he also knew that I’d been working and my whole process, as you already know Jay, is taking care of my kids first, man. But now all of them are grown, so it was like, if the opportunity comes now, I’m taking it and the opportunity came and then I got chosen.
First we had to do this audition type thing, I believe it was about 17 comics. So all of us went up and did our allotted time, got good responses and then it was just wait and see, who was gonna get chosen. Once we all got chosen, it was like, well there it is, let’s do this!
MM: Nate Jackson had posted a casting call for all comics that Hart of the City was coming to Seattle. I thought to myself “nah I don’t wanna do it.” You know I’ve auditioned for Stand-up for Diversity, Last Comic Standing, never got that… I’ve seen so many showcases where the person with the best set doesn’t get it. In my opinion, it came down to being one of those things that you could be the best comic on a showcase, but it really comes down to do you have the look? Do you have the back story? So I had this gross taste in my mouth that it’s not really about the comedy, it’s a casting call. So I thought you know what, Nate offered me an audition, but I’m not gonna do it.
So then I called up another comic to tell them I wasn’t doing it and they had just tried to get on the showcase, but Nate told him it was already full. He told me “don’t pass up any opportunity. You know you could do 1000 auditions and it’s the 1001st that gets it.” So I said alright, I’ll ask him. I ended up asking if he had one more spot and Nate said he’d put me on. So I got the 3rd spot and remember thinking “ok here we go…” I just did my bits you know? It went really well.
A few months later I kept getting this 818 number calling and I kept thinking “God damn solicitors keep calling me today” and I just kept sending them to voice mail. I hung up on them like 4 times and my voicemail was full because I’m an idiot. Nate called me and was like “yo answer your phone, people from Hart of the City are trying to call you.” So I finally answered it and they offered me a spot!
I remember on the interview portion being so nervous, like what’s my name? Kevin asked “what’s your full name?” and I remember just thinking “I know I have a full name somewhere…” The interview portion I felt went horrible for me cause I was so nervous and I remember feeling defeated. Then I remembered they didn’t pick me for my interviewing, they picked me for my comedy. So to prepare, my wife had me do my set, just to her in the living room. I don’t know what it is about doing stand-up to just your friends but I remember just thinking how dumb it felt, I just wanted to be in the moment. It ended up being good though cause it helped me remember some of the tags you (Jay) helped me write and it was awesome man! It was like it all fell in line.
P: With all the stuff you have done previously in stand-up Ralph, would you say this going to be your biggest break so far?
RP: Most definitely. This is the one that’s gonna be seen by the masses. The other stuff I’ve done, I did BET’s One Mic Stand, I did Comic View many blue moons ago. I did Showtime with Bill Bellamy but none of my performances were ever seen. That’s the cold part about it you know? It’s like how do I keep getting these breaks, but then my stuff doesn’t get seen? This will definitely be the biggest, because it’s definitely gonna get seen.
You know for all those that have ever spoke about me, in a positive manner, be it “Ralph Porter, he’s a cool dude, his comedy’s good, you know he’s an all around cool cat”, now they’ll get to see just a little bit about a brother. I think for sure this is the biggest… plus it’s Kevin Hart man, you can’t lose when you got Kevin Hart presenting it.
P: With everything you both have earned in the past, you get these breaks and then like the Bill Bellamy thing with Ralph, they don’t show it. Are either of you having a viewing party tonight? or are you thinking let this air once before I start telling people to watch?
RP: EXACTLY. Nah I’m not having no viewing party man. I thought about it but it’s 11PM at night, it’s a Friday night, people are gonna be out and about, doing their own damn thing. So if anything, I’ll have a few friends over, maybe some family depending on what they’re doing, me and my girl and just a few people. I thought about a viewing party but where? You know me, I don’t like a whole lot of people at my house, so that ain’t gonna work. Nah, I just ask people to set your DVR if you got it.
MM: Nah I’m working. (laughing) The grind never stops. I’ll be in the green room at the Parlor Live.
