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INTERVIEW: Rickey Smiley joins Martin Lawrence’s LIT AF Tour (State Farm, March 7) and loves it

Rickey Smiley will be at the Funny Bone at Liberty Center on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 24-25. CONTRIBUTED
Rickey Smiley will be at the Funny Bone at Liberty Center on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 24-25. CONTRIBUTED

Smiley is also adjusting to his revamped morning show

Originally posted Friday, March 6, 2020 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Rickey Smiley has done his fair share of package comedy tours over the years with his name in lights. In fact, he has one scheduled at Cobb Energy Centre this fall.

But when legendary sitcom and movie star Martin Lawrence asked him to join some of his arena tour dates, Smiley did not hesitate. (He will be at State Farm Arena Saturday March 7 with tickets sold here.)

“This Martin Lawrence tour is the biggest one I’ve ever done,” said Smiley, who has been doing stand up for three-plus decades. “He’s an icon. I couldn’t pass up a chance to work with someone like that doing what we love to do. The production values. The association. The professionalism. It’s all there!”

Lawrence is the host. He'll do 10 to 15 minutes of comedy up front. Then he'll introduce an array of comics at State Farm including Smiley, DeRay Davis, B. Simone, Donnelll Rawlings and Benji Brown and throw more jokes in between. (The comics vary depending on the date and location.)

Smiley just loves being around Lawrence.

“We went to a haunted house in Pittsburgh,” Smiley said. “We’ve just gotten to hang out, eating dinner after the show, just spending time backstage. I love watching Martin Lawrence walking to the stage, the look on his face when he’s introducing you. The approval. That’s something special!”

For several years Smiley hosted his syndicated morning radio show in Atlanta and split time between this city and his hometown of Birmingham. So he said he plans to go up on stage at State Farm Arena, make local jokes and goof around for 20 to 25 minutes. For a man used to headlining, it should be a breeze. Then again, it’s actually a challenge because he said he’s used to doing an hour or more.

Smiley regularly hosts his own "friends" tour to help pay it forward by providing exposure to younger comics. In the past, he's helped folks ranging from Deon Cole, Corey Holcomb and Lil Rel Howery.

“I take pride in mentoring them, teaching them and giving them advice,” he said.

As the replacement for retired Tom Joyner on dozens of R&B stations since the beginning of the year, Smiley said he's adjusting well. Many of his core staff remain on the show including Da Brat and Gary With Da Tea. He also added "Real Housewives" star Eva Marcille, who is new to radio.

"She's awesome," Smiley said. "We absolutely love her. She's teachable and coachable."
His biggest loss was Headkrack, who has started his own syndicated show out of Atlanta but is not yet available on an Atlanta radio station. (Smiley remains on R&B/hip-hop station Hot 107.9 in Atlanta.)

“We love and miss Headkrack,” Smiley said. “We talk every day on Facebook. I”m really proud of him.”

Smiley is aware that change is hard for listeners and he hopes he’s winning over Joyner fans with each passing day.

“People get mad and complain,” Smiley said. “You laugh too loud. You don’t laugh enough. I don’t like that song. It’s a very small percentage on the most part. People have come over and have really thoroughly enjoyed the show and gave us a chance. We appreciate people like that.”

Smiley’s TV exposure is down. He is no longer doing syndicated gossip show “Dish Nation” regularly. And after six seasons on TV One, Smiley’s reality show “Rickey Smiley For Real” has ended. It was a family-oriented show focused on his single dad parenting.

“All my kids went off to college,” Smiley said. “There’s nothing more to shoot. I have three kids and I’m now an empty nester. They come back at different times so I get more one-on-one time with each one.”

Smiley said moving to Dallas hasn’t been such a big adjustment because he already travels so much and works hard to get back to hometown Birmingham when he can. “The U.S. has become one big city to me,” he said.

His favorite place in Atlanta was Lake Lanier, where he would listen to 97.1/The River on his 38-foot boat. He admits missing that. Now he’s transferred that peaceful weekend time to Lewisville Lake north of Dallas.

IF YOU GO

Lit AF Tour with Martin Lawrence and Friends

7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 7

$55-$125

State Farm Arena

ExploreTickets available here

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