ARNEZ J

Diverging from the hard-edged raunchy and streetwise observational styles of other contemporary African-American comedians, Arnez J offers comic routines reminiscent of an earlier era of comedy. His improvisational comic style is primarily physical, with a strong reliance on impressions and exaggerations of familiar personalities. “J is a whirling dervish on stage—he runs, jumps, spins, slides, slips, and mugs through a performance, acting out many of his bits while describing them,” wrote Doug Kaufman in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Finding a more comfortable niche on programs like Black Entertainment Television’s Comic View and becoming a finalist in the 1992 Bay Area Black Comedy Competition, Arnez J began to appeal more and more to racially mixed audiences. One factor in his broad-based appeal was his avoidance of profanity in his shows, which attracted family-oriented fans of all races. “I’m not going to sell myself short by [cursing], because No. 1, I have a son. I’m just not going to do that. And No. 2, I don’t curse in my daily life, why would I do it on stage? Then I’m contradicting myself.”

In 1995, Arnez J got a chance to combine his ambitions as an athlete and performer: he was recruited by scouts for the famed Harlem Globetrotters basketball team. In 1996 he joined the team, but three months later a knee injury ended his Globetrotters career. “Apparently I’m meant to make a living as a comedian, which is fine.” In the late 1990s, Arnez J became a familiar face on the comedy circuit and landed plum television spots on Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam A&E’s An Evening at the Improv, and Comedy Central’s Make Me Laugh, among other shows. After a half-hour solo special on BET, Arnez J became the host of Comic View in 2002.

As his career developed, Arnez J branched out into new activities. He toured with actor Billy Dee Williams in a play called The Maintenance Man, playing a nightclub owner, and he performed as an opening act for the Artist Formerly Known as Prince. Arnez J moved to Los Angeles, and indeed film seemed to offer the best new potential avenue for his talents. He starred in the independent film Up Against the 8-Ball, and hoped to make more movies.

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