We are back with another ChaChaChats and this week we are featuring the incredibly funny comedian/entrepreneur, Ben Rhinesmith! Enjoy!
TCB: Welcome to The ChaCha Blog Ben! Thank you for joining us. Do you mind telling everyone about yourself?
BR: What’s up! For the TCB audience, my name is Ben Rhinesmith aka Benny Blue — entrepreneur and business owner by day, stand-up comedian and podcaster by night.
TCB: How did you first get your start in comedy? What led you in that direction?
BR: Starting comedy happened with one of my best friend’s giving me a deadline to get up on stage by his birthday (Sept. 22nd). For a year prior to actually grabbing the mic, I was constantly watching stand-up specials and interviews on my favorite comics, but I wasn’t sure why. I have always been the one in my group of friends to stay ready with a joke, and I am a natural performer from my years in music, but it never came together until my close friends said it was something I was supposed to do. So I went for it, and I can’t believe I waited as long as I did to start!
TCB: What is your process for writing your material? Where do you pull inspiration from? What influences your content?
BR: My writing process will normally start with a premise or topic, or sometimes off of a standalone joke that I can add to. I normally talk about things that are directly related to my current or past life (hip-hop, being accepted by mostly people who don’t look like me, growing up in Michigan, and other life observations). And I’m influenced by music, sports, culture, and funny things that don’t necessarily come from jokes.
TCB: How does your material evolve? What do you do to make sure you are constantly providing fresh sets?
BR: It evolves sort of like the expression “to build a plane as it is flying”. Sometimes I write out a full bit before I take it on stage, but after a few times of actually saying it out loud, I will find new beats, punchlines, and nuances to make it better. There is also a fine line between keeping a set “fresh” and making sure it gets stronger — you may do the same jokes for months, but they will progressively get better but at the same time, newer material is always more fun so it is definitely a balance.
TCB: I think my biggest fear would be to not make people laugh. Has that happened to you? How do/would you handle that situation?
BR: 100 Percent. Even during “bad” sets, I can still get laughs but they usually come from things I say in the moment as opposed to planned material which is what I really want them to react to. That’s where being a performer kicks in — reading your audience, building rapport, and understanding how to convey a premise to the audience. Stand up comedy is such a unique art form, especially in Los Angeles, because you can share the stage with various established comedians on any given night…and the audience holds you to the same standard as them! You don’t see that with up and coming musicians, athletes, etc.
TCB: Who is your favorite comedian and why? How have they helped shape you and your style?
BR: Honestly, my favorite comedian is Neil Brennan. He co-created/wrote Chappelle’s Show and Half Baked with Dave Chappelle, and he put out a real cool version of a stand up special on Netflix called 3 Mics (one mic for one-liners, one mic for deep thoughts, and one mic for standup jokes). Although he is way more nerdy than I am (LOL), we relate closely through a love of hip-hop, hanging around mostly black folks, and general ideologies on life.
TCB: I know that you also work in public relations, how has that helped or hindered your journey in stand up comedy?
BR: Working (past tense lol) in public relations, especially with musicians and athletes, really strengthened my ability to sell and package things for presentation, but it also made me realize that I can’t put my own talent and skills behind someone else anymore. I’ve spent most of life working with others, but had never really ventured out on my own in a creative sense, and to do that was probably the best decision I ever made.
TCB: I think that is a common theme for most, having a hard time putting focus on yourself vs. others. For those who don’t know, you are a total entrepreneur. What drives that spirit and how do you balance all the pots you’re stirring, if you will?
BR: Absolutely — I love working for myself or with a group of people I can trust when it comes to business. The hustler’s spirit has been in me since childhood and has evolved in various ways, but one major thing I’ve focused on over the last few years is not getting bogged down by too many projects. If it makes me happy (and ideally makes me money haha), then it will get top priority. The rest takes more incubation or sometimes never comes to fruition, but that is all apart of getting where you need to go.
TCB: When you’re not doing stand-up or working in PR, what are you working on?
BR: Right now, I am really focused on building the brand for my podcast called the JB and Benny Blue Review, which I co-host with my good friend and former NFL player Jeremy Bridges. We’ve been at it since April 2016 and now we’re entering that space where people are really starting to take notice, so we are adding way more visual content, bigger guests, merch, live events, sponsors, you name it.
TCB: We like to keep it real at The ChaCha Blog and not hide our faults or struggles, so with that, have you experienced any pitfalls or struggles so far? If so, do you mind sharing what that struggle was, and how you bounced back?
BR: Indeed! Well I remember the time about 6 years ago when I was at a real crossroads — I had been laid off from my awesome first job in town with a music startup company, and managing artists was only bringing in a limited amount of money. I was cooked financially and mentally, and my family was struggling back home, so I ended up leaving LA for three months to go back, help my folks, and sort of figure it out. But before I left, one of my best friends brought me in to work with him at his PR firm, which is how I learned that part of the music business. So from November 2012 through January 2013, I was hustling on a laptop from the bedroom I grew up in, during the dead of winter in Michigan with nowhere else to go, trying to sign clients and start campaigns. After that time, I came back to LA stronger than ever and I haven’t looked back since!
TCB: What is your best advice for anyone who is looking to get into stand-up comedy, but is too afraid?
BR: Take comfort in knowing that even your absolute favorite comedian — the one that you think is the greatest one ever — has definitely died a thousand deaths on stage more than once. Stand up comedy is like riding a bull; those first few times, everything in you is going to tell you to bail, but if you keep hanging on your time will get longer, and the show you put on will be that much sweeter.
TCB: Last but not least, where can people find you to stay up to date on your work?
BR: For all things me, follow at @bennyblueeyes on social media and go to bennyblueeyes.net to see video clips of my comedy and sketches, as well as links to the JB and Benny Blue Review Podcast (jbandbennybluereview.com). You can also catch me on the new truTV show “LaffTracks” which airs Wednesdays at 11pm!
Thank you so much Ben for allowing us to feature you!
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