Guy Torry – God & Hard Work

Words + Interview By Tyrone Davis

Comedian, producer, writer and actor Guy Torry has had a lengthy career in the entertainment business, appearing on multiple stages and in memorable films such as “Life”, “American History X, “Pearl Harbor” and “Sunset Park”.  The 26 year vet discussed teaching and learning from the new generation, his experience working on “American History X” and the “Martin” sitcom and the significance of maintaining a relationship with God meshed with hard work.  Take heed.    

Being a veteran comedian, how have you adjusted in this new era of entertainers and technology?
You have to embrace this new technology and the millennials.  Every generation craps on the next one and I’m not going to be that old “get off of my lawn” guy.  We can learn from each other.  This generation doesn’t have to work as hard to be noticed as we did but they still have to put in some work.  Things come a little easier for them but it’s not their fault.

My generation can’t knock them for the new opportunities because the generation before mine knocked us for Def Comedy Jam and BET saying “We didn’t have those black networks to put us on”.  Well, don’t be mad at us because we do, lol.  So, my generation can’t be mad but what I do want the millennials to do is to put in that work on stage as well.   They are doing a great job at the videos and the sketches because that’s not easy to do but I want them to be able to put on a live show.  People who spend their income want a show.  I’m hearing from the streets that some of them aren’t doing that.

I know that within the last few years, the new comedians have been up under a lot of scrutiny for not being dope live but here recently some of them have been developing their craft and doing their thing. 
Absolutely, like DC Young Fly.  I put Karlos Miller in that category as well as Ms Pretty Ricki.  Jess Hilarious has come a long way in her stand-up game.  She’s around Lil Rel (Howery) now on his show and he is a hell of a comedian and I’m sure it’s rubbing off on her.  That’s the thing, man.

I’ve taken Ms Pretty Ricki under my wing and I have her open for me so I’m sure she’s learning from me and I’m learning from her about social media.  These pairings need to continue to happen.  There is enough money out here for all of us.  Black people have this “crabs in a barrel” mentality that we need to shed.  Let’s band together and take this entertainment business over by storm, together.

I’ve been listening to a lot of comedians lately speaking about being in the politically correct era and I’ve also interview a few comedians as well.  The responses have been unanimous in reference to how you all feel about it but I’m going to ask you anyway.  How do you feel about politically correctness and sensitivity these days?
I can give a f**k about being politically incorrect.  I’m going to say what I’m going to say.  I am who I am and the thing about it is I think we do live in a world where we are getting softer.  I’ve grown up.  I turned 50 recently so I didn’t grow up where everyone gets a trophy and everyone is a winner.  I didn’t grow up being coddled.  If you got bullied then hey, bully back.  You man up or woman up.

I’m not condoning bullying but when I came up, I better not had come home saying someone was bullying me.  I understand that everyone isn’t wired to defend themselves but you have to approach that on a case by case basis.  You don’t learn by everyone being a winner.  People are already being raised in a society where everything is being done for them.  Growing up for me, there was no Google.  We had to get the encyclopedia Britannica and look things up ourselves.

We had to put in that work.  We had to go to a library and now everything is right at the tip of your fingers so this generation doesn’t have to work as hard and it’s bleeding over into everything else.  If everybody gets a trophy and you’re not good, you got rewarded for being mediocre.  You got rewarded for sucking.  We have to find a way to encourage this generation to work hard not make things so accessible so people can value work and the position once they get there.  If you get there easy, you don’t respect it nor protect it.

Being the younger brother of Joe Torry, how did you both end up in the entertainment business?
I probably wouldn’t be in this business if it weren’t for my brother, Joe.  Joe was the one who had the idea of being a comedian and moved to LA first.  Me being number 5 of 6 kids and having 4 older siblings, I always tried to do what they did.  My oldest sister was a journalist and I dabbled in writing.  She’s a writer.

Another older sister ran track.  I ran track in high school.  Joe and my other brother was in the military and he played football and he drew.   I played football and drew but I wasn’t going into no G**damn military.  Joe wrestled, played football and was in a band.  Joe paved the way and was a pioneer for the Torry family in entertainment but it’s all in us.  You’re born with it.  It just lays dormant until something happens.

