It has certainly been a while since a national act visited Fort Wayne — or anywhere else for that matter. Left to mostly livestreaming and virtual entertainment experiences, it seemed it might be many more months before someone of national acclaim came to the Summit City.
But that drought has finally ended with a performance by Sinbad at the Clyde Theatre.
Sinbad may not be a name on the tip of your tongue, but he continues to have a solid reputation as a stand-up comedian, one which has helped him maintain his popularity with audiences.
The singularity of the name probably helps because there is really only one Sinbad to fans of TV in the late 1980s and early ’90s. The Redd Foxx Show had Sinbad playing Foxx’s son, but it proved to be no new Sanford & Son and left the air rather quietly and quickly.
But that failed sitcom gave Sinbad the opportunity to appear on a far more well-known and highly watched show, A Different World. On this successful spin-off to The Cosby Show, one of the most popular programs of the decade, Sinbad had a recurring role and found his star rising along the way.
His own family-oriented sitcom followed in 1993, and his stand-up career never waned, balancing out appearances on television and in film.
When he visits The Clyde next week, fans can expect much of the same humor they’ve seen in the past. Outspoken on Twitter about recent social unrest, Sinbad also appeared on Celebrity Apprentice a decade ago, no doubt providing him with plenty of fodder for the current political reality.
No time for jealousy
He concedes that it can be tough to stay afloat in the crowded comedy field, something he noted in a 2018 interview with Revolt.TV.
“Sometimes comics who are not as funny as you are are the ones that Hollywood picks,” he said. “You go, ‘Damn, what?’ You’re out here killing it and they grab this cat, but you can’t be mad. If it had been you, would you be mad? You gotta just keep moving. Like horses when they race, they have on blinders so that they can’t see other horses.”
He also looks out for the overall success of other African American performers in a quote from that same 2018 interview, a statement that seems even more poignant in the wake of the death of Chadwich Boseman last week.
“We were so happy to see black people, black heroes, dark skin, bald heads — I said, ‘Jesus, that was the most eclectic group of Blacks I think we’ll ever see in another movie.’ Now the key is what are you going to do next, because sometimes success almost scares them like, ‘Look man, that almost worked too well, because now we can’t say that it doesn’t work.’”
Sinbad continues to incorporate his family life into his work, something that can be seen and heard in his stand-up routines.
Featured in popular HBO specials like Afros and Bellbottoms and Son of a Preacher Man, he also wrote a book, Sinbad’s Guide to Life, in which he further recounts the hilarity of everyday life and even drops a name or ten along the way.
“My friend Oprah Winfrey, on her TV show, has called me ‘the funniest man on the planet,’” he wrote. “That was kind of embarrassing — but if Oprah wants to think I’m funny, who am I to argue?”
Thanking his influences
Born to a Baptist minister and his wife in Benton Harbor, Mich., Sinbad (born David Adkins) grew up with five siblings, later attending the University of Denver and serving in the United States Air Force.
While all of that might sound rather serious, Sinbad is quick to credit his father with much of his humor — and no doubt a good deal of his material.
“My dad died when I was a grown man and my dad was a funny man. I remember what he said and did and how it was funny,” he said in a 2015 interview with The Press-Enterprise. “Yes, it is a tragedy and it’s hard to find humor in life sometimes, but it’s even harder to find it in death.”
Also in that interview, he shared his comedic influences which are remarkably eclectic and cover many generations of comic genius.
“I knew right then that I wanted to be a comedian,” he said of his dreams as a five-year-old child. “There wasn’t HBO or anything like that. But there were great talents that inspired me. It was people like Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, Flip Wilson, Sid Caesar, and Jonathan Winters. Red Skelton was a huge influence.”
With life still uncertain and cancelations extending into 2021, this is a unique opportunity to see a comic legend at work. One can only imagine what his take on real life is when life no longer seems real.
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