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Comedian Aries Spears 'one hit away from turning everything around'

Calgary Herald logo Calgary Herald 2019-10-30 Eric Volmers
Aries Spears holding a laptop: Comedian Aries Spears. Comedian Aries Spears.

As with most comedians, Aries Spears is usually not at a loss for words.

But the Chicago native, while polite, seems curiously tight-lipped in a phone interview with Postmedia to promote a series of upcoming shows at Calgary’s Laugh Shop in Hotel Blackfoot.

“I talk about a little bit of everything,” says Spears, when pressed about what fans can expect from his recent standup tour. “I dabble in a little bit of politics and every day, normal human experience stuff.”

The comedian’s less-than-verbose responses today seem a bit unusual because Spears has a reputation for being outspoken on a number of issues, and has occasionally found himself in hot water when talking about some of his fellow comedians.

A few years back, he offered mild criticism of Kevin Hart for using comedy writers in his routines. He also dissed Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key, fellow alumni of MadTV, although eventually expressed regret and suggested he may have been blackballed in Hollywood as a result. But isn’t controversy good for a comedian?

“It depends on how big of a star you are,” he says.

Still, blackballed or not, Spears has been in comedy long enough to know that these things aren’t permanent.

“You know, it just feels like that’s what the climate is because of the kind of comedian I am,” Spears says. “The one great thing about this business is that you’re always one hit away from turning everything around.”

Spears rose to fame thanks to his eight-season run on MadTV, the sketch show that ran on Fox for 15 seasons. During that time, he became known for his expert impressions of everybody from Chaka Khan to Louis Farrakhan.

It was a skill he developed early, having first performed celebrity impressions at the age of 14.

“I grew up a student and a fan of comedy, from back in the Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx days,” he says. “Eddie Murphy was probably my biggest influence. I had read somewhere that he had started at 14 and I used that as motivation to go get things started.”

His years on MadTV helped him stretch his creative muscles, although he has been phasing out the celebrity impressions in his standup routines. Nor has he been adding new ones, suggesting he hasn’t really found anyone new “interesting enough to make funny.”

“But I’m sure somebody will make their way in,” he says.

Even before his stint on MadTV, Spears was moonlighting as an actor with a recurring role on A Different World and even a small part in Spike Lee’s Malcolm X before joining the cast of MadTV. He continues to work in various genres in film, with IMdb listing the hit man thriller Chase as his most recent project.

Like plenty of comedians, he also has a number of ideas in various stages of development.

But, at this point, he apparently isn’t’ choosy.

“I’ll do with whatever comes with a cheque and six zeros,” he says.

Aries Spears performs Thursday, Oct. 31 at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 1 at 7 and 10 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 2 at 7 and 10 p.m. at the Laugh Shop Calgary.


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