I was always a class clown and wanted attention and to cheer people up so stand-up is the perfect outlet for that.  It was hard work but people may think coming up under Joe made it easy.  Some of it was easier, like for the first 4 years I didn’t have to worry about getting a job even though I had a job but I was living with Joe.  I didn’t have to worry about the pressures of having to pay bills, which was a tremendous help.  When you’re starting out with anything, you need your mind clear.  You need to be focused.  If you’re focused on finances, it could hurt or help your journey depending on how you’re wired.

With all of the racial tension that is going on right now, I wanted to ask you specifically about your experience on the film “American History X”.  I have that film on DVD and the first time I saw it….it was crazy, bro. 
It was tough because the director was Jewish and from London so doing a movie about someone who hates anybody who is not purely white is difficult.  If you’ve heard of “method actors”, he’s a “method director” and he wanted real skinheads in the movie as extras.  They would bring in busses of real skinheads from Orange County, CA to be on the set and a lot of days, I was the only brother on the set.

There were no black people on the crew anywhere for the most part.  Some days there were but I was the only one most of the time.  It was funny because of the tension and the stares.  I do this bit about how they couldn’t wait to rehearse.  They always wanted to practice lines and all they had was the line “N*****r”.  I’m like “Damn!  I’m sure you don’t need to rehearse that.  You’re just trying to get a free pass to say it in my face!”

So, it was difficult.  It was the director’s first film and he and Ed Norton weren’t seeing eye to eye and I was caught in the middle.  It was stressful because there were fights everyday with the director and the star and with the director and the producers.  It was a toxic situation but it worked in my favor because I was able to put that stress into that character.  It made me be dramatic because as a comedian, we’re always looking for the joke.

Those moments are serious so you’ll hurt that character and storyline trying to be funny.  All that drama around the set helped me because it was pissing me off like, “You all are bullshitting”.  I owe all the credit to God because he has a way of putting opportunities in front of me and putting the right energy around me.  I’m just being 100 right now.

It was all God and that hard work because when I first got to LA, I was in comedy clubs almost 5-6 nights a week, 2 times a night, grinding.  I was getting on stage and writing.  I was a PA for the “Martin” show, making connections and delivering scripts and I ended up writing an episode the very next season.  You don’t really hear about those happenings like that.

“Martin” is my favorite show of all time, man.  What episode was it that you wrote?
It was an episode called The Romantic Weekend.  It’s when Martin (Martin Lawrence) and Gina (Tisha Campbell) went on this vacation and got attacked by this rat.  That was the first script I ever wrote.

Oh, that’s amazing, man.  People love that episode.  That’s one of the funniest episodes.  
Every time somebody finds out that I wrote that script, they say “Man, that’s my favorite episode!” and some people will see my name in the credits.  Over the last 26 years, I’ve done a lot of work like “Wow”.

That’s a great career and you know that episode was funny because you could even hear the castmates in the background laughing during the rat scene in particular.
Lol.  It was crazy, man.

What’s on the agenda for 2019?
The first project will be a multi-part documentary series on a comedy night I created called, Phat Tuesdays which was the greatest night of the history of comedy, period.  Lol, period.  A lot of the comedians you see today that have box office and tour success came through this room when LA, black comedy, Hollywood and the world needed it.  This room helped them get there.

I won’t take credit for making anybody and I’m not narcissistic enough to think that room alone did it but it didn’t help a lot of comedians get to where they are right now, understand the business, be seen and given the confidence to go on when they may have thought comedy wasn’t for them.  Like Richard Pryor being there and someone is feeling like they bombed and then he’s waving them over telling them, “Hey, you’re funny!  Keep going!”  Those words of encouragement from the king made them go a little bit further.  Those things all happened because that night was there.  It helped sustain some careers

Alright, man.  Lastly, how can people get in contact with you via social media? 
Social media, man.  People, please get at me on social media.  I’m trying to get my social media game up.  It’s @guytorry on Instagram and Twitter.  I need 50,000!  I appreciate everyone’s support all these years, including yours, your readers, your listeners, anyone who ever bought a ticket to my show, anyone who ever snuck into one of my shows, anyone who has ever watched any movie I was in, etc.  I couldn’t have done it without you and I appreciate you all for holding me up for 26 years.

Photo of Guy Torry submitted by Sisoyev PR.

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