Busy doesn’t quite fit the description for Russell Simmons’ calendar.
Here’s why: The media mogul is preparing for the premieres of two comedy roasts on Fusion – one with Snoop Dogg in the hot seat and another with America as the target – All Def Comedy on HBO and the grand opening of a Los Angeles yoga studio.
Did we mention that all of these events are taking place within just days of each other? Yep. With a schedule like Simmons’, busy doesn’t even scratch the surface.
But, he’s been in the game for years and brushes the pressure off stating, “there’s a lot on my plate. Always is. It’s not different, but it’s ongoing.”
While putting his office back in order from a morning photo shoot held for the new fitness center, the entertainment maven, affectionately known as Uncle Rush, took a break to chat with EBONY.com about all things All Def Digital (ADD), his multi-platform media company that showcases the best in comedy, music and entertainment news.
Read on to get the scoop on ADD and how the platform is shaking up the industry.
EBONY: What exactly led to the creation of ADD?
Russell Simmons: All of the content is Def. So the ideas that we’ve worked on over the years have just been moved to a new place where young people express themselves. A whole new portal is being built, and we’re adding social justice elements, too. It’s not too different from what we have been doing. The reach is just different.
EBONY: When people interact with ADD content, what type of messages should they walk away with?
Russell Simmons: They are all different. There are so many urban pop ideas that are underserved, and I think Hollywood doesn’t see us and misses the opportunity to integrate. When Martin [Lawrence], Jamie [Foxx], Cedric [the Entertainer], Bernie Mac, Chris Tucker, and Dave Chappelle came out of Def Comedy Jam, it was a moment when Hollywood looked to us to get them our stars. Now we’re in this White space. But we’re also building careers, and we’re watching that. You need Black [people] sometimes to understand things about Black culture. There’s something about the authenticity that Hollywood is missing when it comes to urban culture. Very seldom do we get that opportunity to do it all ourselves…and that’s what I’m here to do.
EBONY: How will ADD’s upcoming comedy roasts differ from others we’ve seen?
Russell Simmons: It’s a lot of people who are going to be a part of it. The comedians are people that we know from our community that haven’t really gotten mainstream. It’s kind of like that Def Digital mantra – expose new talent. They aren’t new to us, but they are new to the rest of the world. Hollywood just hasn’t seen them for some reason. I think that there is a sensibility that they have but not the same sensibility as ours. The people that they put would be different from the people that we would choose.
EBONY: Comedy has been a big part of your career and the career development of many others. For you, what makes good comedy?
Russell Simmons: You have to be able to say what people are thinking but won’t say. It’s like Donald Trump. He’s not politically correct. Although you are running for president, you should be politically correct. But there is also the expression of an artist. They said it for a good reason. They felt it was something that had to be said. A poet or a comedian can say what’s on the mind of people. They should be funny. They should make you laugh. It may be so truthful that it hurts, but it makes you laugh.
EBONY: What is ADD’s ultimate goal?
Russell Simmons: Hopefully, we will get to a point where we are not waiting around for Hollywood to do anything. That has been very tough for me. The only thing that’s been keeping me from blowing my brains out since I moved here [to L.A.] is All Def Digital. I don’t want to wait for Hollywood to decide that what I do is good. That’s hard for me to process, but I’m lucky that I have a platform that I can answer my own questions.
Catch the Roast of America Nov. 8 at 9 p.m. est on Fusion and the All Def Comedy on Nov. 12 at 10 p.m. on HBO. Also, don’t miss the grand opening of Tantrice Center for Yogic Science and Apparel Store on Nov. 18.