Episode 10 / September 27, 2020
Bone talks with us about being a single Dad, raising a bi-racial son,
and how he got started in comedy
Comedian, Bone Hampton
The term "crossover" is seldom used of comedians, yet the word is the perfect descriptor for "Bone" Hampton, one of redemptive comedy's most well traveled and in-demand funnymen.
Bone's comedic smarts know no bounds. One day he can be seen working the crowd at a comedy club, the next he's doing his thing at a church gig, and the following he's making a splash on a hit sitcom. "I look at comedy like wearing clothes," he says. "If I’m going to a prom, I'm going to wear a tuxedo. If I'm going to a choir rehearsal, I'll go in shorts and a T-shirt."
His versatility can be traced back to his modest beginnings at the University of North Texas, where Bone played football and worked towards an emergency administration and disaster planning degree. At one point, he even interned at FEMA.
Despite having a full plate with juggling sports and academics, Bone and his college buddies decided to take a break to see ® winner Jamie Foxx. The stand-up veteran was in town hosting a contest for the best Wanda impersonation, a character Foxx popularized on the sketch comedy show "In Living Color."
"Nobody would go up and do it," Bone recollects. At the prompting of his colleagues and a free T-shirt offer, Bone took matters into his own hands and walked up to the microphone. As he took the stage, things started on the wrong foot: Foxx introduced Bone as British one-hit-wonder Billy Ocean, hurling the audience into a frenzy.
Unmoved by the clowning, Bone put on his best Wanda face and pressed on with his routine: "I know y'all not used to seeing me with glasses, but I had to go get me some bi-ficals because I thought I had bought me some collared greens, but it was poison ivy. So I broke out in a rash and I couldn’t wear any of my Vicotoria Secretions."
With "bi-ficals" Bone won over one-third of the audience. By the time he got to "poison ivy," he had the second third going. The moment he reached "Vicotoria Secretions," the whole place went nuts. As Bone wrapped his uproarious Wanda impression, Foxx was so impressed by it he decided to join Bone on stage to mouth the character’s trademark one-liner: "I'm gon' rock yo world!"
Indeed, Bone's world was never the same after that. He got his free T-shirt, but then went on to win the main Wanda competition in Dallas. The exposure led to other opportunities in the area, including a chance to hone his skills at The Steve Harvey Comedy House, where he would perform regularly. It was there that Harvey saw Bone's potential and took him under his wing. Yet Harvey kept it real with him—if Bone was to make it in the for-laughs circuit, he needed to go someplace else.
"He told me, 'Nothing's gonna happen for you here in Dallas,'" "Bone remembers. "'You're going to just be treading water here.'"
Bone took a leap of faith, packed his bags and jumped in his 1985 Chevy pickup, determined to make the move to Los Angeles. In retrospect, he admits he didn't know what he was in for. "Moving there was the biggest culture shock I had ever experienced," Bone says. "Texas is very simple. But when I got there, I saw so many walks of life."
His biggest shocker came when he visited Hollywood Improv—the same comedy club that gave Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams, Drew Carey and Adam Sandler their first shots at stardom. "There was a guy there who was making fun of German, Polish, Jewish, Scottish and Irish people," Bone reminisces. "At the end of his routine he said, 'Have I offended everybody in the room?' I was like, 'Are you serious?' In Texas, we don’t break down people like you just did."
At that moment, the jokester began to realize L.A. was a whole 'nother monster. Even black comedians had an edge he'd never seen. "I saw a level of hardcore comedy that I'd never been around," says Bone. "When I went up, I felt very soft. I realized I could not act harder than these hardcore comics. With comedy, you're trying to be whatever it is that you know the most. I didn't know enough hip-hop, gangsta or hardcore life to act like that."
Bone felt like a fish out of water, but the experience inspired him to find his own niche, his own identity in the crowded world of foul-mouthed comedy. "What I did know was the Bible and how Christians think," he acknowledges. "Perhaps I'm not going to be able to touch mainstream audiences like those hardcore guys, but I'm going to be able to touch them in a way a Kirk Franklin or Fred Hammond would."
And touch people he has. Since his fateful move to L.A., Bone not only continued to do stand-up and record his own CDs, but also scored opening slots on tours by the likes of Jonathan Slocumb, Chonda Pierce and Carman. In addition, he has logged appearances on ABC's "Less Than Perfect," NBC's "My Name Is Earl," BET's "Comic View" and an upcoming movie with Sandra Bullock, "All About Steve," among other stints.
This impressive resume didn't just happen by chance. Bone credits his growing recognition to friends who think and act like him-co-laborers in the faith who believe it is possible to be a Christian and make it in showbiz. Zachary Levi ("Chuck") and Sherri Shepherd ("The View") are two such colleagues. "I've probably written more jokes talking to Sherri than with anybody else," Bone says. "Most of my jokes come during conversation with somebody. All I need is funny people around me."
Today, Bone is gearing up for the release of "Thou Shalt Laugh: The Deuce," a DVD hosted by comedy legend and Emmy® Award winner Tim Conway ("The Carol Burnett Show," "SpongeBob SquarePants") that features some of the brightest talent in Christian comedy, including Bone, Taylor Mason ("Taylor's Attic"), Thor Ramsey ("Bananas"), Victoria Jackson ("Saturday Night Live") and Daniel Nainan. Following closely on the heels of this comedy DVD will be Bone's first PBS special, where he appears onstage with renowned musician and former "Entertainment Tonight" host John Tesh.
No matter the outlet or the venue, though, Bone's mission remains simple. "I never look at myself like I'm a funny person," he says. "I just like to have a good time. I just want to be the ringleader of the good time."