Sampson takes on New York City
Interview with Sampson McCormick
by Michael Peart July 2013
Remember Pooquie & Little Bit from B- Boy Blues? Well, James Earl Hardy's 1994 breakthrough novel about a middle-class black gay professional who finds love with a thug/homeboy, has become a stage play and debuted in New York City, March 2013. Cast in the role of Barry (B.D.) Daniels is DC's own award-winning, openly gay, stand up comedian, writer and activist Sampson McCormick. For this Evergreen, NC native, who's been doing comedy for 11 years, has survived homelessness, child abuse and other adversities, doing this play must be a dream come true.
Now make no mistake, Sampson already has an impressive resume: he's performed at DAR Constitution Hall, The Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, and the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington DC. He's also performed at Harvard, Emerson, and Central Michigan Universities, and most recently he's performed at the White House. He's performed with such notable celebrities as Patti LaBelle, Karen Williams, and RuPaul. Sampson has been featured in many print magazines and newspaper, in addition to being featured on MTV, BET, VH1, and the OWN Network. He's authored two books and has released several comedy CDs. He's also found time to testified before the D.C. City Council about hate crimes and promote community dialogue in town hall events.
Whew! When does he find time to breathe.
I connected with this hard working young man and we talked about the play, his comedic journey, and life in general:
ME: First off let me ask you, with all that you do... aren't you tired? LOL! Where do you find the energy to do all the things you do?
SM: (laughs) I do get tired, all the time! I feel it all in my feet and bones. I walk slow sometimes, and say silly things, may even walk into a wall from time to time, but I have work to do, okay? And as long as my face don't drop I'm fine. If my face starts sagging, or I get bags, then we're gonna go take a nap!
ME: When was the last time you went on vacation?
SM: I can't tell you. What I do now, is since I usually get to cities a day before I perform there, if it's a nice hotel, I will go sit in the sauna, or jacuzzi and get in the pool, or just go hang around town. Then I'll come back, get in bed and snack and watch TV. I turn alot of the trips into working vacations. But a vacation? Please!
ME: Ok, let's jump right into it. How did you get involved with the B- Boy Blues play and what was the audition like?
SM: Well, B- Boy Blues was one of the first gay books that I ever got. Like many of us, I was hiding that sucker under my mattress so my mother wouldn't find it, so I knew about it and loved the book. I just decided to go up [to NYC] and audition on a whim. I didn't think I would get the role; especially, when I saw all those pretty young things up in there, with those muscles and dreadlocks and all that. I looked at them, and was like, well. (laughs) But I went in there, and did my best, and I am cute too now. I just don't look like I can flip a car over with all those big muscles and whatnot, but I'm cute too. (laughs) And I left it in there, and about a week later, the author [James Earl Hardy] called and told me I fit the role like a glove. I screamed, I know he was like "What in the hell?"
ME: Tell us about your character and how did you prepare for this role?
SM: Well, the character is just "one of the kids". Likes to keep things going and lighthearted. He is silly, but also very genuine and knows what to say at the right time. He's an unassuming, sweetheart who is just a taaaaad bit dense. (knods head) I prepared for the role by reading the script, rehearsing it and identifying with those qualities that I have, and looking at others that display them, and seeing how they do it.
ME: Did you feel intimidated by the other cast members?
SM: Mmm, not really. At first, kind of. Because this is New York. So, I was like what if they're some Broadway actors who could run circles around me as an actor? (laughs) I can act, but first and foremost, I do comedy. I was like "Lord! Let me do it right!" But I'm not as rusty as I thought and the cast is actually very compatible. We all get along really well, and it's visible, on and off stage.
ME: Is James Earl Hardy involved in the behind the scenes aspect of the play?
SM: Very much so. It's his baby! So, you know he is.
ME: How's your interaction with him?
SM: Really good. He kinda just looks and sees it and is like "that's good" or "work on this", but for the most part, he likes what I do. Otherwise, we just spend the rest of the time, laughing at dumb stuff. He's goofy, I'm goofy. It's always something we're sniggling at.
ME: B- Boy Blues was first released in 1994 and you were 9 years old. Did you have any challenges connecting with the book? Did it feel dated?
SM: Not at all. I related. I was looking for something or somebody like me to relate to. And when I read it first, I was probably in middle school. So, sneaking and reading it, I was like "Wow! They're like me, except for Ooooooh, they're having sex!" and I'd slide the book back under the mattress and start giggling. I was so silly, I laughed, alot. And I had trigger words like "breasts" or "penis" or especially "balls" or "titties" and I would LOSE IT! So, it took me a while to get through it, but I related to and appreciated it.
ME: The play opens in NYC. What other cities can we expect to see this play?
SM: Yes. It opens in NYC. That's where it begins. I've heard alot of cities like DC, Chicago, Atlanta, LA, Cleveland, Boston and Detroit thrown around. Don't quote me, though. I'm not sure yet where it will end up next.
ME: What does being in this play mean to you personally?
