Rob grew up with his older sister and parents in Washington DC. Rob explained that one of the Gordon family traits is an innate sense of humor.“Everybody in my family is funny. My dad, my mom, my sister is first, aunts, uncles. Not stand up comedians, but funny MF’ers. It’s just the energy they exude.” Rob cares a lot about family and is able to use this guidance as a blueprint to success. Rob earned a Masters Degree in Architecture in 2010, but has used it to skillfully design a blossoming career in comedy.
Rob and I linked up at Bus Boys and Poets on 14th and V st. in DC. He told me about a show he has coming up August 29th at the Navy Memorial. “The way I run my shows is a little different. I look for venues with movie capability because I look to brand myself not only as a comedian, but as an actor too,” he told me. Rob credits a lot of his planning success to his best friend and road manager, Monique Farley. The efforts have positioned him to win the Baltimore Comedy Factory’s Rising Superstar competition and make a recent TV appearance on the Roland Martin Show. You can find plenty of Rob’s videos on YouTube and you can find his story right here on this week’s #ShineHard conversation.
What is your passion? When did you know?
Rob: Comedy man. Comedy is my… well really making money! But you gotta find some way to do it.
2009 I was playing football at Hampton and I got hurt. I was starting at Running Back and tore my ACL in practice. I’ll never forget, I broke a run towards the end zone (Audio)… I came out from surgery and my mindset was different, you know what I’m saying? I had lost the love for the game because I saw it for what it was, which is a business. Football is a business. It was time for me to push the envelope on my real passion.
So after football, where did you start the comedy journey?
Rob: Soon after that I talked to one of my uncles, he used to throw comedy shows like back in the day. He put me in contact with this comedian named Chris Common. Chris is pretty much a legend in the game. He hosted a lot of stuff, Rap City the Basement. At the time I was a little leery about what I wanted to do as far as stand up. I wasn’t a stand up comedian, but you know, I been funny all my life. So I got Chris’ number and I went down to the comedy club to meet and just asked him some questions. Man I went down to the comedy club and this n*gga threw me on stage…(Audio). So I wrote some material. Sh*t I thought was funny and I went to Laugh out Loud Comedy Club which was Club Elite at that time in Temple Hills. It was the only black comedy club in the city. I went there and I performed. A comedian named Lawrence Owens brought me up. I did five minutes and it all began.
What inspires you to succeed as a comedian?
Rob: My purpose for doing stand up is from when my grandfather passed away. He called all the family to the Hospital. He called me to the front of the bed. I said, “whats up?”. He looked to me and said “Keep em’ laughing.” He died shortly after that, but from there on I took that as a charge and decided that that’s my gift to the world. To keep people laughing.
What mentors do you look to for guidance?
Rob: Lawrence Owens, Billy Sorrells, Redd Grant, Joe Claire, Eddie B, Chris Thomas.
Tell me more about Half Brothers project and how it came about..?
Rob: Half Brothers is a web series. It’s four episodes on YouTube by unique lens. The concept came from a skit I did called, “Boy you lookin’ good boy”. Which was actually a real situation that happened to me. One of my boys got outta jail and I was hanging out in Adams Morgan, DC. He walked up to me and was like, “ROB Man! Whats up man??!”…(Audio). It did so well that it got 15,000 views. A friend of mine is a director, grabbed it and he asked “Can he massage the idea a little bit.” I was like, “Yeah!” and we created a series around it, Half Brothers. Trying to do a second season and pitch to networks so stay tuned on that.
What has been the biggest challenge in your comedy career this far?
Rob: Support. Financial and just support. My mom being a lawyer, then everyone in my family having a degree, and me having my masters in architecture. Everybody is like, “WTF are you doing? Negro go get a hundred thousand dollar job and sit yo ass down somewhere!” But why do I want to work super hard to make 100K in a year when I could enjoy what I do, in 45 minutes on the stage, and make 100K in one night. Kevin Hartmakes 100K just to show up and that’s what fuels me.
Yo, so what happened with the YouTube controversy you were involved in..?
Rob: I did a skit called, “Driving while Black” and it got me national notoriety. It went viral on the internet. It’s no longer on the internet because I got called by the police department, I got calls from FOX, I got calls from CNN, all that! Like a lot of people don’t know, I been through some sh*t! When it got to the city police it was at 91,000 views. They called my phone and said, “You gotta take the video down because two of our officers are being investigated for a similar issue.” The networks were calling me for interviews. That right there prepared me to go through media training on the spot. I finally decided that I was going to do the interview with Souleo from JET Magazine. The article is called “Line of Fire”. Ironically enough, it was on the same issue that had Trayvon Martin on the cover. That was my early introduction to what fame is like.
What frustrates you most about today’s culture?
Rob: Its two things.
1. Comics that depreciate the value of black culture. I feel like some comics “Coon” a little bit. It’s hard to stand behind some of the stuff they talk about. We ain’t gon say no names, but we know who they are.
2. Everybody’s a celebrity with no talent. It’s an over saturation of the market man. It’s like now with social media anybody can put up something funny and people consider them to be a comic. But they not putting that time in. They not grinding! They not on this road. People been doing this for 10-20 years, those are comics. What social media does is it discredits certain crafts and it’s mainly in the industry of entertainment.
What lessons have you learned from this whole comedy journey?
Rob: I’ve been doing comedy for two years. Two years strong. My resume is crazy. I’ve been all over the East Coast, LA and back. I feel like I’ve been in every comedy club from here to New York and back down to North Carolina. I’ve learned to never give up on your dream man, because I’ve had my share of rough nights. At one point, my manager booked me in every show in DC…(Audio)
What would you say is the #1 factor behind your success?
Rob: My drive. Nobody does what I do. I don’t sleep, I took the formula from football… Up in the morning early writing new material, planning out my day. I sit in meetings. I’m on the phones. Even late night I’m up putting things together.
What advice do you have for the aspiring comedians out there?
Rob: Find out what you want to do, find somebody who is doing it. Talk to them, ask them to be your mentor. Then if you’re serious quit your damn day job. Don’t give up on your dreams. It’s a building process. People wanna chase the dream. Don’t chase the dream, build it. One brick at a time. You build a house, you don’t chase a house. Your dream is a house.
#PushDreamLaugh. Push towards your dreams and laugh at the people that said it’s not possible.
Johnny: Yeah man Success leaves tracks. Follow em’ you’ll be cracking up all the way to the bank! Keep em laughing bro. Welcome to the @ShineHardFamily!
Interested in learning more or connecting with Rob?