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Comedy scene: Steve White maintains humor despite pandemic

Howie Nave
Special to the Tribune
Howie Nave (right) with comedian and actor Steve White.
Provided

In my ongoing series regarding comedians and how they’ve been holding up during COVID-19, literally having their careers stripped away, I have to say that comedian and actor Steve White has definitely made some drastic changes including swapping out coasts.

White loves to joke that he’s not your average black man and I can’t repeat all the reasons why on this platform so you’ll have to hear the unedited chat on my podcast @Howienave.com).

White has one of the biggest smiles and jokes that his teeth are brighter at night then having headlights. He’ll show them off on stage during his act. He also likes to refer to himself as a black Jew or a ‘Bew.’

White is one of those comics I can talk to about anything and I mean anything. His A.D.D. is on par with mine. When we were talking about what’s been happening ‘out there’ he blurted out, “Oh, I’ll sometimes turn on CNN which stands for Constant Negative News. And I love how everything is, ‘Breaking News!’ Everything can’t be ‘Breaking News’ CNN!”

When I brought up the racial tension going on again he blurted out, “I know you’ve had some slaves, Howie!” He’s very good at defusing the heavy stuff and yeah, it was therapeutic for both of us just catching up on the phone chatting for over an hour.

White has appeared in five Spike Lee films including: “Do the Right Thing,” “Clockers,” “Get on the Bus,” “Mo’ Better Blues” and “Malcolm X” (where he also served as Spike‘s director trainee).

Other films include his first, “Coming to America” in which home-town buddy Eddie Murphy gave him his first break. White was also in “Harlem Nights,” “Ford Fairlane,” “Other People’s Money” and “Open Season.”

He won Best Actor in a Feature Film at the 2003 American Black Film Festival for his portrayal of ‘Michael’ in the independent feature flick, “Skin Deep.” When it comes to the small screen, white was the first African American announcer on the long running game show, “The Price is Right with Drew Carey,” had a guest hosting spot on the legendary, “Soul Train,” appeared on “Oprah Winfrey Show” and did numerous stand-up shows on Comedy Central, “Def Comedy Jam,” “An Evening at the Improv,” “Comic Strip Live,” “Showtime at the Apollo,” NBC‘s “Late Friday,” “MTV‘s Half Hour Comedy Hour” and “The Arsenio Hall Show.”

And if that wasn’t enough he also covered the NHL and MLB for Comedy Central and had guest appearances on “The Jamie Fox Show,” “Phil of the Future,” “Living Single” with recurring spots on “Hanging with Mr. Cooper.”

When I called White, he had already relocated to Florida to help out his mom and to get out of the heavily congested area that is Los Angeles.

“It’s paralyzing. I find myself not being able to move sometimes and then filling tasks like vacuuming” he said. “In fact, I was just vacuuming my mom’s place when you called me. Mom’s my new roommate, Howie. We just bought it. She was up in South Carolina but there’s way too much density up there and since I’m out of a job the family decided well, hey, you’ve got a house down there in Florida, go get mom. My life has changed dramatically in the last three months.”

This was my first time chatting with White in probably over two years. He was working non-stop, developing a new television pilot when he wasn’t performing on stage and it all ended just like that. He’s certainly taking it all in stride through switching coasts but is already seeing the advantages.

“It’s been quite the change with $5 gas in LA, everything being so crowded, all that traffic and everything’s more expensive. Healthcare, insurance, all that. You get a 25% raise just moving out of the state. You don’t even have to make more money. Just move out of the state.”

When I mentioned to him that I’d never been to the Sunshine State he was shocked.

“What? But, you’re a fellow Jew. This is where they all go eventually (laughs). It’s so different, Howie. When I registered my car down here the lady at the DMV goes, ‘I’m so sorry we’ve got a 10 minute wait.’ In LA if I’m at the DMV they’ll say, ‘We’ll catch you next Black History Month.”

White called Las Vegas home for awhile and wouldn’t you know it, he too had a morning radio show. A couple of GMs ago we pulled a stunt where we both put each other ‘live’ on our perspective morning radio shows, mine being ‘Howie’s Morning Rush’ here on KRLT in South Lake Tahoe and his show, ‘The Morning Jump-off” on Wild 102 in Las Vegas.

After giving the weather for both our parts of the state we decided it would be fun to give away tickets for shows happening both up here in Tahoe as well as Vegas. We took callers from his neck of the woods who were planning a trip up to Tahoe and I gave them some comedy tickets and then Steve in turn gave me some pretty cool show tickets for my listeners up here in Tahoe that called in to my show who were planning a trip to Vegas. It was a hoot even though we both got called into our GMs’ offices after our shift.

I asked Steve what he was doing when everything came to a screeching halt.

“I was performing on a cruise ship. A Royal Caribbean ship. I remember right when I got home they shut down the industry that day.”

I asked him if he thought he might perform on a cruise ship again or will it take some time for folks to feel comfortable?

“Howie, who’s going to wanna go back on a cruise ship and if so who are these passengers? Man, I just can’t wait to get on a cruise with 3,000 other people and do the same stuff that started this. I’m gonna go from my room, hazmat suit, microphone on stage and back to the cabin. That’s going to be my circuit.”

It was funny hearing Steve vacuuming at his mom’s place in Florida in-between chatting and taking breaks to sit down and talk. I asked what kind of projects, if any he’s been doing since sheltered in place.

“I’m writing some stuff. I wanna do stand up. It’s like when I said this thing is paralyzing. Right now I’m just thinking about how I can get up and down these stairs and not falling, not having to go to a hospital, not over-dosing her (his mom) because I’m doing her pill box (laughs). I just wanna have a couple of days at my house so I can clean it and get organized, work on this filing thing and write a pilot. I can’t believe three months have gone by and I haven’t done anything, Howie. When life gives you corona you hang out with your momma.”


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