P: Has it sunk in for you guys? Or do you have that comic mentality of “until it airs, you never know. The film could get destroyed in a fire…”
RP: You already know. I’m just patiently waiting for 11PM tonight, to come around. I’ve seen on ComedyCentral.com ‘Kevin Hart’s Hart of the City’, you see a few clips, you see me in the clips. I’ve been sharing it and what not, so I’m getting some love that way, but until I see this damn episode… until this thing comes on at 10:59PM when it’s schedule on the DVR to record it… Until that happens… and I finally see myself and I see the closing credits… THEN I’ll be like “there it is!” I’ll probably watch it all over again, just to make sure.
MM: You know, you have these weekends where… like when you (Jay) were working at Costco and you have these weekends where you absolutely destroy on stage, where people are like “I thought you should’ve been the headliner” and then you go back to work the next day and you’re getting treated like less than. You know it’s humbling, but it’s like God, what does it take to get to that next level? So, not yet. I feel like I suck at all the social media stuff, so I just try to keep on keeping on.
P: With this coming out, what are you hoping comes from your appearance on Hart of the City? Both realistically and best case?
RP: Best case, once it airs, Hopefully at least comedy clubs will be looking towards booking me. I would love to start getting booked out for the year. Cause what they’re gonna see is just a small bit of what I can bring to the stage.
You know me, you’ve seen me. I’ve done shows where the headliner doesn’t show up and I’m doing way over an hour and I’m still blazing it. Bing, bing, bing. I’m still hitting good jokes. It’s not like I don’t have a plethora of material, because I do.
After being on this planet for 51 years, I’ve got at least 40, if not 45 years of material that I can guarantee I can pull from. It’s nothing I gotta write down, it’s nothing I research or whatever. It’s in my head, so I’m hoping that once this airs, best case that comedy clubs and even Comedy Central, I hope reaches out to me and offers me a 30 minute special. So that I can at least prove, to them and anyone that’s following me. Just give me that chance, and trust me, you give me that chance, you won’t lose. I’m hoping for a development deal on a comedy series, that will lead me right into some movie work. That’s my main goal, the silver screen. To literally to get some TV deals going, some movie deals going and I’ll be good.
Most likely what’s gonna happen? Ain’t nobody gonna call me (laughing). Ain’t nobody gonna call me. Nah on the real though, i think I’m gonna get some calls. I’ve been doing this long enough. They say you’re looking at that 15, 20, 25 year mark is when a lot of comics get their break. So let me get my break, let me prove to you. You backing me, is not gonna hurt you.
My professionalism speaks for itself. I’m the first one in the building and I’m the last one to leave, let’s go. That’s what the real cats do, like athletes. They show up first, they in the gym, they practicing, everyone leaves and they’re still in the gym. That’s what I do. I’m just hoping man that someone gives me a call.
MM: Ideally, it would be amazing to quit the day job and just do comedy full time. There’s also that aspect of that I didn’t even know that Hart of the City existed until late last year. So you know I don’t even know how many people are watching, but it’s giving you more exposure just having that Kevin Hart name attached to anything you do… will hopefully take you a little bit further than you would’ve been.
I think for me, it would just be to put my team on the map. From my friends and you know, like the Podaholics crew… seriously, that’s always been the dream is if one of us makes it, pull the next one up. If anything I would love to get in front of Comedy Central, pitch a few ideas. Either a sketch show, a TV show, there’s actually a showcase show I wanted to do with comics. That would be my ultimate dream.
P: What would you say to the people that don’t know you or may have never heard of you or seen your stand-up prior to Hart of the City?
RP: Just watch this Comedy Central. Watch this Hart of the City and honestly, once you see me… if you’re a booking agent, a casting director, if you’re a movie director, and you’re looking for a fresh look, I’m that guy, you’ve never seen before. So why not give me a shot, you know put some money behind me and you’re gonna make money. Point blank.
MM: Oh man, I don’t know… follow the Podaholics… God what do I wanna say? Keep supporting comedy? it’s so cliche. Get out there and vote guys? (Laughing) I guess follow me on Twitter and I’ll try and get some tweets in and shit. (Laughing)
As someone that came up with both of these guys in comedy and know the time and dedication they’ve put into their stand-up, I couldn’t be more excited for these guys. They earned it, they deserve it and I know they’re gonna kill it.
Watch Ralph Porter and Manny Martin, tonight at 11PM on Kevin Hart’s Hart of the City on Comedy Central.