Ambassador Magazine had the pleasure of meeting Detroit-native comedian, Chris Powell. A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris is a dynamic, business-minded man with a go-getter attitude. The 33-year-old played Lil Prince in several episodes of the hit drama “Empire,” was an on-air personality and event host for Detroit’s HOT 107.5 and recently performed on stage for HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam.” We chatted about everything from his childhood and entertainment ambitions to Detroit and more. Look for Chris in Comedy Central’s new show, “Detroiters,” coming in early 2017. The interview has been edited.
Ambassador: At what age did you did you know you wanted to be a comedian?
Chris: My mom knew I wanted to be a comedian since I was like eight or nine. My parents were really into comedy – they were young and cool parents, and they weren’t the kind of parents who would tell me I couldn’t watch something because it had profanity. They just told me not to say it and embarrass them.
Ambassador: Talk about Def Comedy Jam on HBO. I’m especially curious what was it like getting the green light from creator Russell Simmons?
Chris: It was 2013. I went to LA and I went to the “All Def Comedy” show, and I was like, this feels like it should be on HBO. So I had a meeting with Russell about a TV show I wanted him to produce with me, and he was real smug and writing me off, and so after the meeting I’m like, “Russ I wanna get on that stage.” He had a show in LA called “All Def” that was like his version of a comedy night, and he was like, “there’s a long list tor that” or something very smug to write me off. So the first time I got on, I roasted Russell. The first thing I did was talk about how flexible he was and how he was doing yoga, and he’s an old man and people were just dying. He was sitting next to Andrew Hurrell and Big Sean, and Big Sean kept tapping him like, ‘yo he from Detroit, that’s my boy.” So Russell was like “alright, well, bring him over here. I want to talk to him.”
So I’m nervous – like I just got done blazing him. I don’t know what he’s going to say, and he was like, “you’re funny man, I remember you from the meeting. You told me you were funny, and I didn’t believe you. And he flat out said, “I apologize.”
Ambassador: Do you get nervous before shows?
Chris: I respect comedy so I expect to be jittery before every show. It’s like if you’re in the circus and you’re playing with lions. At any given moment they can eat you’re a**, so you automatically have to approach it with their respect every time or else you’re going to lose.
Ambassador: Do you have any superstitions before going on stage?
Chris: I never drink.
Ambassador: Before you go on stage or just in general?
Chris: Before I do anything that I need to do. Only thing I can do after I drink is just kick it. I can’t do anything business-wise. It’s also hard to eat. When you’re that nervous it feels like you’re on Adderall or something. I have to force myself to eat because, if not, then I’ll feel terrible, and I’m not going to have the kind of energy I need to give.
Ambassador: What do you feel most proud about personally, career wise or anything in life?
Chris: I’m honestly most proud of the fact that my plan worked. I can’t express that enough. I go to talk to schools, and the biggest thing I tell them is to really have a plan and think that it’s going to work. That’s the biggest piece of it.
Ambassador: It sounds like to get to this moment you’ve been very structured and disciplined. Would you agree?
Chris: I’m very calculated. Everything is a strategy, and if you don’t have a strategy then a strategy is being put in place for you and you lose control of it. All I needed was a conversation piece to get me in the door to the next position.
Ambassador: You’ve worked with writers from SNL. Tell us about it.
Chris: I wrote for the SNL team this summer and executive producer Lorne Michaels. So what happened was they have a new show that he’s producing called “Detroiters.” I wrote like four episodes and I starred in three. Actually, all the episodes are tagged up with my comedy. They’re a bunch of cool people over there: Andrew Singer, Lorne Michaels, Sam Richardson and Tim Robinson from the show.
Ambassador: It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday. What music are you listening to?
Chris: I don’t even know. I listen to a whole lot of music. Definitely rap. I like R&B, smooth, 90’s joints. I’m starting to get old, man. That s*** is nostalgic.
Ambassador: It’s Saturday night and you’re not doing stand up. Where are you going for fun? Who are you wearing?
Chris: I love Jordan’s. I get every pair of Jordan’s that come out because I couldn’t have them when I was a kid – they cost too much for my mom, and I didn’t want to put her through that. Now I just get whatever I want because I feel like I deserve it, my kids deserve it, so that’s what I wear all the time. I wear what I want to wear. I don’t dress up for nothing. I would do a red carpet in what I have on right now (a hoodie and jeans) because that’s just me. I finally got to a place where I’m comfortable with that. Other than that, I’m pretty boring. I like to play video games.
Ambassador: Do you have any role models?
Chris: My mom is a big inspiration to me because she simply believed in me, and she saw in me what I saw in me. She let me know that I wasn’t crazy. I’m a different kind of smarter. I’m a different kind of funny.
Ambassador: What do you think of Detroit’s comedy scene?
Chris: The great thing about being a Detroiter is our mindset of hustle. We don’t take things for granted here, so a lot of times getting on stage is a lot like Detroit. You’re not promised anything. There are no comedy clubs in Detroit. I know there’s Mark Ridley’s in Royal Oak, but nothing in Detroit. We have to create our own arena here. I remember when I was a Detroit comedian I had my own audience I had to create from people I went to college with or internet people who followed me. I respect the Detroit comedian that sticks with it because there’s nothing here that’s telling you that you’re doing a good job.
Ambassador: We’re going to wrap up with a Rapid Fire Round. Say the first thing that comes to your mind using only one word.
Ambassador: President Donald Trump
Ambassador: Alec Baldwin
Ambassador: Harriet Winslow
Ambassador: Detroit vs. Everybody
Ambassador: Michael Jackson
Chris: Burnt hair.
Ambassador: Tony Bennett
Chris: I have no clue who that is.
Ambassador: Favorite Actress
Chris: Jennifer Lawrence.
Ambassador: Boys In The Hood
Chris: Ice Cube.
Ambassador: Mark Wahlburg
Ambassador: Chris Rock
Ambassador: Coney Dogs
Ambassador: Tim the “Tool Man” Taylor
Ambassador: Chicago Cubs
Chris: Who Cares.
Ambassador: Pure Michigan
Ambassador: If someone wrote a love song about you what would it be called?
Chris: “Dope”… because once I get in your veins you’ll always want some of that CP.