New Jersey Monthly: Here we are at NJPAC in your hometown of Newark, and you’re about to hit the stage as headliner of the Valentine’s Day All-Star Comedy Jam. How does it feel to be home?
Bill Bellamy: Man, it’s exciting. I’ve got that home-court advantage. My phone has been ringing all week—my parents, my cousins, my uncles, my friends, people I went to school with at Seton Hall Prep and Rutgers. Everybody’s here tonight. There’s some fellow comedians, people I came up with.
NJM: How does a kid from Newark get into comedy?
BB: I used to host my own night at the Peppermint back in the day. That’s where I started out.
NJM: Right, the Peppermint Lounge in East Orange. Tell us about those days.
BB: It was actually a music complex, but it became famous for comedy. As I was exploding on television I was still performing there. I was bringing people in from Philly, from Chicago, from all over the place. We had Mike Epps, Dave Chappelle, Steve Harvey, Chris Rock. Everybody was performing together. This was the mid-’90s. I had started at MTV in ’92, and as I was getting bigger on MTV, the club got bigger. It was this nice little marriage.
NJM: How long has it been since you’ve been back in New Jersey?
BB: It’s been two years since I last performed here, at NJPAC. It’s been a minute. So I knew it was going to be crazy tonight.
NJM: Have you had a chance to catch up with your family?
BB: I got in yesterday after a whirlwind of four nights doing shows from Milwaukee to Fayetteville, North Carolina. So yeah, I had a chance to go home and catch up with my mom and dad here in Newark. I’ll do some more of that tomorrow.
NJM: Tell us about your new romantic comedy, The Bounce Back.
BB: It’s a fun ride. I play [star] Shemar Moore’s best friend—he’s an author who’s promoting a relationship book, but he’s still heartbroken over his last relationship.
NJM: I understand you also have a big role in the upcoming Kindergarten Cop 2.
BB: I’m playing an FBI agent. I’m partners with Dolph Lundgren, and we’re the two agents and the main focus of the movie. I get to kick booty in it. It’s going to remind you a little bit of 48 Hours. Like, he’s the older cop who’s stiff and stuck in his ways, and I’m the guy who’s like, Nah, we can do it another way. We have this conflict but it’s kind of funny. That comes out this year, too.
NJM: You turned 50 last year, but you can still play the young guy. That’s pretty cool.
BB: Well, black don’t crack. I’ve got no fillers, no Botox. It’s just warm baths and cocoa butter that keep me young. You should print that. That’s a health tip.
NJM: What are you going to do tonight to get people laughing?
BB: I’m going to bring it, don’t worry. It’s going to be in HD—people are going to be like, Oh, shit, Bill’s back. Because when I come here, it’s like LeBron going back to Cleveland. It’s his city, and it’s a home game. So not only does he have to play well, he has to win the game. I’m going hard.
NJM: Speaking of basketball, is it true you and Shaquille O’Neal are cousins?
BB: Yeah, I saw him two nights ago, and we were cracking up. He’s got this Comedy All-Star Tour, and sometimes I just show up. With him, when we’re together, it’s just like boom, boom, boom. Everything’s funny.
NJM: Besides hanging out with Shaq, what’s making you laugh lately?
BB: Donald Trump. He’s hilarious.