Amid a growing TV trend of series reboots and reunions ranging from “Arrested Development” to “Roseanne,” the October re-launch of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” after five years off the air has stirred some of the biggest anticipation.
That mostly-improvised series is famed for not only leaving viewers wondering about what might happen at any moment, but also its cast— including J.B. Smoove, who has played creator-star Larry David’s “accidental roommate” Leon Black for the past three seasons and the new one.
Yet the standup comic and actor’s manic speaking and performing style blends well with that show’s freewheeling approach, and his uniquely outraged tone of voice has given him the chance to thrive in cartoon voiceovers as well. As he looks forward to performing four shows this weekend at the Ice House comedy club in Pasadena, Smoove offers a look into David’s unusual creative process
“’Curb’ is always a surprise, because you don’t know how Larry thinks, and he makes it a puzzle, where you only know what you’re supposed to do in your scenes,” says Smoove, who draws “J.B.” from his real name, Jerry Brooks. “You don’t even find out who the special guests are if you’re not in the scene with them. Besides, I’m a black brother from New York City, and he’s a white guy from there, so often I don’t even know what he’s talking about because that’s different worlds.”
Smoove, 51, honed his comedy chops as a “hallway clown” at school while growing up in Mount Vernon, New York. However, he launched his showbiz career as a hip-hop dancer, calling himself J. Smoove while teaming with a fellow dancer named J. Groove before adding his last name’s initial for his comedy career.
It’s been an eclectic ride since, with Smoove winning a Writers Guild Award as part of the writing staff for “Saturday Night Live,” acting in other sitcoms including FOX’s “’Til Death” and CBS’ “The Millers” and a string of movies most known for narrating the Chris Rock/Louis CK cult-classic comedy “Pootie Tang.” He has just one dream left to attain: starring in a detective movie.
“My dream is just chasing somebody for the first three minutes of a movie, saying stuff like ‘I’m on your ass, you can’t get away!’” jokes Smoove. “That’s on my bucket list. I’d have to do it in a comedic way, not get them all bruised up, so I’ll pull my belt off and beat your ass with a belt, like an old grandma beating. I’ll be known on the street for that, as Beltman or Detective Belt.”
J.B. Smoove performs at 8 and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Ice House, 24 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena. Tickets are $40. Call (626) 449-5320 or visit icehousecomedy.com.