Bill Bellamy owes all of his success to being able to make people laugh. He turned his knack for stand-up comedy into a career that led to everything from being an MTV "VJ" to a successful actor and television host.
Despite all of his accomplishments, Bellamy isn't just happy doing stand-up comedy; he's more excited to do it than ever.
"I think you hit a point in your stand-up where you have a breakthrough of who you are and what you're about," Bellamy said. "I feel like I'm in my prime."
Growing up in Newark, N.J., Bellamy, 50, started hitting the stage while going to college at Rutgers.
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"I didn't know I could be a comedian. I just knew I loved comedy," he said. "It was like, wow, this is one of the coolest things in the world to do."
Bellamy built up a solid reputation in the East Coast comedy scene. It led to a breakout spot on HBO's Def Comedy Jam, where he helped introduce the concept of the "booty call" to the masses. He parlayed this single TV appearance into a much longer run when he became an MTV VJ in the '90s, hosting popular shows like MTV Jams and MTV Beach House and interviewing some of the biggest names in music.
As one of the unique personalities that served as VJs in MTV's heyday, Bellamy continued to use his comedic gifts.
"Everybody utilized it in a different way," Bellamy said of the VJ gig. "I think I had a really honest perspective on music. I was a music lover, I just happened to be a comedian. I was able to talk about music and be funny at the same time."
The massive exposure MTV gave Bellamy led to even more opportunities, including big-screen acting roles in films in the late '90s and early '00s like Love Jones, Any Given Sunday, and The Brothers, among others. Since then, he's been doing stand-up comedy and popping up on the small-screen more recently in the The CW sitcom Mr. Box Office and as host for the syndicated game show Let's Ask America.
"I've been busy, man, but now we've got so many places you can work and be seen, it's hard to catch up with somebody," he said.
Even though he has a handful of stand-up specials under his belt, Bellamy really hopes people get the chance to catch up with his stand-up comedy now. He began to notice both a change in his material and the crowd's response to it when he was a featured performer on comedienne Sommore's The Standing Ovation Tour last year. It was a combination of a "kabillion" hours of stage time, a well-balanced marriage and family life, and the ability to reveal more of himself to find the biggest laughs.
"I think I'm more comfortable. It wasn't like I wasn't honest (before). It's that I'm more comfortable being completely honest, and that takes time," he said. "I started seeing the people really going crazy with laughter and responding to me. I just kept building upon the material and the perspective of where I am."
Bellamy will be back on the big screen this fall. He just finished shooting a romantic film called The Bounce Back starring Shemar Moore from CBS's Criminal Minds. He continues to hit the road showcasing his latest material, which he will bring to Comedy Off Broadway in Lexington this weekend. Even after decades onstage, Bellamy feels he's at a new beginning in his stand-up career.
"It's my heart, my love, it's such a derivative of who I truly am and who I am about," he said. "I think I'm going to keep going. It's still working."