Steven Lolli: Confessions of an “Urban Jew”
Steven Lolli isn’t afraid to share his opinions. The graduate of Gaither High School (who now lives in Los Angeles) makes a living sharing them on stage with no filter and a general disdain for what he sees as an unproductive status quo in comedy.
Those opinions have probably offended a few people, but it also made him a hit in predominantly black comedy clubs. It also got him noticed by Katt Williams, who promptly hired him as a writer and helped come up with his moniker, “Urban Jew.”
Lolli headlines the Carrollwood Cultural Center on Saturday, and we asked him about his time in Tampa and what people can expect at his stand-up show.
THE JEW PAGE
My first real experience with Jewish comedy -outside of my insane family- was Mel Brooks’ movies when I was a kid. Then the pace of the Neil Simon play when I started acting. I learned it was part of me which escalated even more quickly after seeing Woody Allen’s Annie Hall when I was 18 or 19. And then, of course, Lenny Bruce shortly after that. This was in the 80’s & early 90’s that most of this happened. I did not really need Seinfeld or Howard Stern or anything happening at the time to emulate.
Most of this page, however, is devoted to my time in South Central Los Angeles Underground as I never really talked about being Jewish onstage until I started playing those Black clubs somewhere around March of 2002.
Mixed Nuts on Washington/Crenshaw became my regular club and I found my way around the rest of the hood joints due to the friends I made there.
That could be a rough room. It took me a couple of years just to get booked on the weekends.
It wasn’t until around 2004 that I was even a weekend regular.
This was the poster for a the first time I headlined the club in 2006.
I didn’t have any professional photographs of myself at that time.
The picture was taken from atop Baldwin Overlook by Dustin Engelskind.
EVERYBODY JUST RELAX
Goofin around @ another Black club -LA
Getting ready for HIGH CLASS POVERTY tour
THE FAMILY ROOM
Just before a show at the Family Room near Compton 2005(I think).
Maybe I had smoked too much that night.
BECOMING A STAR
Today I had a pitch-meeting with the head of development at ICM. That sounds amazing, doesn’t it? What I mean to say is… the head of development at ICM gave a pitch contest workshop at Raleigh Studios for 25 dollars a head. Sue was always bringing me to these kinds of events and I must admit, it was entertaining unless you were on the receiving end..and I began to know that my time was near TO PITCH A STORY IN FRONT OF THE ENTIRE GROUP…The ICM guy was intelligent, quick witted, and entertaining. However, after sitting in one spot for several hours watching him, it became very obvious he was just abuse the hopefuls who today is gonna be their big break…
I had a revelatory idea then, and I mean right then. This guy was enjoying abusing these wackos to such an extent, he decided to stay an extra hour. The more he abused them, the harder they raised their hands to be picked for their chance to prove themselves to him. What began as amusement was beginning to make me ill…When we arrived at the 3 hour, 30 min mark this guy actually started getting nicer to these poor bastards. Either, because he saw me grinning and laughing out of context, as my mad ideas manifested themselves and gave birth to new ones perhaps he started to get nervous. Or the one that is probably closer to the truth, his coke buzz started wearing off and he didn’t have the energy to keep ripping..I tried to tell Sue my ideas but she told me to shut up..so I waited..until everyone had a turn and then I got up in front of the entire group of 400 people and pitched this last:
An arrogant, early 40s, workaholic, Talent agent whose career is on the rise..when he’s not at work, he spends his weekends attending writing workshops where gets off on abusing the aspiring suckers who will pay to be humiliated….But it didn’t start out this way…he initially wanted to help new talent, but eventually his power made him sadistic, just like failure can make you hate yourself if you endure enough…and this cocksucker was fortunate to become the former.
One day, he’s walking down the street and he’s struck by lightning!!! But he survives it!!! He can’t walk, talk, or remember who he is..and as he ends up lying bedridden in the hospital and as the fragmented pieces of his life slowly begin to sift back to him the only way he can express them is to write them down. The only way he can organize these thoughts is with the help of a very special male nurse. Who, as he nurses this agent back to health confides in him that he hates his job and his real passion is storytelling and writing movies. This is why he enjoys working with our newly retarded agent, because it’s helping him retrace the story of his life. Once retard agent is back on his feet, the nurse encourages him to come along to a writing event, suggesting it might help him. It is a pitch meeting, only the nurse doesn’t go to the pitch meetings to tell stories. He goes to disguise his identity and verbally abuse the cocksucker who’s putting on the meeting. Retard agent gets a kick out of this, male nurse is his hero…
…Soon, retard agent is able to get up and around all on his own, he still speaks broken but he remembers he is straight.
