Career of comic Finesse Mitchell runs gamut from 'SNL' to Disney sitcom

In stand-up act, he takes audience along

Contributing Culture WriterMarch 22, 2013 

Finesse Mitchell comes to Lexington's Comedy Off Broadway for six shows from March 27 through 30.

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  • IF YOU GO

    Finesse Mitchell

    Special guest: Keedar Whittle

    When: 7:15 p.m. March 27, 28; 7:15 and 9:45 p.m. March 29, 30

    Where: Comedy Off Broadway, The Mall at Lexington Green, 161 Lexington Green Cir.

    Tickets: $10 March 27, 28; $15 March 29; $18 for March 30. Available at (859) 271-5653 or Comedyoffbroadway.com.

If you are a comedian whose first name is a word that's synonymous with being delicate and also happens to be the name of a popular brand of women's shampoo, you'd better be one confident individual.

For stand-up comedian and Saturday Night Live alum Finesse Mitchell, this is one area where he's never had a problem.

"Honestly, I'm just a great stand-up," said Mitchell, who comes to Comedy Off Broadway in Lexington this week. "If you come check me out now, you'll be like, 'Finesse is a beast.'"

If he comes off as cocky, it's because the Atlanta native came up in an environment where self-doubt was not allowed. When he attended the University of Miami, he was a walk-on for the football team and suited up with future wrestler/actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and future NFL Hall of Famer Warren Sapp. He also was active as a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and had no problem getting in the spotlight at parties and step shows.

He also didn't have a problem getting in front of a crowd to tell his first stand-up joke at an Atlanta comedy club in 1996 — especially since whoever told the best joke won a bottle of Champagne, and he and his boys didn't quite have enough cash to meet the two-drink minimum.

"I just caught the bug," Mitchell said.

While Mitchell, 40, was working out his routine in comedy clubs for a year-and-a-half, he found himself in the right place at the right time. In 1999, BET's ComicView called him up to fill in as an alternate performer.

"Back then, BET's ComicView was hot. Everybody was watching it," Mitchell said.

As his stand-up career began to take off, Mitchell moved to Los Angeles. He was building a solid following, and TV sketch comedy wasn't on his radar until someone suggested he send in an audition tape.

"I heard that Tracy Morgan was leaving (SNL) and they were looking for a new black guy. And I said, 'I'm black,'" Mitchell jokes.

He came on SNL as a featured player in 2003 and was later promoted to a full cast member. He spent four seasons on the NBC late-night show and saw his popularity seemingly skyrocket in an instant.

"As soon as I got SNL, all of the sudden, I was hot s---," Mitchell said. "I had a whole bunch of new cousins. After that, I was a bona fide actor."

Mitchell took advantage of his newfound mid-level celebrity. (One of his popular stand-up bits referred to how he was "snap famous." YouTube it.) He appeared in films including Who's Your Caddy?, The Comebacks and Mad Money while also coming on at Essence magazine as a relationship and humor columnist.

Mitchell admits he didn't show quite as much finesse with his career after that. He moved back to Miami, took too long of a break and his popularity cooled. Now, he seems to be experiencing a resurgence.

He became a "Disney dad" when he took the role of Darryl Parks on the hit Disney Channel sitcom A.N.T. Farm. Last year, he recorded his second stand-up special, One Man Monster, and was asked to be a featured player on Shaquille O'Neal's All-Star Comedy Jam Tour.

When Mitchell comes to Lexington this week, the majority of his material will be recorded for the All-Star Comedy Jam Tour DVD later this year. He says he will pick at the crowd, delve into some politics or talk about the odyssey of navigating your 20s, 30s and 40s. Mitchell said that what makes his comedy so "beastly" is how he mixes things up.

"Everybody has a different style, but my style seems to relate to everybody. That's the strongest thing I do," Mitchell said. "The overall show is just one big, long story. I always knew I wanted to take people on a journey."


IF YOU GO

Finesse Mitchell

Special guest: Keedar Whittle

When: 7:15 p.m. March 27, 28; 7:15 and 9:45 p.m. March 29, 30

Where: Comedy Off Broadway, The Mall at Lexington Green, 161 Lexington Green Cir.

Tickets: $10 March 27, 28; $15 March 29; $18 for March 30. Available at (859) 271-5653 or Comedyoffbroadway.com.

Blake Hannon is a Mount Sterling-based writer.

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