One way or another, Red Grant is ready to hit the slopes.
The Washington, D.C.-born, California-based comedian has never skied, snowboarded or been snow tubing. But after he headlines the Funny “R” Us comedy show on Friday, Jan. 30, at the Crowne Plaza Resort Expo Center — part of the annual Winter Xscape (see sidebar) — the weekend’s action shifts to Mars Hill’s Wolf Ridge Ski Resort. “I’m down with anything new,” Grant says. “I might just slide down the hill on my coat like I used to do when I was a kid.”
The show (also featuring Terrell “Angry Bird” Marrow and Brian “Da Wildcat” Smith) is curated by Asheville promoter Joe Greene. He previously worked with Winter Xscape organizer TLS World Travel in helping book comedians for its annual Memorial Day Getaway trip. When the travel agency’s owner and operator Tony Stanford selected Greene’s home base for the 2015 Winter Xscape, he asked Greene to arrange the event’s first comedy show. In turn, Greene hired Grant — the biggest name that Greene’s KJG Enterprises has brought to Asheville in eight years of organizing local comedy shows.
A veteran of HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam,” Grant is prominently featured in comedian Katt Williams’ 2007 film American Hustle, his own hour-long Showtime special “Caught Red Handed” and the half-hour special “Comedy Central Presents: Red Grant.” He credits his family with playing a big part in his recent material and says that they serve as his inspiration to become funnier. In addition, Grant notes that his life experiences with a range of superstars have made his jokes interesting, all of which he feels make his content well-suited to an event like Winter Xscape. “I don’t have to change it up. People like it raw and in their face,” Grant says. “I’m the best at what I do, and I have to prove that to my fans at the Winter Xscape.”
For Greene, seeing a roomful of people busting a gut after a funny line holds great significance. The vision for KJG Enterprises is to promote diversity through laughter, and in that context, Greene defines “diversity” as “seeing whites and blacks laugh together.”
“They come to a mutual place and have a good time together,” he says. “You don’t see that much around here, so that’s my kind of show.” Greene focuses on laughter as a point of connection because people “don’t have to worry about their problems and can release some of that stress.” At the parties that immediately follow his comedy shows, Greene notices “a good vibe in the room” and regularly sees people bond over their shared interest in humor as they mingle and network.
For the Funny “R” Us show, that goodwill extents to the community as a portion of the proceeds from the event benefit the local nonprofit My Daddy Taught Me That. Greene is the right-hand man of the program’s founder, social worker Kenyon Lake. They work to steer young men and women — many of whom live in public housing — in the right direction. Through a range of group sessions and hands-on activities, mentors focus on good decision-making, accepting responsibility and being accountable for one’s actions. “We’ve lived it, now it’s time to give back,” says Greene, who spent his childhood in the Klondyke public housing complex before moving to West Asheville and later attending the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro. “We wouldn’t be in the position we’re in if someone didn’t help us out.”
For Christmas, a sizable donation to My Daddy Taught Me That provided 20 of the program’s young men $300 each to go shopping, an opportunity Greene calls “a blessing.” On Jan. 24, Lake and Greene took the group to the annual Battle of the Bands at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, where they watched 38 marching bands from historically black colleges and universities compete. While fun, the trip also served as a way to introduce the youths to the college environment and get them thinking about applying to an institute of higher learning down the line — the latest in a string of progressive efforts that Greene’s most recent headliner applauds.
“Greene’s nonprofit is much needed in every community,” Grant says. “A lot of our youth fall short because they don’t have anyone to show them how to do better. Anyone who is helping young males become better men deserves high praise, so I take my hat off to Mr. Joe Greene.”
WHAT: Funny “R” Us comedy show, featuring Red Grant, Terrell D. Marrow and Brian Smith
WHERE: Crowne Plaza Resort, ashevillecp.com
WHEN: Friday, Jan. 30, at 9:30 p.m. $25. Purchase tickets at asheville411.com or mydaddytaughtmethat.com