If you let Rickey Smiley tell you about himself, he might say he’s blessed and as far as life goes, “it’s slow motion.” But the latter part of that statement simply cannot be true for the comedian/perennial prank-call funny man. You see, he isn’t moving slowly at all. He’s star of The Rickey Smiley Show morning show, the nationally syndicated radio show with 75 affiliates spanning across the country. He also appears alongside other radio personalities from around the U.S for FOX’s nightly syndicated pop-culture mash-up, Dish Nation.
For that matter, his other Rickey Smiley Show—the TV One sitcom—resumes taping in February. Furthermore, he’s working on a new reality television show (I was told “think T.I. & Tiny: Family Hustle”) and still connecting with his first love: performing comedy shows. Smiley likes to keep busy and have fun while doing it.
EBONY spoke with the nascent businessman about his new eyewear line, the heritage of HBCUs, the impending impact of Ferguson, and more.
EBONY: What’s up with your new eyeglasses line with America’s Best, and what sparked the collaboration?
Rickey Smiley: You know, having a syndicated morning show, we have advertisers. One of our top advertisers is America’s Best, and we just thought it was a great idea. I was rocking glasses anyway, so coming into the studio and doing TV shows with everybody else’s frames and I have somebody who is actually talking about eyeglasses and eye health on the show… I was like, “Hey, why don’t I just wear your glasses and maybe come up with the Rickey Smiley brand, because I’m really into stylish eyewear.”
EBONY: How’s it feel?
RS: It’s exciting! Most of the stores can’t keep the glasses, they’re flying off the shelves. They’re the flyest glasses that they have in the stores and I’m really excited about it. We wanted to make them fly and affordable—one pair for $69.95 and two pair for $104.95. That includes a free eye exam, a deal you can’t beat.
EBONY: What was your most embarrassing moment wearing glasses?
RS: Little league football. I got hit and my glasses fell off and I couldn’t see for the rest of the practice. Like when Velma would lose her glasses off Scooby-Doo. [Laughter] Having glasses trying to adjust ’em inside of that football helmet. And some of the other kids on the football team used to call me Chuck Muncie. You know, Chuck Muncie was like one of the first running backs to wear glasses. He used to run that thang though.
EBONY: What’s going on with the comedy piece? Any new enterprises?
RS: I still do stand-up comedy pretty much almost every weekend, performing all over the country. You can’t ever stop doing stand-up comedy, that’s what brought you to the party. Just in case somebody decide to sell these radio stations, you’ll still have a job. I always stick to my roots and continue to do stand-up comedy no matter what.
I’ve already started working on a reality show. People only see you just performing. They don’t see you as the band, as the church member, all the different entities that make up your other side. So I’m really excited about that.
EBONY: What are your thoughts on Ferguson, being from the South?
RS: There is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for that police officer to have shot down and killed Mike Brown like he did. There needs to be some adjustments with all of these police departments around the country when it comes to racial profiling and treatment of Black people and people of color.
There needs to be some programs set up where there is community policing, where the police stay in the community and gain credibility with the citizens in the community. Because sending people of other races into low-income communities with this cowboy attitude—“We’re gonna clean this town up!”—is not the right approach. You have a lot of officers who aren’t familiar with Black people, never been around the Black culture enough to understand it, and they come in police our communities and treat people bad.
Now on the flip side, I’ll probably catch a lot of heat for this, but there are some things in the Black community that we really need to get together on so we can restore credibility as African-Americans. Some of the ratchet stuff and some of the fights on the Internet, fights on Facebook and stuff, I think some of our people have lost their way as Black people.
For one thing, we don’t vote during midterm elections. A lot of this stuff that has to do with policing and the mayor, police chief, the city council… those are elections that are held when you vote. People need to go out. We need to take this opportunity to register to vote. Voting is powerful. When people start going out to the polls and voting outside of just presidential elections, I think that will be one of the other things that will make a difference and people will have more respect for Black folks just period. Because there is power in voting.
You don’t see police officers messing with the Jewish community; you don’t see them messing with the Asian or Native American communities. It’s just always some issues with us and the police. We have to do a better job at how we conduct ourselves, how we carry ourselves, and how we treat each other.
I don’t want nobody to take anything I said out of context, you know? There’s a lot of room for growth for all of us, starting with me! At the end of the day, I’m not saying any of that to justify anything about all these police killings, police on the highway beating this Black woman half to death and the other shooting that was in St. Louis and all these other shootings all over the country. The mysterious death of the young man who was found in a gym down in Valdosta, Georgia. The stuff with Trayvon Martin….
It’s like, people know that Black folks are gonna march for a while, but what’s gonna happen next? We have to try to do stuff that’s gonna implement change in voting and getting way more involved in the political process and get people out of office that’s unfair to people in the community who can’t fight back.
Grant Yanney is a Chicago native grooving in Brooklyn: journalist, host, media personality and snack lover. Follow him on Twitter @GY312.