Alonzo Mourning said he isn’t fond of being referred to as an athlete now that he has retired from the game; however, he understands why the public has a hard time
letting go of the designation.
The former All-star and 2014 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee refers to himself as “just a man” powered by a “hands-on approach” to improving the lives of those living in poorer pockets of the city. For nearly 20 years his helping hand has been held by his wife, Tracy. Their joint efforts have, to date, paid it forward across South Florida to the tune of $25 million through their umbrella of not-for-profits, Mourning Charities.
The Mournings, parents of three with a high school named after them, raise money for the charitable endeavors with Annual Zo’s Winter Groove, a multi-day event that includes golf, a fun and fitness day and a comedy show. This year, South Floridians’ dose of comedic relief was hosted by one-fourth of the Original Kings of Comedy, Cedric the Entertainer (Ced) on Jan. 18 at the downtown J.W. Marriott Marquis.
The show included stand-up acts from newcomers Darren Brand of MTV 2’s Wild ‘N Out and Chico Bean of The James Davis Project, an upcoming E! Network sketch comedy series. Also on the bill were seasoned comics Malik S., Barry Ribs, MeMe Simpson, Marshall Brandon and J.J. Williamson.
In an exclusive interview with the South Florida Times, Ced said his business and personal relationship with Mourning is worth the five-hour coast to coast flight from Los Angeles to Miami to host the annual event. “Zo is a good friend of mine,” he said.
Performing for nearly three decades, Ced said creating comedy is far more substantive than simply telling jokes. He defined the art form as an “expression of one’s self, his personality, the ability to take an observational look at the world … the things that go on in it, and then, say what I feel in a degree of absurdity and truth that makes one laugh.”
He said the keys to great comedic success include the comic identifying their personal voice and trusting his or her ability to construct jokes. “In great writers you can hear it their tone; you can hear it the delivery and inflections,” adding, “even if you are funny you have to ‘chop-the-wood’ by going on stage and performing as much as possible,” he suggests.
Ced’s process for developing stand-up material includes reading newspapers and scouring the Internet, but more specifically, he said hanging “with friends and family and seeing how they react to something I said that I didn’t even know was a joke is when I know I can probably bring it to the stage.”
While he has his formula for doing what he does, Ced said studying other comedians helped him to hone his comedic skills. He said the late Robin Harris had the greatest impact on him because of his down-to-earth, very familiar style.
“Of course, I was influenced by Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, but Harris was someone like an uncle or cousin I could relate to. I kind of pulled that style; that’s my delivery, my demeanor on-stage.”
He also pulls inspiration from more mainstream comics. “I also love guys like Robin Williams and Billy Crystal. These are people who write great stories and craft great jokes … they have always been, for me, some of the greatest comedians.”
The Southeastern Missouri State University mass communication alum said his decision to do comedy was a matter of destiny. He got his start because of a bet made in 1987.
“I always liked to entertain; I made $500 the first time I did stand-up and that was it; I was hooked. I felt ordained to do this.”