Since the early ‘90s, Simmons has provided platforms for numerous comedians to pop their proverbial cherries and ascend to superstardom. Bernie Mac, Dave Chappelle, Bill Bellamy, Kevin Hart and many others in between, cut their teeth on Simmons’ iconic comedy series, Def Comedy Jam. The series was like none other, and what made it so was the fact that the comedians that hit the stage every week were predominately comedians of color, which was rarely seen at the time on a single show. Every week, the comedians took center stage and presented the experience of life as a person of color, but served it up with a comedic twist. It was raw, unapologetic, but above all else hilarious.
To follow up the trailblazing series, the all-new All Def Comedy show will be hosted by comedian Tony Rock and will feature both seasoned comedians as well as fresh new faces to the game. Fifteen-year comedy vet, Mark Viera, was called upon to perform for one of the episodes of All Def Comedy. Simmons has worked with Viera in the past for a Comedy Central show titled Live at the El Rey, enjoyed his set so much, invited Viera to grace the All Def stage.
“We’ve been friends since [Live at the El Rey] because I had a real breakout set,” Viera explained to ‘LLERO, adding, “Russell grew an affection for me and my comedy, and so, I did not audition for All Def Comedy. I got a call from Russell, and he said, ‘I want you on this project.’”
“I FEEL LIKE THIS PLATFORM IS ENORMOUS AND ESSENTIAL. WE DON’T HAVE A LOT THAT PUTS US – AND I SAY ‘US,’ MEANING PEOPLE OF COLOR – AT THE FOREFRONT,”
If you don’t know, Viera’s comedy consists of hysterical recounts of life after two decades of being married. “I’ve been married for 21 years, and people will get the absolute truth about marriage at 21 years. That’s what they can expect, and as bad as it sounds, is as bad as it is onstage,” the Bronx native said as he burst into an infectious laughter. “When my wife sees it, I am in trouble—but, I’m willing to take that risk to put my comedy in the front of that. The way I smooth it over is always making sure that those checks go to her,” he added.
Jokes aside, shows like All Def Comedy and Def Comedy Jam hold a deeper meaning and importance for Viera and many other comedians. They serve as gateways for comedians of color to carve out their own piece of the fruitful pie.
“I feel like this platform is enormous and essential. We don’t have a lot that puts us – and I say ‘us,’ meaning people of color – at the forefront,” Viera said. “If you look at the alumni of Def Comedy Jam, a high percentage of those comedians went on to be successful and great in their own right. They couldn’t keep us … you can’t keep us locked up for long. With All Def Comedy coming up on HBO, which is such an incredible network, you can’t be denied now. People might say, ‘I didn’t see you on this channel,’ or ‘I didn’t see you on that channel.’ But, you’re not going to miss me on HBO.”