A Lorne Michaels impression is kind of like a class ring for Saturday Night Live alumni. F
“‘Take a little time off but not a lot of time off, but, you know, really enjoy where you’re going and where you’ve been,’” Mitchell says in Michaels’ distinct vocal pattern. “He was saying some Jedi-mind-trick stuff to me as he was firing me.”
Although Mitchell has "nothing but love" for Michaels, he did not follow the sage showrunner’s advice. In fact, he went in the opposite direction. He ran off to Miami.
Mitchell is fond of the Magic City. He fell in love with it because of Miami Vice, and that love has lasted decades. He regularly attends UM homecoming games. He’s set to perform a couple of shows at the new Miami Improv this weekend. In fact, he’s married to the daughter of Miami Vice soundtrack contributor El DeBarge.
After leaving SNL in 2006 following a three-year stint on the show, Mitchell returned to Miami to visit some fraternity brothers. He fell for a girl who was not related to El DeBarge and then decided to turn his visit into an extended stay. But eventually, his stay turned into something of a self-imposed exile. He had already been through the ordeal of sleeping on couches in his 20s. He was in no rush to return to that lifestyle.
Mitchell lays out how that chapter of his life unfolded: “My plan was to live [in Miami] for three years; we’ll go to L.A. and finish this thing out. Didn’t do that. Ended up staying in South Florida for six years. And she and I broke up, so when I did move out to L.A., I moved out solo-
Within two weeks of arriving in L.A., he nailed an audition to join the main cast of the Disney Channel sitcom A.N.T. Farm. He was finally back in the game, playing the role of a “black Bob Saget.”
After A.N.T. Farm wrapped, he booked the Showtime series Roadies with Hollywood powerhouses J.J. Abrams and Cameron Crowe. The show lasted only one season, but it established a working relationship between Mitchell and Showtime. When he approached network execs about doing a one-hour special, they were hesitant. Oddly enough, Mitchell’s friend, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, ended up offering him a spot on his own Showtime comedy special.
“I’m cussing him out, like, ‘You don’t even fucking do comedy. How do you get a one-hour special?’” Mitchell remembers. “And he said, ‘Yeah, but here’s the thing: I’m gonna just have all my buddies do comedy, and then you guys help me come up with a set.’”
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Gronkowski’s special, along with the interest of a big-name comedy production and distribution company, Comedy Dynamics, inspired Showtime executives to take Mitchell seriously. He released his own one-hour special, The Spirit Told Me to Tell You, in 2018.
So despite his former boss’ advice to take a short break, you could say Mitchell’s resurgence started with a long period of relaxation in Miami.
“I went down to Miami, bought a freaking house. I don’t know who does this,” Finesse trails off in utter disbelief before realizing who, in fact, does things like this. “I do — Finesse.”
Finesse Mitchell. 10:30 p.m. Friday, April 12, and 8 p.m. Sunday, April 14, at Miami Improv, 3450 NW 83rd Ave., Suite 224, Doral; 305-441-8200; miamiimprov.com. Tickets cost $22, plus a two-drink minimum.