'Shaq' looking to become the Pat Riley of comedy
NEW YORK (AP) — With his latest endeavor, Shaquille O'Neal now considers himself the ‘‘Pat Riley of comedy.’’
The four-time NBA champion likens himself to the famed basketball coach with his ability to pick the right comedians for his ‘‘All Star Comedy Jam.’’
‘‘Humor is a big way to relieve stress, so me being a great leader and being an expert at organizational leadership, I could pick a team, I could pick a street ball team, I could pick a kickball team, I definitely could pick comedians,’’ O'Neal said.
O'Neal said he wanted provide a forum for comics similar to Russell Simmons’ ‘‘Def Comedy Jam.’’ He was a big fan of the HBO series that launched the careers of Dave Chappelle, Martin Lawrence, Bernie Mac, Chris Tucker and others.
But O'Neal said his revue isn’t just about black comedy.
‘‘I am not biased. Even though I'm African-American, even though I'm urban, I don’t just like urban comedy,’’ O'Neal said. ‘‘The guy Jeff Foxworthy — that’s some of the best comedy ever — ‘You know you’re a redneck.’ I can relate to that because I went to school in Louisiana and Texas.’’
The ‘‘All Star Comedy Jam’’ has a lineup that has featured Finesse Mitchell and Gary Owen. The tour ends on New Year’s Eve in Atlanta.
One of the comedians O'Neal is highlighting on the tour is the Bronx-born Capone.
‘‘This guy right now here is the LeBron (James). He’s the closer,’’ O'Neal said proudly as he patted the comedian on the back.
The drug dealer-turned-comedian says he always had the gift.
‘‘I was somebody who was notorious for pretty much always saying what I felt like saying and I grew a reputation for that,’’ Capone said.
But he says that being funny wasn’t enough. ‘‘I made the transformation from not wanting to be a drug dealer anymore and turning to comedy.’’
After struggling for years on the circuit, Capone finally got his break.
‘‘For somebody like Shaq to recognize that is really big,’’ Capone said.
Though his passion is comedy, O'Neal is still involved in basketball — as an NBA analyst on TNT. O'Neal isn’t shy to speak his mind: Before the season started, he said Los Angeles Lakers’ newly acquired center Dwight Howard wasn’t the game’s most dominant at his position.
O'Neal caught a lot of flak for the comment, but stands by what he said.
‘‘He’s taking it personal, but I want him to get mad so he can dominate,’’ O'Neal said of Howard. ‘‘You push your employees’ buttons and either they go to the next level or they decline.’’
While brazen and often funny on television, don’t expect O'Neal to get up on a comedy stage anytime soon.
‘‘I know my limits. In my bathroom I'm funny as hell. I can give you seven, eight minutes straight. That’s different from going onstage and looking at the guy in the front row and he’s looking at you like this,’’ he said, making a blank stare. ‘‘So that’s always been my fear.’’
John Carucci covers entertainment for The Associated Press. Follow him at http://www.twitter.com/jcarucci_ap