*Beloved comedian Tommy Davidson is back with the second season of his adventure television series “Vacation Creation,” that will once again take him and new co-host, YouTube personality Andrea Feczko, to even more exotic locations that span the globe from Barcelona to Iceland.
Davidson rose to fame in the ’90s on the groundbreaking variety series, “In Living Color,” and has since guest starred on numerous top primetime shows and in a dozen hit films. But it’s Davidson’s hosting “Vacation Creation,” as it singles out families that are facing hardship and are in need of hope and much-needed time together, that is earning him thousands of new fans.
EUR/Electronic Urban Report correspondent Ny MaGee sat down with Mr. Davidson during Summer TCA, where we discussed a variety of topics, including this benevolent travel series, the comedians that make Tommy laugh, his accessories line and a possible reunion with the “In Living Color” cast.
Get the scoop below.
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Describe this second season for our readers and the creative process behind capturing the exotic locals you visit.
TD: I have to give the locations to the location team. They find the best places, Mykonos, Greece, Corsica, South of France, Venice, Rome, Madrid, Barcelona, England, all over Italy, Norway, Alaska for months. They always pick the best locations. They do excursions, which is, we take the families out to do activities in these places. So I’ve seen killers whales. I’ve swam with dolphins in Cartagena, Columbia. Zip-lined from one country to the other and it’s amazing. The most amazing thing about this show is it doesn’t really feel like a TV show. It feels more like being a member of clergy. Because every family that’s been on the show has gone through the worse tragedy. One little boy is dying and doesn’t know it. One little girl, we took her all over Norway and she was diagnosed with cancer on New Year’s and got through radiation and now is in remission. We took her on a trip with her family. That’s the kind of show it is.
How do you bring your unique style and humor to the gig?
TD: I think it’s just my own experience in life, being from Washington, D.C. Being abandoned as an infant and all the stuff that I went through, and being in this crazy town for 30 years. I am ready to give whatever advice and love I have for people to hang on to life and be happy while they do it.
Which destination made the most lasting impression?
TD: Cartagena, Columbia. You know, you think of Columbia in the jungle somewhere with these cocaine lords, and Cartagena is in the Caribbean. Cartagena looks like Puerto Rico and feels like Puerto Rico or Cuba, where there’s this whole Afro-Latin vibe. These are the happiest most groovy people. We did a dance number from one of the local companies there that did modern dance mixed with old Yoruba, African, not a dry eye in there. Unbelievable. I have to go back there.
What’s the most profound thing you’re discovering about human nature as your visit theses families and set them up on dream vacations?
TD: Everybody wants the same things. Everybody wants decent food, clean water, education for their children, a decent job and people around them that love them. It is one of those things that is a fiber that goes through all of mankind. Going around the world doing military bases was different ‘cause it was supporting our servicemen and women around the globe, but I was seeing the world at the same time. Djibouti, Africa and it’s poverty, Egypt and it’s poverty, Korea, Japan, the Asias and Philippines and Singapore and Thailand and all these different places and watching the poverty. But they’re not like us. They’re not like the U.S. They don’t need what we need. They don’t need the SUV or an iPhone. So it’s possible to not do the paper chase to be (happy).
Have you discovered anything surprising about yourself along the way, conquered any fears?
TD: I discovered that I’m just as worldly as I thought. I am just as much a citizen of the world as anybody. I’m African-American but I’m an African man of the world, ‘cause we’re everywhere. I feel like I’m Obama and I ain’t got to tell anybody where I’m going.
As you’re touring and filming in these exotic cities, what kind of response do you receive from the locals? Do they realize that they are in the presence of a comic legend?
TD: I get recognized. It surprises me if I’m walking in downtown Tokyo and I got a group of Japanese going, “Oh, we love you!” Or, I’m doing a military base somewhere in Korea and somebody brings me a DVD of “Strictly Business.” It’s just unbelievable.
When did you realize you could make people laugh?
TD: I noticed it when I was real young, that I’d say something at the Thanksgiving dinner table and everybody would start laughing. I was like 6 or 7-years-old and I said to my mom, “Why does everybody laugh at me?” And she said, “Tommy, no one’s laughing at you.” She said, “You have a way of putting things that make people happy so fast. Their only reaction is laughter.” And so from that point on, I said, “Okay, I’m funny and it’s good.” My teachers ain’t think so ‘cause I was funny too much in class but now class is over. I’m in the world and I’m happy.
So what makes America’s funniest comedian laugh?
TD: That’s easy, Chris Rock makes me laugh. Tracy Morgan makes me laugh. D. L. Hughley makes me laugh. Kevin Hart makes me laugh. All of my peers. Seinfeld makes me laugh. Everybody I came up with, Roseanne Barr, Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler.
Were you a fan of the late-great George Carlin?
TD: George Carlin is brilliant, good friend of mine. He’s the one that made me start thinking about intellectualizing my comedy. I know that if I can make people laugh, I can make people think. If you look at my comedy specials, I’m prophetic at times. I did a whole thing on South Africa back in ’92 about South Africa being free and the next thing you know, there they are.
Is it important for you to continue to intellectualize your stand-up?
TD: Yes, since I made that part of my comedy, the foundation is already in. It’s like Pop Tarts, they just come sweet. And you know how much we love some Pop Tarts.
Do you feel that, as a comedian, you have a social responsibility to talk about certain issues?
TD: It’s like a dentist that makes house calls. When society gets a toothache they don’t gotta wait all they gotta do is come see a show. Happy gas right away.
What do you miss about the early days of comedy?