SM: It means alot. First, before Noah's Arc, or DL Chronicles, or any other show or story about black gay men, in the 90's or beyond, there was B- Boy Blues. So, first, it's legendary. It's official shit, it's the real deal, and I can't eff that up. It means, alot.
ME: Why should we see this play?
SM: Everyone should see it because it's a black, gay love story at it's best! It's authentic, it's real, relateable. It's amazing. And I think that we as a community should support good theater that tells our stories, especially when it's written by us, any opportunity that we get. The visibility in theater, television, media, etc. it's all important. Very priceless.
ME: Is this the next chapter for Sampson, acting?
SM: No, sir. I just dabble in things, every now and again. But, comedy will always be my first true love. I'll be staying in that lane, for the MOST PART.
ME: So let's talk about Sampson-- How did you come to do comedy?
SM: Cracking jokes in class and during choir rehearsal at church- See, at first, I wanted to be a singer. And, I think that I can carry a tune. But in the black church you can't just be able to "carry a tune"; especially doing solos, you have to be able to "SANG" and carry on, and I just found that I was much better at cracking jokes than I was at hitting notes and sanging. Me, getting kicked out of the choir, didn't help much either. That just straight up turned me into a heathen! But growing up being a clown eventually led to me doing comedy and it stuck. I feel like it's what I am suppose to be doing.
ME: Your stand-up comes from real life situations. When things are happening or you are in a situation do you consciously think to yourself this will make a good routine?
SM: No. Sometimes I sit down with the intention of tackling certain things in a show, but alot of the material naturally comes to me, and that's the best stuff. Those are the things that make it so much better because it's organic and my point of view.
ME: Have you ever worked on a routine then thought it wasn't funny and decided not to include it in your show?
SM: Oh, yeah. And sometimes it's like cooking, you have to leave it in the oven a little longer. Some of my best stuff has taken two years to write or perfect. But, I use to do lots of shows with drag queens and they taught me how to whip a crowd together, improvise, and shut hecklers down. So, all of that comes in handy. I've found a way to apply all of that to my comedy and it helps.
ME: How did you evolve into being an activist?
SM: It just happened. I was angry, I was bitter, and needed another platform to express that anger. I'm glad that I did express my anger because some of that shit that I said at rallies and in speeches wasn't funny. It suited the moment and I'm glad we got all the anger out, before it was time to make funny. (laughs)
ME: As an activist what are you most passionate about?
SM: LGBT Youth Homelessness, Poverty, Poor Education, Hate Crimes, HIV/AIDS, and Homophobia, ESPECIALLY in the black church. Ugh!
ME: What was it like growing up being you? Were you a hand-full?
SM: Now... what kind of question is that?! (giggling) I was off in my own world. I don't know where to start or end. But I know I was always funny. I didn't know then, but I have always been able to make people laugh. I was creative, hyper and inquisitive. I don't think I was a bad child, just always getting into things. And that is why I would get put in the corner and grounded; never for being violent or anything, but crazy things, like putting baby dolls in the microwave, or I tried to give the guinea pig swimming lessons in the fish tank. The guinea pig wasn't too thrilled about it, and neither was my mom. Just crazy stuff.
ME: What's your relationship like with your family?
SM: It's not bad. I don't get to see them much, but we're cool. When we do see each other we make up for the lost time. And they know I'm gay, and its not a problem. That makes it even better.
ME: I'm going to throw out some phrases and I want you to give me your first thoughts:
Same gender Loving-- "Boogwah" Black Gays (laughs)
Black churches and homosexuality--denial
Black churches and HIV/AIDS--shame
You called yourself a "guerrilla fighter for gay rights--Sometimes you have to take what you want.
President Barrack Obama--Fine as hell (looks around: Did Michelle hear that?) Ok, good. And great ally.
ME: You performed at the White House, how did that come about and what was that like?
SM: Well, the performance is coming up, but I have been twice and spoke both times, and both times were pretty funny. But I wouldn't call those performances. And the first time was for dinner with Vice President Biden. I've been invited because of my work which surprised me. I didn't think it was important but you will be amazed at how, just doing what you are suppose to do, will get people's attention, and appreciation.
ME: Did you get to shake the hands of the President and Michelle Obama?
SM: No. I hope to though. Bo was the closest I got to an Obama.
ME: After performing at the White House, do you feel like you have finally arrived?
SM: No. It's just another gig or event. I don't get too wrapped up in it. You just have to keep doing what you love and striving for excellence.
ME: Who is Sampson 20 years from now?
SM: Traveling and turning it! Performing, lecturing, writing, producing and being effective.
ME: How do you want to be remembered?
SM: As someone who brought lots of laughter and smiles to faces, was of love and power.
Sampson is 27 and born in Evergreen, NC. He enjoys comedy, cooking, traveling, reading, scary movies, writing, shopping, dancing, learning, joy rides, rainy days with Jazz Music, good cable tv, being outside, looking, fly, and socializing around the town. Sampson is very happy.
B- Boy Blues opening night: March 16, 2013
Tour and Run Dates: TBA
Play website: There isn't a website. But keep posted on SampsonComedy.com the information will definitely be on there.