Published Jul 29, 2019Just for Laughs has been trying to land Anthony Anderson for five years.
The Black-ish star says he's never had room in the shooting schedule of the Emmy-nominated ABC show to make the trek up to Montreal until this year, as a result of a happy coincidence in timing. Anderson's making the most of it, hosting the festival's closing gala.
"I'm excited to finally be able to come up to Montreal," he told Exclaim!
Anderson spent the first 10 to 12 years of his career doing comedic work, he says, starring in Scary Movie 3 and 4, and The Bernie Mac Show, among others.
Comic acting is nothing new to him, but he admits his experience in standup is limited, which makes the thought of hosting a live gala is a bit nerve-wracking.
"Reading lines off a script, off a page, you can always do over," Anderson says. "Any time you're doing a live performance, you're flying by the seat of your pants and there are no do-overs. If it drops, it drops. You just have to be able to be quick on your toes, to be able to pick it up and keep it moving along."
Anderson traces his history with comedy back to his childhood. Like many successful comedians, he grew up around funny people, who he says instilled an innate sense of humour in him from a young age. "My mother, my father, my brother and sister, we were just a funny family," he says. "Comedy is something that comes second nature to me."
While he acted all through adolescence and into high school, it was at Howard University in Washington, DC where he refined this skill. The HBCU is known for producing a slew of renowned names across fields, from author Toni Morrison to California Senator and 2020 U.S. Presidential candidate Kamala Harris. Anderson says his own graduating class had no dearth of talent in it.
"I got to go to school with Puff Daddy, I got to go to school with Taraji P. Henson, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Carl Anthony Payne II, the list goes on and on," Anderson said. "We were a bunch of talented kids who knew what we wanted to do, but didn't know how we were going to make our mark on the world, and now you look at us and how we all have been successful in our own respective fields. It's truly remarkable to have all of that creative energy in the same place at the same time and to see what we're doing now."
In more recent years, Anderson's career has taken him away from comedy and into the realm of dramatic works, like in Law & Order, Transformers, and The Departed. His latest role is a lead in the Netflix drama Beats, in which he plays Romelo, a high school security guard who takes one wallflower student with a keen eye for music production under his wing. Anderson says the decision to move into dramatic work midway through his career was an intentional one; a way to challenge himself and show the entertainment industry what he's capable of.
"I was typecast as just a comedic actor or the fat funny guy," Anderson says. "I always sort of never wanted to be placed in a box, you know, I never wanted to be defined by just one thing. I wanted to show the world that there was more to me than the laughter … I hadn't been afforded the opportunity to really flex that dramatic muscle."
As the actor approaches the premiere of the sixth season of Black-ish, he's still made time for a slew of side projects. His latest business venture has taken him back to DC, where he plans to open several locations for chain wing restaurant franchise Wing Stop in the near future. If one thing's for certain, Anderson is a busy man, and his appearance at Just for Laughs is a big deal amid such a laundry list of ongoing projects.
As for what kind of material he'll be performing during his set at JFL, Anderson remains coy.
"I have no idea what I'm gonna do! I'm either gonna fall flat on my face or I'm gonna soar with the eagles," he said. More specifically, there might be a bit of content on fatherhood and family, he reveals. His end goal, he says, is to show the audience "a side of me that they've never seen before."