Sherrod Small is a regular on VH1’s Best Week Ever, on which he does the occasional singalong with John Mayer. He’s appeared on FOX News, Comedy Central’s Premium Blend and HBO’s The Chris Rock Show. He also performs frequently at Comic Strip Live and Comedy Cellar. Below, he discusses getting heckled by his grandmother.
Are you a native New Yorker?
Sherrod Small: Native New Yorker. I’m from Brooklyn, but live in Manhattan.
How long have you been performing?
SS: Ten years. I got my start doing open-mic shows, performing at Henrietta Hudson—a lesbian bar down in the Village—a grocery store on Seventh Avenue and then a Laundromat on Seventh Avenue. We called that show Spin Cycle [Comedy]—it was just a regular Laundromat with a mic where we did shows.
Was it a struggle to gain notoriety as a comedian?
SS: It was a long haul, but it was worth the trip.
Now you live in a pretty nice area of Midtown.
SS: I sell narcotics, too, just in case the jokes don’t flourish.
What kind of narcotics?
SS: All of them. The best. That’s a joke, of course, Government. Don’t try to tax me on that.
Do you feel like you made it?
SS: I feel like I made it. When I first got paid for comedy—the first $5 I made—I felt like I made it.
And you don’t have a day job?
SS: No, this is it. I’m not like an orthodontist or something during the day.
What can people expect from your show?
SS: Everything! Life, liberty and justice. I talk about politics, growing up, pop culture, everything. I interact with the crowd.
Do you have a favorite comedy club?
SS: Comic Strip Live. I started here, so it holds a special place in my heart. But I perform everywhere: Comedy Cellar, Stand-Up New York, Comix, Gotham, New York Comedy Club, Carolines. I do about 15 shows a week when I’m in the City.
Have you ever completely bombed?
SS: Oh, yes. It was late, and the mic wasn’t working. I had to go Othello on them. It was brutal.
What did you do to bring the crowd around?
SS: There was no getting the crowd around, and I couldn’t blame them. The jokes I was using back then [shakes his head]—you can’t talk about hummus for two hours and think people are gonna laugh.
Have you ever been booed before?
SS: I’ve been booed. Usually from family. That’s why I don’t invite family to the show. They’re like, "Boo, we heard this before! Third grade!" That’s my grandmother.
Do you yell back at them?
SS: I destroy hecklers, even if it’s family. You can show no mercy. [Pauses] No, actually, I’m pretty easy on my crowd, because I need them.
Are New York audiences different from audiences in other cities?
SS: Yes. Chicago’s great, DC’s great, San Francisco, LA. But New York’s a different crowd. It’s just way more in your face. They know more, and you can get away with more.