Comedian Kyle Grooms on Univision, Rick Sanchez, and John Mayer

It's hard not to love a Jersey/Miami-brewed comedian. Especially one that makes jokes about white people's response to his black family skiing ("Are those bears?") and being mistaken as smart because of his glasses ("You look like you went to college. No, I went to Pearl Vision."). And after years of doing comedic bits on shows like NBC's Last Comic Standing, Chappelle's Show, P-Diddy's Bad Boys of Comedy, Jamie Foxx's Laffapalooza, and Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn, Kyle Grooms is back in the city where he developed his funny-chops. See his act tonight through Sunday at the Miami Improv. We caught up with Grooms and had a chat about Univision, Rick Sanchez, and John Mayer's mad game.

New Times: So you used to work at Univision in Miami, right?

Kyle Grooms: Yeah, as the art director, actually. I worked with Rick Sanchez, who was Rick Sanchez and I was like 22, so he never gave me the time of day.

Do you speak Spanish?

No. I remember being in meetings and everyone would be speaking in Spanish but I didn't really understand what was going on, so I'd just sit there, hoping someone would explain what happened to me later. I mean, not only was I the only person who couldn't speak Spanish, I was the only black dude too. I felt like their mascot.

Wow, talk about being a black sheep.

I mean, sometimes I'd try to speak Spanish, you know, when they'd have models come in from different countries and stuff. And the girls couldn't speak any English and I couldn't speak any Spanish but we'd work things out, you know?

If Univision was to make a telenovela about your life in Miami, what would you want to call it?

Los Locos. Or, how would you say Me and Maria in Spanish?

Maria y yo.

Yeah, that's it. And it'd be about a black man married to a Puerto Rican.

Sounds like a sitcom rather than a soap opera.

No, it'd be a drama, it'd be all about trying to get Maria's grandmother to like me by sitting on a plastic covered couch with her for hours and watching Sabado Gigante. That'd pretty much be every episode. Oh, and telling the grandmother every now and again I told you for the fourth time, I don't eat pork!

You don't eat pig?

I saw a pig get slaughtered once and after that I was done with pork, man. I'll eat a chicken, fish, octopus, even beef once in a while but there's just something about pork, maybe it's because of something way deep down in my emotions somewhere.

What do you like about Miami?

The weather, the food, the pace, the palm trees are cool. It's where I first started doing comedy, so whenever I'm in Miami, I reconnect.

What's your least favorite thing about Miami?

The humidity. Sometimes you got to take 3 showers in one day, that's crazy. And Miami's got the worse hecklers, man. If they don't like something you have to say, they'll tell you to get your punk ass off stage. I started out in a place called Studio 183 in and audience was a mix of all black Miami from wealthy people down to strippers and drug dealers. It was a hard club to work because if you weren't funny in the first two minutes, the host would tell the crowd to start booing your ass. I'd come straight from my art director job in Banana Republic gear and tight sweaters and the crowd would just look at me like I was crazy. So, I had to be funny.

What was your first gig like?

Some dude rushed the stage and started screaming at me! I guess he had been having a bad day or something because he started heckling me, and being that he had all gold teeth I said something like what do you brush your teeth with, jewelry cleaner? And then he got mad and wanted to fight me.

You should be used to that, being that you're originally from New Jersey.

Yeah, yeah.

Are you fan of any Jersey reality show?

I watched a few episodes of Jersey Shore and that was enough. But, it's funny, when I travel people always ask me if people from Jersey are as bad as they seem. Like they all think we stink, and dress bad, and look like Snookie. I mean, Jersey's nice man, we've got things like trees....and squirrels...and dead bodies...

Comedic inspirations?

Richard Pryer, Chris Rock, Bill Hicks, my grandmother, mother, and my aunt Sarah. Hilarious ladies, they're honest with wit. I've tried to steal some of their style, their rhythm, their attitude, but they still do it better.

What was it like working with Dave Chappelle?

Dave's a really cool, laid back dude. People always think the set was wild and crazy, but things really didn't get like that until they yelled action. But I'd only come in to do bit parts, all under five lines. Like, I was the guy in a barber shop that told John Mayer to shut the fuck up, you know?

Did it feel good telling John Mayer to shut the fuck up?

Yeah, it did! But he's a player man, I saw him work his magic right in front of me. I tried to listen at what he says to women, but he really doesn't say much. It doesn't look like he tries that hard. It's like, shit, Okay?

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Elyse Wanshel
Contact: Elyse Wanshel