Just try to turn on your TV without seeing comedian and actor Lil Rel these days; it’s pretty though. He’s starring on NBC’s The Carmichael Show, he’ll be featured in two major motion picture films set to be released sometime next year and he’s the host of a brand new show airing on MTV. If you ask Lil Rel himself, though, he’ll tell you he’s just a guy from the West Side of Chicago who wants to make the city he loves proud. We sat down with Lil Rel to learn all about his rise to fame and talk about his return to his comedic roots with his role on MTV’s groundbreaking new comedy series “Acting Out.”
MADE: Take me back, all the way back to the West Side of Chicago. When and how did you discover you were funny?
LR: That’s a good question. I mean, I thought I was funny for a long time; because most of us are funny. And that’s not to say black people are funny, but, we’re funny. Humor is a part of our culture and our lives. Now, the first time I thought I might actually be able to become a comedian and an actor was when I started doing the plays at my uncle’s church. I always did well and this was as a kid. But, it wasn’t until I went to Providence St. Mel on the West Side of Chicago (that I really believed in my talent). I was cast in the school play. It was a high school play and I was only in 6th grade, but I auditioned anyway; I got casted for it! That’s when I knew. I thought “if I can beat out a bunch of 15 and 16-year olds for a part in a play and I’m 12, then I might be onto something (laughs)!”
MADE: How did you go from that realization of “Hey, I’m talented” to actually pursuing stand-up comedy? I heard a rumor that you used to hang around a little comedy spot called the Lyon’s Den. Is that true?
LR: I used to work at a telemarketing company and I had Mondays off, the Lyon’s Den had a Monday night open mic. And the only way I knew about these spots is because when I was in high school, the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper put out a “Weekend Plus” newspaper every Friday where they’d list the weekend theater shows and comedy clubs. So, I’d been looking at this newspaper forever and I’d spend every weekend just circling the comedy clubs. I just had to wait until I was old enough to actually go and perform in them. And I really wasn’t old enough, (when I finally went to the clubs), I was still under 21, but man, yes, Lyon’s Den was the first place I went to, on Chicago’s Northwest Side. I was just talking to some friends about that place because it created a lot of dope comedians you see out here now, actually.