The Celebrity CEO Why Branding Yourself Is As Important As Branding Your Company

During the 2016 election, you more or less stayed away from Trump material because his mishaps were so constant. Now, they’ve only gotten worse. At this point, the jokes must write themselves. Do you feel an obligation to incorporate Trump fodder?

It is such a Trump fatigue. I feel like I got a couple of great jokes that I would be remiss if the audience didn’t hear ’em. But it’s definitely not a big part of my set. I’ve got a couple of nice punches I like, and I’ll do those things, but then I just kind of move on.

Even more so when I’m on the tour with the guys. D.L. [Hughley] is an extremely political comedian. George [Lopez], being Mexican, took it straight personal. He did a whole HBO special called “The Wall.” And [Eddie] Griffin is the same way, just an outspoken character about all things. So I go last, and when I’m onstage I definitely try to just stay away from it in general. It ends up being a thing where, if you don’t repeat it a lot, you find it being less and less a part of your act.

It’s almost like you’re a palate cleanser. “We’ve gotten Trump out of the way, now let’s talk about the rest of life.”

Word. But the fact that he’s about to take credit for getting these prisoners out, I just can’t even imagine how cocky he’s about to be right now. He might be like, “Melania, come hold my hand; you saw me get these men out.” He’s gonna be the new Ike Turner right now. He’s gonna change his hair. He’s gonna slick it back now like a blond Pat Riley. He’ll open up his shirt.

In terms of the cycle of joke-writing, by the time you’re done with an act, four more catastrophes have happened and we’ve already moved on to the next trauma. 

That’s the truth. You gotta write the kind of jokes that can sustain over time. My tour manager takes notes while I’m on stage if I get up there and do something I’ve never done. He’ll be like, “Oh, that’s great.” I”ll be like, “That joke was for today, man. I’m not going to keep doing that joke. It went with the moment.” He’s like, “Why do you think like that?”

Certain things I can tell have a shelf life, and certain things you go, “It happened today. It was perfect for today. It may last till next weekend, but it’s not a joke I’m going to keep in my set.”

In “The Original Kings of Comedy,” one of your popular jokes discussed how differently a black president would have responded to the Monica Lewinsky scandal. In thinking about how little Trump’s base seems to care about his sex scandals, does that joke make you think about how much those same people would have eviscerated President Barack Obama were he embroiled in harassment allegations and the Stormy Daniels story?

You know, it is really interesting to think about that. But I do think it is probably really the DNA of the society at the time. When Clinton came out, his story was like the new “Dallas.” It was something you wanted to watch because we had never really heard anything like that. Even if you go back to JFK in the ’60s, it was actually applauded. For him to be mashing Marilyn Monroe, people was like, “Yeah! That’s the dude!” It reminds you of “Mad Men.” It reminds you of the idea that misogyny and guys who had become successful had the right to be whatever they wanted to be. “You’re successful, so you should have it all.”

When you get to Obama, you recognize he was in the Twitter age and the early Instagram age. You definitely realize that, being a first, he would not have any of the leisure to blow off a scandal of any type, especially one of paying prostitutes and having unprotected sex with people that’s not your wife.

This Stormy Daniels stuff sounds crazy, but we live in a world now where we’re fatigued. We went through Harvey Weinstein and Russell Simmons and Brett Ratner and Matt Lauer. Everyone’s like, “OK, so people are having sex, and so did the president. Big deal.” That’s basically how he spins it. He’s the most unique spin artist I’ve ever seen. This guy, if you played ping-pong with him, you would not be able to hit his backhand. That’s for sure. I’ve never seen anybody take a story and say, “Look, guys, that’s nothing. Sure, I did it. Maybe my lawyer did pay her and I didn’t know about it.” And then Rudy Giuliani comes on, and he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And that’s the answer we’re supposed to accept? “He’s new, guys, he doesn’t know everything.” Really, guys? Y’all are going to accept that as the answer? It’s so interesting.

But I think, to your point, within four hours, there’s going to be another new story. But I believe Trump, as a reality show personality and a superstar at it, he knew how to do a reality show. People loved “The Apprentice,” and I think he recognized that if you can just survive through the next news cycle, don’t worry about it.

I’m like, man, I wish Tiger Woods would have learned that, because he would have never had to fall so hard. But he took it so personal when he felt like the world hated him. Really, all you had to do was go, “Yeah, I messed up, guys, but let’s keep moving.” When he took it all personally, he fell out of the limelight for five, six, seven years. He lost all his confidence. Trump doesn’t have that in him at all. And now he’s a hero for getting three people out of North Korea, and that’s going to be the news.

Political fodder is commonplace in stand-up, but do you find that the film scripts you’re reading are more politically driven than the material you were handed earlier in your career? I’m thinking about the third “Barbershop” movie, which smartly addresses gang culture, the prison system, gentrification.

I definitely think so. I think about all the projects that I’ve been doing, including “The Last O.G.” and now “Welcome to the Neighborhood.” They all have a political undertone to them. Even in “First Reformed,” it’s religious, but it’s still this idea of choice and this idea of questioning big institutions, things where we say, “All right, these are big institutions in our world, and they should never be challenged.”

I think you’re right. It’s more common. From a writer’s point of view, what you feel the audience is expecting is this need to make sure that, even if you’re going to make something comedic, you need to have something real in there, some kind of message that people can be drawn to so you’re not just coming off with a degree of buffoonery, I guess. Most of the projects I see have a thing where it’s important to make this subversive, politically toned consciousness — a behavioral, cultural reference to something.

Having hosted the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, did you watch Michelle Wolf’s set?

Yeah, I thought she was amazing. I’ve done that before, and I know how stark that room can be. It’s a room of political people who come from all different sides. I did it for George W., so it was a very Republican White House.

But, in my opinion, even though it was a Republican Party behind him, he didn’t have that kind of “we toe the line for this guy” grouping behind him that Donald Trump has. Trump has almost a gang mentality. The Republican Party just rock with him strictly because they’re on that side, like, “We’ve claimed it, and therefore that’s it. We don’t look at the policies, we don’t look at the man. We’re Republicans, and we’re with this guy no matter what he does.”

That’s hard, for [Wolf] to stay true to her set even in the moments when the jokes weren’t going great. She started out with some great laughs, and then she had a little lull. But she stayed focused, and I really appreciated that. I thought she did great.

Final question: You appeared on Jay-Z’s “Black Album” and worked with Tiffany Haddish on “The Last O.G.” Who bit Beyoncé?

[Laughs.] That is the question. And I always say it’s pretty obvious. It goes back to my Columbo-“Monk”-type character: Who is the celebrity we know would be in the same place, has the same access, that is known for biting people?

It was Mike Tyson, guys. He just left a bite mark; he didn’t take the whole ear. But he’s a biter! Nobody’s saying anything. Nobody wants Mike to flare up again, so we just keep it down. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Source : https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/artist-formerly-known-as-cedric-the-entertainer_us_5afc5bb2e4b0779345d516d3

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