*Looking at today’s generation of singers, it’s not hard to see the influence of Berry Gordy’s Motown Records. From numerous hits produced to the name brand recognition to the molding of legendary artists who personify their recording home, the iconic record label created the blueprint on how to survive and be successful in the music industry.
Little did Gordy know, his technique would crossover into funny business with the creation of Laff Mobb, a new comedy production and management company spearheaded by comedian Red Grant, Arthur Spivak and Bob Sumner, a producer of HBO’s successful Def Comedy Jam. According to Sumner, the time is right to bring back the time where urban comedy commanded the spotlight with a presence on the big and small screen.
“Laff Mobb is basically the renaissance, I guess, of what took place in the early ’90s with the Def Comedy Jam movement,” said Sumner, who is credited for discovering established funny people such as Bernie Mac, Dave Chapelle, Chris Tucker, Bill Bellamy, Cedric The Entertainer, Mike Epps and Mo’nique. “I just feel as though that now is the time for a new wave of comedians to be seen. And they need to be seen in the right way… These are comedians that are gonna be film and television stars as was Chris Tucker and Bernie and those guys.”
For Grant, the company aims to fill the void left when Def Comedy Jam and BET’s Comic View went off the air. The end result, he believes, will allow for more exposure for comedians who “wouldn’t normally get exposure in the market that we have right now.”
Sumner agreed as he shared with EUR’s Lee Bailey how Laff Mobb can provide other tools comedians can use to add to their value.
“It’s a management company where the comedians are managed but it’s also a production company where the comedians put together their own independent movies, working on their own specials and everything, which is going to be under one umbrella,” he said.
Citing Gordy, Sumner admits the music visionary’s handling of Motown plays a big role in the direction of Laff Mobb. Since its launch, the venture has received support from a host of comedy fixtures including Epps, Kevin Hart, Charlie Murphy and George Wallace. Laff Mobb’s roster of comedians features Grant as well as Rudy Rush and Roz G.
“I wanted to pretty much paint a picture or establish a company in the comedy realm that was very similar to what Mr. Berry Gordy did in the early ’50s with Motown. That’s what I want Laugh Mobb to be, like a comedy version of Motown where you have your artists like they had they had The Temptations and Gladys Knight and the Miracles and everybody,” Sumner stated. “We have our group of comedians but not just that. We have aspiring writers no different than he had the Ashford and Simpsons and the Holland Dozier Hollands and then like Red was saying. We’re also into becoming producers where we’re gonna be doing our own movies very similar to how National Lampoons shot their movies like “Animal House.” We’re gonna be doing our movies which is very similar to what Mr. Gordy did.”
The arrival of Laff Mobb comes amid a challenging time in black comedy. Compared to outlets in the ’90s and 2000, many comedians find themselves with only a handful of outlets to showcase their talent. According to funny man Red Grant, the decline stems from an over flooding of proven comedians mixed with those who were placed in the position too soon.
“I think from a comedy standpoint, I don’t know if comedy really fell over the years. BET put on so many guys that weren’t ready to be comedians,” he said. “It kind of watered the market down to a point where you were mixing guys who weren’t on certain levels with guys on certain levels. And what happened was a lot of guys fell off the wayside and I think it just messed the market up. And because of that situation, the over flooding of it, now it’s getting back to the point where the water just receded and the real talent is coming back to the forefront. I guess it needed to be washed out a little bit, but it’s at a point where it’s coming back to the way it was.”
“I look at it where people were just looking at these comedians, or I like to call them comics, just for the shock value of it all. And these television shows was just trying to build content as opposed to quality,” added Sumner, who labeled Grant as the “anchor” behind Laff Mobb in light of the project coming together through the funnyman. “What I always did when I look for a comedian was to see if you could become a film or television star if you had a point of view because if you look at shows like Bernie Mac and DL [Hughley], they were based on their stand up comedy routines. I look to see if there’s a much bigger picture. I think that’s where it’s come back to.”
In addition to Laff Mobb, Grant remains active on the comedy circuit. The comedian currently hosts the Katt Williams and Friends tour. When asked about Williams, Grant gave an encouraging status report concerning the embattled entertainer.
“He’s doing great, actually. He’s doing really well, funny as ever again,” Grant said. “He’s back clear-headed and focused about he wants to do in comedy. He’s taking care of his family and friends again.”
As Laff Mobb increases its presence in the entertainment industry, Sumner, Spivak and Grant see no limit to where the company is headed. With new talent to discover and mold, Sumner takes pride in Laff Mobb being open to all who desire a solid foundation for taking their comedy career to the next level.
“The beauty of Laff Mobb is it’s a grassroots effort. You don’t have to already be in Hollywood to be discovered by Laff Mobb,” he said, adding that the company is open to stand-up comedians as well as aspiring comedy writers, comedy producers and fans of comedy. “The main thing you have to have if you’re gonna be part of the Laugh Mobb team, you have to not only be talented but have great character. We don’t have a bunch of superstars on out team. We have potential superstars but none of them on our team are acting the part. We have a very humble group of people who have their eyes on the prize.