When Keenen Ivory Wayans was casting Fox’s “In Living Color” reboot, he stumbled upon one of Lil Rel Howery’s standup videos by mistake. That clip earned Howery a spot on the upcoming “In Living Color” specials, fulfilling one of the Chicago comic’s childhood dreams.
“I wrote ‘Name Your Adventure’ (an early-’90s reality show that helps teens fulfill their dreams) when I was a kid to try and get on that damn show,” he says. But when “In Living Color” was canceled in 1994, the “Name Your Adventure” producers wrote Howery back and told him to keep on dreaming.
Less than a decade later, it’s no wonder his act caught Wayans’ eye. Howery’s standup is meticulously crafted, featuring impressions of his smoker-voiced mother and a father eager to rough up hooligans from Chicago’s West Side. Howery can’t help himself from acting out the situations he describes, suggesting the characterizations and charisma of a young Eddie Murphy.
It took time and the goading of his comedian roommates for Howery to feel comfortable telling those stories onstage. But getting personal with his material made all the difference.
Hence the nickname. When Howery started in comedy, he went by his given name, Milton. After a particularly bad set, “I decided to reinvent myself,” he recalls with a hearty, cackling laugh — his signature, along with ending conversations with “Shibidy do bo.”
Back in high school, Howery’s basketball teammates noticed he played like his older cousin, Derail, and nicknamed the young athlete in Derail’s honor. When it came time to adopt a new stage handle, “I was gonna be where I’m from, who I am, and everyone in the neighborhood called me ‘Lil Rel,’?” says Howery, who achieved another goal by competing on “Last Comic Standing” in 2010.
P.O.V.: “I used to watch ‘Last Comic Standing’ with my mom before she passed. So when I got that red envelope, I was extremely emotional.”
Influences: Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor
Reps: United Talent Agency/Game Changer Management