T.I.'s Very Rough Go at Standup Comedy
“T.I. returns to New York Comedy clubs after getting booed at the Barclay Center” sounds like a throwaway joke from an episode of Atlanta. The trap music pioneer and hip-hop icon has been working at changing a different game as the Atlanta-born music mogul has been getting his stand up reps in at rooms across New York in a surprising career shift that reads like a 2022 headline Mad Lib.
It turns out that stand up comedy isn’t a field where celebrities can just jump to the front of the line and expect immediate success. Just because Donald Glover made the leap from successful comedian to successful rapper, doesn’t mean that musicians – even ones as high-profile and influential as T.I. – can pull a reverse Childish Gambino without a bit of rockiness during the transition. T.I. might be able to talk you off a ledge, but he’s struggled to talk anyone into laughter.
Back in April, T.I. performed at Rip Michael’s April Fools Comedy Jam at the Barclay center as part of a lineup that featured performers like Nick Cannon and Eddie Griffin. Though the crowd was seemingly amused and excited by the Grand Hustle Records founders’ presence, but once they were exposed to T.I.’s material – or lack thereof – the warm welcome grew cold and T.I. was showered with boos for the rest of his set.
“We need a union. Us comics, we need teamsters,” T.I. said of his newfound comedy colleagues after revealing that he wasn’t getting paid well for his amateur stand up sets, an unintentionally laughable complaint considering that the rapper is worth an estimated $50 million. “Some comics are upset that I’m up here, they don’t think I should be up here, they don’t think I’ve earned the right, they don’t think that I’ve paid my dues. What dues? You don’t even have a union!” T.I. continued to the increasingly restless Barclay Center crowd.
This joke was precipitated by a minor controversy when actor and comedian Godfrey criticized T.I. on his podcast, In Godfrey We Trust, following an Atlanta comedy event back in February when Godfrey, after being told he would be the headliner, was followed by T.I. who had just started performing comedy. In Godfrey’s eyes, T.I. didn’t deserve to be closing for a comic who has been honing his craft since his early years in the Chicago comedy scene back during the early ‘90s. The two have since made amends, but the accusation that T.I. “isn’t a comic” surely wasn’t helped by the rapper’s performance at the Barclay Center.
The set in question really started to move off the rails when T.I. told the Brooklyn audience, “Fame sucks. Enjoy your anonymity as long as you can,” before launching into a story about a pushy fan who tried to take a picture with T.I. while he was at dinner with his family. It turns out that the tens of thousands of audience members couldn’t relate to a story about the inconveniences of being rich and famous, and boos rained down on the three-time Grammy winner for the rest of the set.
T.I. remains undeterred. Understanding that bombing is simply part of the process, T.I. is back in action as he returned to New York this week with the group The HaHa Mafia as they work rooms and develop their material. Said T.I. about his infamous set from April, saying, “When s—’s too easy and there ain’t no challenge to it, I don’t care … That’s what got me out of music because it’s almost like people expect me to be good.”
T.I.’s outlook as an amateur comic is surprisingly humble considering the massive success he’s accustomed to in the music industry. He said of the boos, “I embrace the hate. But it wasn’t even hate. It was on some, ‘This is our opportunity to really make you one of us.’ And I appreciate that. I ain’t got no problem with that. I love the opportunity to overcome and scramble.” That’s the right attitude for anyone trying something new.
T.I. also mentioned that he’ll be doing a bringer show at the Laugh Factory, and he’ll pay your cover if you promise to record his set.