TD: The fact that at the clubs there was a battle for excellence.
Do you think there’s a laziness now?
TD: I don’t think there’s a laziness. I just think it’s more cookie cutter and it’s faster. Get yourself 10 minutes really quick and then take that to the Internet. Back then it was about having a solid hour of good comedy. Your hour is your resume for movies and everything else. That’s your audition.
How do you think the internet has shaped and shifted comedy and what we think is funny today? Do you think it’s easier for new comedians to get on now, compared to when you started?
TD: It’s easier now to be seen but the difficulty of being able to deliver a really good performance is the same. It takes hard work. So no matter how many billions of hits that you get, you’re going to have to deliver when the times comes. So things move really fast on the Internet. People see you then they’re like, “Where can we see you next?” I’ll give you an example, Charlie Sheen. Everybody loved him. People were like, “Wow, what a bad boy he is. He seems to have edge.” And they set up some live shows for him and he couldn’t do it. So as long as you’re prepared, it works for you. And a good example is Kevin Hart. Kevin Hart blew up on the Internet but he was prepared. He had been working for years. So when his seed got planted his tree grew fast.
What project or accomplishment do you consider to be the most significant in your career?
TD: When I did Michael Jackson on “In Living Color.” He emailed my agent and said, “I loved what he did.” And then he contacted me and said come to his house and do a private show so I actually met my childhood hero. So I definitely transcended a lot of lines by doing that.
How often do you get to chop it up with your “In Living Color” co-stars? Is there ever going to be an official reunion?
TD: We get together privately. Jim is a very good friend of mine. Keenen is a good friend of mine, Shawn, Marlon — all the Wayans are good friends of mine. Jamie Foxx is a good friend of mine. Jennifer Lopez is a good friend of mine, and all the writers are running big shows. So we’re like family. We don’t see each other very often but the second we see each other, it’s over. The laughs are on. We love each other so much but we’re all working. We’re all grateful. We’ve all gone off in different areas and we’re still here.
Nearly 30 years later, “In Living Color” is regarded as one of the best sketch comedy series ever. Did you guys ever imagine back then the impact the series would have?
TD: We knew it. We knew it ‘cause we were all the best and we knew what we could do with comedy, and if they ever brought some people together — off-color, and I mean everything, White, Asian, Latin — if they all brought us together and let us share one common humor that was going to blow up and it did and we were expecting it and we were really happy. We worked our butts off for the first season, ‘cause no one had seen nothing like that. We didn’t compromise. We were like the ’77 Steelers. We were we immortal in that way.
Is there a character that you would love to revisit, and if you could play him again, what would you add or change about him?
TD: I’d like to do Sammy Davis Jr. And what I’d like to add to him is my talent and some of the things that people don’t recognize I have. Like my dancing ability, my singing ability, my series drama ability. (Sammy) had all that in one. So it’s a good opportunity for me to show my range. Even though people think they’ve seen a lot of range, wait til I can sing some vaudeville, sing some big band stuff, sing some jazz, do some tap dancing, play some drums. I’m looking forward to that.
If you could put together a sketch comedy show or a national tour, who would you invite to join you?
TD: Probably everybody I’ve worked with, like Jamie. I would want Jim. I want to see what Kevin can do. I’d like to have The Rock. I would love to have Ryan Reynolds in a sketch show, De Niro.
You and De Niro would be genius. I’m trying to imagine how that set-up would be.
TD: All you have to do is let him go. Put him in a cab with me in the back and let me and him be lost in New York. “Lost in New York,” that sounds like a movie, with the only English-speaking cab driver in New York.
What’s on Tommy Davidson’s bucket list?
TD: A Sammy Davis Jr. movie. Still haven’t done my own series, whether that be drama or comedy. A book, which I’m writing now — autobiography. Direct films, star in my own films. There are so many human stories out there. I’d like to do some history stuff — some of the history stuff that’s been left out, like ancient African civilizations. I mean, we’ve seen Vikings and all this other stuff about everybody’s history but we don’t have anything about Akhenaten or great Africans that ruled the world for 2000 years straight. There are some stories there — the Moors. I’d like to understand what happened to Cuba really early. I’d like to understand what happened to Brazil really early. I’m interested in history.
And you’re still doing stand-up…
TD: I’m back on the road and hopefully trying to get together with the guys for an “In Living Color” tour, if we can pull that together. I also have a clothing accessory line that’s pretty successful called Tongue in Cheek, shoptongueincheek.com. The sky’s the limit with me.
Is Trump’s administration providing you with some fresh material for your stand-up?
TD: It gives me just enough to go there. I’m not really a political comic but he’s such a character that how the hell are you not going to do something.
What are some things you know now about the business that you wish you had known when you were first starting out?
TD: I know now that it’s more like Olympic swimming than it is basketball. In basketball you’ve got teammates that you can make a pass to. In this business now it’s like Olympic swimming. You stay in your lane, you swim your butt off and you don’t check the time until you get to the end. So it’s individual sport as opposed to me thinking that it’s a team sport. Team does come in when you do a film, when you’re dependent on other talent. But stand-up comics, we’re not really dependent on other talent all the time so our comedy gotta supply. It has to elicit all the necessary response.
Lastly, in an alternative universe — one in which you’re not an actor and comedian, what would be your profession?
TD: A chef. That was the path I was taking before I got into comedy and now I can do it on my own time.
Catch Tommy Davidson in all new episodes of “Vacation Creation” Saturday mornings on ABC.
For Tommy tour dates and events, visit his official website.