Surely the world of comedy would suffer an unfortunate fate should class clowns become an endangered species. Thankfully, Brandon T. Jackson, a bonafide leader of the New School of Comedy, isn’t going anywhere soon. Since he was a young tyke, the 24-year-old Detroit native has been cracking jokes and busting guts. After securing his own comedy show on Nickelodeon in 2006 (“The Brandon T. Jackson Show”) and nabbing roles in fun films such as “Roll, Bounce,” the comedic actor is gearing up for summer box-office success opposite jokesters Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey, Jr., in the season’s much anticipated spoof “Tropic Thunder.” ESSENCE.com chatted with the funny man about his alter-ego rapper Alpa Chino, dissing Ed McMahon, and why church ladies love peppermints and loose change.
ESSENCE.COM: In “Tropic Thunder,” you play Alpa Chino, a rapper-actor who has a secret. Is Alpa worried about being exposed?
BRANDON T. JACKSON: Absolutely not, because it’s more publicity, and, at the end of the day, just comedy. If any rappers get mad and take everything too seriously, I won’t be mad. But Alpa Chino and Lil Wayne got beef.
ESSENCE.COM: Why does Alpa Chino have beef with Lil Wayne?
JACKSON: Al’s gonna let the world know. He made a video that he plans to release when the movie is released but not before then.
ESSENCE.COM: Judging by Alpa Chino performance, he’s in so many ways a man’s man. What’s the one thing a woman can do to turn him off?
JACKSON: Hmmm, well, I don’t know about Alpa, but for me, cheating and being with every other dude. Why don’t women have respect for themselves nowadays? What happen to the woman who learned her grandmama’s recipes and made her man sweet potatoe pie. I tell you, they don’t make ’em like they used to. Will my real women stand up, please?
ESSENCE.COM: (Laughs) Alrighty then. There’s been much controversy surrounding Robert Downey, Jr.’s character because he’s in blackface. Did you have any reservations about joining the cast?
ESSENCE.COM: Did he need to get any pointers from you on developing a swagger?
JACKSON: Absolutely. I gave him a little tip about the inflection of his voice. There were several times he’d ask me if I found something offensive to make sure it was cool. But trust me if it wasn’t, Jesse Jackson wouldn’t have been talking about Obama; they would’ve been talking about me [acting up].
ESSENCE.COM: Word is Ben Stiller screened the film for the NAACP to get their opinion?
JACKSON: Yes, that’s true. They called the NAACP and told me about the screening. I respect that Ben [Stiller] thought enough to get their opinion and was concerned about whether the film might offend anyone. He wanted to deliver the humor in good taste without compromising his creativity.
ESSENCE.COM: Do you think U.S. soldiers would find humor in this film?
JACKSON: It takes a lot of courage to do what our soldiers are doing. I can only hope they laugh at it and don’t take offense to it.
ESSENCE.COM: What is the craziest thing that happened on the set?
JACKSON: (Laughs) Jack Black got bucked off a water buffalo! Okay, it wasn’t funny at first because he almost got hurt, but once we saw he wasn’t hurt it was hilarious. We all said, “Jack, don’t get on the water buffalo before you ask the trainer if it’s okay.” He’s like, “I don’t need a trainer ; I’m a professional!” Well, he gets on the buffalo and the director yells action and that animal goes crazy and bucks Jack in the air. When they asked him if he wanted to shoot again, he was like, “Hell no, I’m out of here man! I’m going back to my trailer!”
ESSENCE.COM: As a P.K., what is the most sinful act that your bishop-father ever caught you doing in the church?
JACKSON: Red-handed? Pretty much making people laugh, talking when I shouldn’t be and then my mom would give me the church-pinch, where she sneaks up and pinches you and it burns long afterwards? And my mom would always have her peppermint and loose change, because for some reason church ladies always have peppermints, change and butterscotch in their purse. And don’t forget how when they suck on the candy, they always start doing all that slave-humming. Hmmmmm…Hmmmm. (Laughs) What is that? I love it!
ESSENCE.COM: (Laughs) You’re out of control! Well, I read that you aspire to be the funniest man in America without cursing.
JACKSON: Who said that? I think someone wrote that when I was 15. What I will say is that I always want my personal message to be positive and uplifting no matter what, but I’m not going to lie and say that I’m going to do it without cursing.
ESSENCE.COM: Have you ever bombed at a comedy show?
JACKSON: (Laughs) Yes, twice. But the funniest one had to be this audition I had for Ed McMahon when I was 14 years old. My dad took me to this audition with McMahon and I’m hyped because I’m thinking, I might get a check from Publishers Clearing House! So I get there and I was horrible! I was so nervous I started cracking jokes on Ed McMahon.
The dude didn’t do anything to me, but he was sitting in the front and I couldn’t stop myself. They practically threw me out of there. Poor Ed McMahon is looking at me like, What did I do to this lil’ Black kid?