How To Get Absolutely Anything You Want In Life, According To JB Smoove
On: May 28, 2014

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J.B. Smoove is a man on the move. While that means he keeps bouncing between big jobs—from his beloved role as Leon Black on Curb Your Enthusiasm to his recurring gig on CBS’s hit The Millers—it also means he literally can’t sit still. For proof, check out clips of his standup act, in which the energetic comedian jolts across the stage and delivers jokes at rapid-fire speeds. Or check him out as he emcees NBC’s revival of Last Comic Standing, the talent search that returned last week after a 4-year hiatus and airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET.

“It’s a great time to be J.B. Smoove,” the 47-year-old actor says—but that hasn’t always the case. Smoove spent more than two decades building his comedic career, and had to endure early failures before experiencing stardom. Here’s what he picked up on his way to success, and what you can learn en route to yours—including the one skill that will come in handy for the rest of your life.

Men’s Health: You’ve been at this for 20 years and things are really busting out all over for you. What’s the secret? 

J.B. Smoove: I’ve been planting a whole lot of seeds my whole life—a lot of those seeds a very long time ago—and I’ve been letting them grow. I’m very happy with the phone ringing consistently over a number of years, whereas some guys want it all at one time. I’d rather have longevity than one big bang. When you get it all at one time, a lot of guys can’t handle that, and it blows up in their face. I like it slow and steady, and I keep getting it done. So the phone keeps ringing and I keep meeting cool people. That’s how my life is.

MH: Audiences haven’t seen Last Comic Standing since 2010. Now that it’s back, what’s new?

Smoove: This season is incredible, man! One of the biggest changes this season is adding me to the show. I’m J.B. Smoove, man. Who’s going to sell this show better? Who’s going to amp it up more? Who’s going to bring these comics out to the stage with more energy and positivity? Who’s got 20 years experience in comedy? And who knows how to live this life? It’s me. I’m the man to get it done.

MH: The season starts with 100 comics, and it’s an incredibly varied group. What have you seen in this year’s contestants?

Smoove: Some of them don’t know anything. Some of them think they know it all. Some of them won’t listen and some of them are sponges. I’m in these comics’ lives to give them honest criticism, to pump them up, to inspire them and encourage them, and to bring them to the stage with straight fire. I set them up so they cannot fail. When I’m introducing someone to the stage, the veins are popping out of my forehead. I want these people to succeed.

MH: And still, only one of them will actually win. 

Smoove: You have to fail, man, but you cannot allow failure to stop you from doing what you must do. Failing is just as good as succeeding in a lot of ways. It’s how you react to it all. You can react to success the wrong way and be a total failure. Or you can react to losing with your whole heart, learn from it, and be a huge success. In stand-up, I’ve learned to know when I’m burning it up or when I’m being so-so. That’s experience. I learn every single time I’m on a stage. On Last Comic Standing, they get 4 minutes to nail it. Life can be like that, too, sometimes.

MH: What’s the biggest lesson the average guy can learn from comedy?

Smoove: Look, anybody can tell a joke, so a lot of a comedian’s success is about energy and engagement. A real comic sells himself first and his joke second. So how do you do that? Get your swagger. Know what you’re doing. Be prepared. Be fresh. Be “on.” Learn what audiences love about you, and then keep giving it to them. If they like the way you move your eyebrow when you smirk, give them the smirk. You know how in wrestling, there are those guys that climb up on the ropes and do their big body slam? That’s their signature move. It makes the audience crazy. It builds excitement. It builds anticipation. You have to have something about you that an audience loves so much they can’t wait to see you do it again. We’ve all got audiences in our lives, man—family, spouses, coworkers, whatever—so every man should have his signature move.

MH: You’ve got a background in improv. That has to help out in everyday life, right? 

Smoove: The main thing is: learn how to listen. No matter what you’re doing in life, listen. Listen, wait, process it, then you open your mouth. Gather the information and then you reply. Anything else, you’re bound to fail. Anything you do, do it like that. When you don’t know how to deal with your lady, take an improv class. You can improv on her birthday. You can improv on your anniversary. You can improv in the bedroom. Can you imagine the skills you would have with your lady if you just listened better? Improv opens doors to everything. It’ll keep you from getting fired. It’ll keep you from getting a ticket. It’ll get you a nice time with your lady. Before you open your mouth, make sure you’ve listened. You can have anything you want in life.

By J. Rentilly for Men’s Health