One day, he is grocery shopping and all of the sudden he is discovered by a studio executive who wants to make him a star..the exec tells him “You’re retarded, and you’re Jewish..I could make you the next Adam Sandler!!!” Soon retard agent’s life comes to an impasse and he has to choose between his loyalty to a male nurse and the chance to drool and mumble on the big screen…But what he doesn’t realize is that he’s no longer on earth, he’s sitting in judgment. The nurse is God and the studio exec is Satan. Of course, he chooses God. Just then he is thrust back to earth, restored to his former self entirely to live out the rest of his days in perfect health with a completely perfect memory..there’s only one catch…
He has to start from scratch, back in the fucking mail room!!!!!!!!!!!
It’s Ari Gold from Entourage meets Regarding Henry by way of Defending your Life…
the movie’s called PITCH CRASHERS
THE JIM CARREYS
Me at Old Mixed Nuts Comedy Club – LA. Washington and Crenshaw.
Baggin on Jim Carrey & all the other 90’s clone clown tent retards who fall on the prize.
RICOCHET AND MICHAEL WILLIAMS
After a show in LA.
Left is Michael Williams -Owner of the legendary COMEDY ACT THEATER in Liemert Park-
Right is Reginald “Ricochet” Ricks – Proprietor of “Katthouse Live” at The Hollywood Park Casino.
The visionary men who gave stages to Robin Harris and Katt Williams. The two greatest comedians to come out of the Los Angeles comedy Underground.
KATT WILLIAMS 9 LIVES
with Luenell & Ricochet & I
BAY AREA BLACK COMEDY FEST
Getting a little excited on stage in Oakland
Back in the day
ME AND KATT
-the night he asked me to be a writer. May 2007
I am guessing this is in 2003 or 2004.
This show was produced by Ricochet Entertainment Group.
This is where I first met Ricochet. I don’t remember why the show was filmed or who filmed it.
I was pretty broke at this time and talking about it.
I was born in Chicago but my family moved us to the south when we were still very young.
Subsequently, I didn’t grow up around a lot of other Jewish people and the number of kids who were Jewish at my school were in the ballpark 3-5 each year depending on the school and the specific area it was located. For some reason, we were at a different middle school every year from 6th grade through freshman year of high school. So I grew up with a few Black kids, many more Puerto Ricans and Cubans, and a sampling of poor white backwards motherfuckers. And don’t think by the way I describe that last sentence that we were all living in harmony. However, nobody shot anybody at school in those days. Not that we didn’t fantasize about it.
Our Synagogue was about over an hour drive all the way on the other side of town, past all the strip malls, gas stations and apartment subdivisions. I hated going. It wasn’t bad enough that we had to be in that shitty school all week, now they had on top of it the genius idea of keeping us caged up on one of the two remaining days of the week. What a bunch of bright adults. And to make matters worse, my mother dressed me up like a fucking banker in a sweater, slacks and goddam penny loafers every sunday until I was at the age where I was had become old enough to voice my irritation.
These are not major life problems but I remember it being a pain in the ass.
Sunday school was broken up into two classes. Judaic Studies and Hebrew.
Judaic studies was comprised of two things every year: Old testament and the Holocaust
Every year. Same thing. Over and over. I was pretty good in that class.
Hebrew, on the other hand, I was not very good at. Each year the lessons got more aggressive in order to prepare us for our bar mitzvahs. The girls were very good. The boys were more interested in talking sports. In all the years I attended hebrew school, I hardly learned to read the shit. I knew wasn’t very good and that was kind of embarrassing.
Eventually, they paired us each off with an individual Hebrew tutor as the Bar Mitzvah year neared.
The lady was a soulful Isreali but she could not do much to help me learn. I remember the day she gave me the cassette tape. She had recorded all the Hebrew herself on it. I would take that thing home and fall asleep listening to it in my room. The something miraculous began happening.
I was rapidly learning to read my prayers in Hebrew. No, I was learning to memorize the sounds.
Eventually, I could recite the Hebrew without the any text in front of me.