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Comedian Finesse Mitchell recalls fateful standup debut

March 13, 2019
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Former Saturday Night Live cast member Finesse Mitchell's latest comedy special, 'The Spirit Told me to Tell You,' finds the comedian sharing real-life stories about juggling the demands of marriage, fatherhood, staying out of nightclubs and 'adulting.' It's available on most digital streaming platforms, including iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Prime, Vimeo and Dish. Former Saturday Night Live cast member Finesse Mitchell's latest comedy special, 'The Spirit Told me to Tell You,' finds the comedian sharing real-life stories about juggling the demands of marriage, fatherhood, staying out of nightclubs and 'adulting.' It's available on most digital streaming platforms, including iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Prime, Vimeo and Dish. (Photo courtesy of Comedy Dynamics)

Actor, author and comedian Finesse Mitchell’s latest standup special, “The Spirit Told Me to Tell You,” has broken wide open on digital streaming platforms after its debut on Showtime last fall.

Mitchell, a member of Saturday Night Live’s cast from 2003 to 2006, draws deep laughs with stories about life in Los Angeles, phone calls from parents, being a new father, relationships, and bending the truth to keep those relationships afloat.

“I’m really proud of it,” Mitchell says of the show. “Sometimes you just know when you have something people like. I knew it was going to be good when I was doing it and that’s a good feeling.”

Mitchell will celebrate a career milestone this year – the 20th anniversary of his first appearance on BET’s long-running standup series “Comic View.” The national exposure from those early standup spots, combined with Mitchell’s appearances on late night talk shows, created a buzz that ultimately led him to the SNL cast, thanks in no small part to SNL veteran Tracy Morgan.

“When Tracy announced he was leaving ‘Saturday Night Live,’ that news swept through the comedy community like a brushfire,” Mitchell remembered. “We all heard about it, and I thought ‘I’m black. Let me see if I can get my tape to the people.’”

Solidly ensconced in the community at that point, Mitchell says a series of phone calls immediately transpired once he heard the news of Morgan’s pending departure from the show.

“There was me, Kevin Hart and Tony Rock – Chris Rock’s brother,” Mitchell laughed. “We called Tony, Tony called Chris and Chris called Tracy. Tracy called us all back on a three-way call and said (in Tracy Morgan’s voice) ‘Yeah, I’m leaving ‘Saturday Night Live,’ so whoever wants my spot can get my spot.’”

By the way, Mitchell’s impression of Tracy Morgan is spot-on.

Mitchell and Kenan Thompson were ultimately hired to replace Morgan and Dean Edwards as SNL’s male African-American cast members.

“Tracy is a good guy,” Mitchell said with affection.

I asked Mitchell if he could recall his very first attempt at standup comedy.

“It was one of those open-mic nights where anyone could get on stage,” he recalled. “I just went with a bunch of friends. There were like six of us – three guys and three girls. It was like a date thing and somebody got free tickets to go to the comedy club.”

Mitchell says that he and his comedy club companions were oblivious about two-drink minimums.

“We were all broke and thought we could just order water and watch the comedy show,” Mitchell said. “The waitress came over and said, ‘You’ve got to order two drinks or two items off the menu,’ so the girls immediately starting ordering fancy pasta dishes and we were like ‘Holy crap, what just happened?’”

When the ladies began ordering Hennessy cognac, Mitchell says that he and the guys looked at each other in disbelief, knowing that none of them had the ability to pay for it all.

“I’ll never forget this,” Mitchell told me. “The host comes out onstage and says the person who has the best joke won’t have to pay their tab. That was the birth of Finesse Mitchell, man. My fellas voted me to go up there and tell a joke. I made up a joke in the moment and all I remember about it is that it was funny. It had something to do with what the host was talking about. So he took care of our tab and told me to come back next week. The next thing I knew, I was on ‘Saturday Night Live.’”

Finesse Mitchell’s “The Spirit Told Me to Tell You” is available now on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Amazon Prime, Xbox, Vimeo, & Dish Network.

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