Tommy Davidson will be performing a comedy routine at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas this Thursday.Photo courtesy of Jessica Pinney

Comedian Tommy Davidson (“In Living Color,” “Juwanna Mann,” “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls”) is preparing for a performance this Thursday at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas. Meanwhile, he took time to talk to us one-on-one about his comedy and personal life.

How did you get into comedy?

TD: Actually, a friend of mine asked me to try it one day. He thought I was pretty funny, you know, and I got a job as an assistant chef and I was so happy, and he was like, “You’re wasting your life.” I was like, “What are you talking about?” He was like, “You’re the funniest dude ever. You know, you’re the funniest comedian ever. You need to try comedy.” So he had a club, I ran down there. I went down there for five minutes, I tried it and I haven’t stopped since. Swear.

What is your inspiration for being funny? How do you do it?

TD: You know, if I knew that, it probably would go away. It’s just a gift. I know that for a fact.

Who’s your favorite comedian?

TD: Richard Pryor was my favorite, because Richard Pryor puts everything he has into his performances, you know? He’s like the only example I’ve found that was just really like — he was just really off the hook. I mean, he’d do everything. He’d go into character, he covered the stage, you know. He basically did it all.
What are the perks associated with being a comedian?

TD: I’ve traveled the world. I’ve been able to help people everywhere, from all walks of life. I’ve been able to raise money for countless foundations, whether it be just now for the victims in Japan, or for Down Syndrome this [past] weekend with Kim Kardashian and Bret Michaels, or traveling around to all the military bases and visiting them around the world, or going to see the injured soldiers coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq, with literally no arms and legs. Or going to juvenile and talking with troubled youth. Look at how diverse that is, you know?

In movies, do you come up with your own jokes, or do you strictly follow the script?

TD: You have to stick to the script because it just makes sense that you do, but I’m one of those comedians that can kind of do what I want to do. If the director really knows me, and knows how good I am, he’ll come in the room and say, “I want you to do what you want to do with this stuff.” Did you see “Juwanna Mann”? That “filet mignon” and “country got you crazy” and all that good stuff? All that was made up. The producer said, “Sit down, and I want you to try to come up with some stuff that you think will make this better.” And I was like, “You don’t need to ask me twice.”

I read that you were adopted at the age of 2. How was your life impacted by that?

TD: I was adopted out of Mississippi, USA, by a white family in the 60s and I was raised here in Silver Spring, Maryland, ultimately, [so] I heard a lot [about] George Mason, growing up. When I was real small I adjusted to a lot of racism as far as me being black. And then when I got older, it turned the other way, where blacks were actually judging me, saying I’m not real. Now, I don’t have any question about black and white. I know I’m black. And there’s a history of who I am. It goes past this country.

What projects are you currently working on?

TD: I’ve got a movie with Cedric the Entertainer coming out in May. And I also have a comedy special that’s coming up this year. I’m the voice of the new Will Smith cartoon, “Youngin’s,” which is coming up soon. It’s going to be on the Hub Network.

What advice would you give a young, aspiring comedian?

TD: I would say don’t take no for an answer. And keep on going. Cause people tried to stop me. I wouldn’t get put on in clubs, and I was good. And they still wouldn’t put me on. I just wanted to go and have some fun. At the time, I didn’t know how much money you could make doing it. I didn’t find that out until pretty much now.