Faizon Love might not be a household name, but everyone is usually happy when they see him.
The comic actor makes a good living in Hollywood thanks to his hilarious delivery of a line and an abrasive but likeable screen presence. He's appeared in dozens of film and television projects, and whether it's bit parts where he's onscreen for a matter of minutes or larger roles in films such as the cult comedy Friday or recent hits like 2009's Couple's Retreat, Love always seems to leave a good impression.
But Love's presence onscreen wouldn't be possible without his first love: stand-up comedy.
Love headlines the Urban Chocolate Comedy Series on Saturday at Lexington Center's Heritage Hall.
The son of a military family, Love, 43, first discovered stand-up through such influential comedians as Freddie Prinze and Richard Pryor. But it was at age 14, when Love saw Eddie Murphy take the stage, that he found his calling.
"He was really young and I was like, wow," Love said of Murphy. "I was like, I'm going to do that."
Love grabbed the microphone one year later at age 15 and didn't look back. Over the years, Love honed his craft, focusing on finding his own style through a studied cadence and timing he weaves through his occasionally outlandish material. While his stand-up career was getting off the ground, opportunities came knocking from Hollywood.
His first big break came doing voiceover work in the 1992 animated comedy Bebe's Kids. As more and more acting roles came Love's way, he put the stand-up on hold from 1994 to 2003. During that time, Love managed to carve out a niche by being himself.
"What acting is is to just do it," Love said. "It sounded weird because every director wants something different. It's like war. You know what to do whenever they start shooting. Your instincts are your best weapons."
Now, Love is managing to devote equal amounts of energy to his acting work and his stand-up. He says he has a television series in the works and is recording his first full-length stand-up special. He said he hopes to make a special and a live show that focus less on crowd interaction and more on Love's efforts to own the stage.
"True masters, the camera focuses on them only. You don't want to miss a minute of what they're doing," he said.
For the Urban Chocolate Comedy Series, Love is going to have some company. Opening acts will include Central Kentucky comic Larry Starks along with Mario "Goo" McIntyer and the event's host, Hollywood comedian and actor Jaylyn Bishop.
The event will serve as the spring fund-raiser for the Buffalo Foundation, a non-profit organization affiliated with the Kentucky Black Sports Hall of Fame that funds educational and agricultural programs for inner-city schoolchildren.
The event's executive producer Barry Tilford said he wanted to make sure to bring in some big talent to raise awareness for the work the Buffalo Foundation does.
"We can bring a Hollywood actor, comedian and film star onstage to show them how serious we are about this cause," Tilford said. "When people know your platform and what you're really trying to accomplish, they tend to be really sensitive to that and want to help."