The fantastic lineup of comedians at the Comedy Cellar (117 MacDougal St.) on 8/26 included the hilarious Ryan Hamilton (Conan, Comedy Central, Showtime), Greer Barnes (Chappelle’s Show, Late Show with David Letterman), Dave Attell (Insomniac with Dave Attell, The Gong Show with Dave Attell), and host Dan Naturman (Late Show with David Letterman, Last Comic Standing). Headlining the very funny show was talented comedian, actor, and writer Wil Sylvince.
Wil is a native New Yorker who has performed on Def Comedy Jam, Comedy Central, BET’s ComicView, The Chris Rock Show, Showtime at the Apollo, and many other stages throughout his successful career. He has toured with comedy legend Paul Mooney, queens of comedy Sommore and Monique, Kat Williams, Chris Tucker, D.L. Hughley, and many other greats. Wil has written for Damon Wayans, Chappelle’s Show, and Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham, and had acting roles in Damon Dash’s Death of a Dynasty, the Sundance Film Festival-nominated 30 Years to Life, and the upcoming dramatic film, I Still Have a Soul. This overachiever is also the founder of the NBC Short Cuts Film Festival, whose semi-finalists were showcased on August 21st and 22nd in NYC. The diverse showcase and competition gives filmmakers the opportunity to have their work seen by entertainment industry decision-makers.
Wil’s set was hilarious at the Comedy Cellar Monday night. After the show, he and I discussed his strict diet, upcoming projects, how he linked with NBC, and more.
BROWNIE: What’s your process when it comes to writing new material and incorporating it into your comedy routines?
WIL SYLVINCE: It doesn’t make sense to keep doing [an old joke] the same way. A lot of comedians, they do the same joke over and over again. It becomes like a script. I feel like you’re not connecting with the audience when you tell the same joke the same exact way. I add something new to it… and you let it grow… and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But I don’t write [jokes] down. I feel like when you write it down, it becomes like a script. I don’t want to follow a script in my head; I like to follow the feeling I’m getting from the audience. If they’re not giving me the energy I’m feeling for the bit, I’ll move [on] to something else.
Do you drink?
I don’t drink; I don’t smoke.
I had a feeling that you were one of those.
One of those? You know if you were white, that would sound racist, right?
Would it? (Laughs) One of those as far as clean living: No smoking, drinking, drugging.
Because my parents were Haitian? They’re strict? That’s why?
(Laughs) No, I think it’s because you’re fit.
Well, I wasn’t always fit. I used to weigh 220 lbs. I was a mess. I’m 5’8″. The thing is, I didn’t have a fat face– I had like a football player face, and I used to wear these big, baggy shirts so girls thought I was into hip-hop. And their facial expression would change when I got naked and I was like “It’s too late, b****. The door is locked.”
In 2004 I decided I gotta do something. I have to change my comedy, the way I eat, everything. 2006 and 2007 is when actually I changed my diet. 2007 was the last time I had sex. That was all part of me [changing my lifestyle]. I used to do a bunch of diets around 2003-2004, but I realized diets don’t work. You have to change your lifestyle. When you’re going up against something, the more you know about it, the better you can prepare yourself. So I started educating myself on fat foods, and what foods are doing to your body. Plus the foods are not the same foods our grandparents lived on. They’re full of drugs, they’re processed… The food is actually foreign to our body.
2006: I gave up fast food, and I switched to [only drinking] water and green tea,
2007: I gave up chicken,
2008: I gave up fried food,
2009: I gave up dairy (that was a hard year),
2010: I can’t remember.
I’m a pescetarian. And I just gave up all rice in May. But my hardest battle was [with] sugar. I love sweets. I found that sweets are more addictive than cocaine. I [also] found that one way to beat it is through a candida cleanse. I did a candida cleanse last September. Basically all I ate was kale, spinach, almonds, and salmon for three weeks. I haven’t had any dessert since last September.
Wow. That’s commendable. And no fried food and no sex.
Well the sex part is just… You just run your body through random, different people.
So you’re saving yourself for the right one?
I’m not saving myself. I don’t like to use that term because it’s going to be a big letdown when she’s a ho. I’m just not running around. If I find someone and we go out for a couple weeks, and it’s right, it’s gonna go down. But if I feel like we don’t have that connection– why waste my time, why waste your time?
A lot of comedians are on stage drunk or high, what do you think about that?
I could see how they get caught up in that. Maybe they went on stage high or drunk and they got so [many] laughs, and now they feel that’s the only way they can get [laughs]. And maybe one time they went on stage sober and they didn’t get no laughs and they think “It’s the [drugs].” It becomes a ritual. Not just comedians but musicians as well. They get high and feel like they need that in order to be loose. Some of my favorite comedians have been destroyed, like Richard Pryor. Mike Epps used to be [high on stage], but he cleaned up, which is good.
I enjoyed the Short Cuts Film Festival last week. How did that partnership with NBC come about?
I used to do these shows at [Carolines on Broadway], where I would show my short films, and do comedy in-between. I had the idea to make it a film festival with people of color, and try to get the industry to come down and check it out. I was keeping in touch with Damona Resnick-Hoffman at NBC and we became cool. I told her what I was working on, and she said it might be something NBC wanted to get down with. Next thing you know, the head of NBC loved the idea… We were ironing out how it was going to work, and the Film Festival became a competition. It started out as only comedies and it was called Comedy Short Cuts. But people were submitting films whether they were comedies or not. NBC said “We have all these great drama, horror, and sci-fi movies, but we don’t want to make another festival.” After a while I just dropped the “Comedy,” and it became the Short Cuts Film Festival. The reason that it’s short [films] is that I have ADD.
Yeah. I’ve learned to control it. That’s one of the things from 2006 that I learned about myself. I learned that the things that we want to do naturally like being lazy, having sex, eating bad food– I want to take control over these things.
What projects do you have coming up?
I’m touring with the Wayans Brothers. We are going to go back on the road after Marlon finishes filming A Haunted House 2. I’m going to China on my own in January to do some shows, then Australia in March. And the Short Cuts finals are October 22nd and 23rd [in Los Angeles]. I’m also writing and starring in a feature film currently titled I Still Have A Soul. It’s a dramatic film about a homeless guy who is trying to become a boxer. We are finishing it soon and we plan to put it on Kickstarter.
Visit www.WilSylvince.com for more information on the talented Mr. Sylvince and his projects.