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Michael Colyar is as exuberant and positive as they come. The 63-year-old actor, comedian and author began acting professionally after serving in the military, while waiting tables, going to college and raising his son as a single dad. He did street performances in Chicago on State Street to make ends meet and, in 1986, Colyar made his way to Venice Beach to do street performances there. That was when casting directors discovered his talent. Soon, Colyar became known as the King of Venice Beach and the movie roles, including “Blackish,” “House Party III,” “Norbit” and “The Princess and the Frog” came in, one after another. We spoke with the star about his career, quarantine and future projects.
What was the moment when you felt you really “made it” in the entertainment industry?
December of this year. I’ve had a lot of opportunities, and I’ve blown a lot of opportunities because I was an addict for 23 years. As of March, I’ll be 10 years sober. Come December, I’m dropping one of the biggest movie roles I’ve ever done in my life. I’ve been in many movies before, but this is the first time I’m really starring in one.
Who has been your favorite actor or actress to work with and why?
To be there with Martin Lawrence on the set of his TV series “Martin”—I’ve never seen that kind of professionalism on a stage before, especially with a show this driven by Black people. It was phenomenal how excellent everything was about it and how sharp and intelligent he was.
When you won $100,000 on “Star Search,” you donated half your winnings to homeless charities in LA. Why do you feel it’s so important to give back?
I’ve been trying to get that money back ever since… I’m joking! I think it’s super important that we always give back. It’s not just responsibility, it’s an honor to be able to help other people. And we should be doing it; we really are here to serve. Giving the money was easy for me because I’d already been on a path to help homeless people.
Tell us about some of the projects you started during the quarantine.
“Michael Colyar in the Morning” is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. I designed that show starting March 13—I had 47 gigs cancelled in one day. I bring comedians on, we interview people, we’ve had singers perform, a minister came on and sang and told jokes. It’s a one-hour oasis that people can rely on every day to laugh and pray. We do that every morning at 7 a.m. PST on Facebook and YouTube. We do “Michael Colyar’s Superstar Interviews” every Wednesday night on Instagram at 6 p.m. PST. We’ve had Loretta Devine, Michael Jai Williams, Yolanda Adams, Blair Underwood.
Can you tell us any details about your new movie, “Holiday Heartbreak,” coming out this Christmas?
I think it’s going to make people have awhole different vision of me because a lot of people only see me as a comedian. In this film, I have the opportunity to act. It’s a romantic comedy, so it’s kind of serious, but it’s also funny and dramatic. It’ll bring a tear to your eye, it’ll make you feel warm, but at the same time you’re going to laugh a lot. It’s a really beautiful film that we already believe is going to be a holiday classic.
How has the pandemic affected your comedy routine?
I talk about the pandemic, I talk about politics, I talk about where we are as a society and I tell it all with sprinklings of jokes in between the stories that I tell. I do all of that and I connect with my audience, and I never beat them up. When I’m joking with my audience, they walk out of there, not happier, but more empowered, not just because they laughed but because I reminded them how great they are as people.
Q&A by Lauren Kruchten; Edited for length and clarity
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