finesse-mitchell_web.jpgOne of comedian Finesse Mitchell’s favorite jokes is on himself — and his tragic first solo stand-up comedy.

One night at the Miami Improv Comedy Club in Coconut Grove, Mitchell and friends had no money to spare on drinks. When the host announced that the best open-mic joke would win a free bottle of champagne, the 6’1’’ University of Miami football player promptly took the stage. 
Not only did his routine get booed by the audience, his friends were totally impassive.

That was enough for challenge-seeker Mitchell to decide he wanted to invest in a comic career.

He wrote some jokes. He went to more open mics. He moved to Los Angeles and attended countless auditions, while making a living as an insurance salesperson.

The Atlanta native's hustling eventually paid off, as his stand-up made its way to BET’s “Comic View” and “Comedy Central,” and in 2003 — seven years after his faux-pas at the Improv — he landed a spot in the cast of “Saturday Night Live.”

While television helped establish his comic work, Mitchell said he wasn’t sure how long the show would keep two black performers in the cast, and decided to branch out.

His takes on dating and relationships became a regular feature in Essence magazine, “Oh Brother!” an advice column for women from a black man’s perspective. To his own surprise, Mitchell has also become a much sought-after guest in productions such as in “The Today Show,” “Tyra,” and “The Early Show.”  In 2008 he won the African-American Literary Award for Best Comedy Book for his Your Girlfriends Only Know So Much: A Brother’s Take on Dating and Mating for Sistas.

Mitchell’s easy-going demeanor is one of the keys to his success. He comes off as someone you hang out with all the time. Of his upcoming four nights of comedy at the Improv, he said they seem kind of “surreal” when he thinks back to his early performing days. This time, he said with laughter, all his friends are excited about being there.

He noted that television and big screen appearances in Who’s Your Caddy?, The Comebacks and Mad Money have helped him “round out the crowd” at his performances in cities such as New York and Chicago. South Florida, however, is unique in its diversity, which helps him take a very personal spin on his material — a fusion of politics, celebrities, and things that are very specific to his life.

“Nowhere else I find a crowd where a Jamaican sits next to a Haitian, a Cuban next to a Colombian,” he explained. “Here, white people are a minority.”

The show at the Improv is just one of the exciting items on Mitchell’s list of projects. This summer he will participate in the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans, and will tour with the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Canada.

He is also working on his second book, finishing a script, and negotiating new movie appearances.

And as a man who made his reputation as a relationship expert, he also makes a point of investing plenty of time in nurturing his marriage.

“Black women are distinctively strong, and black men very opinionated, so constant communication is key to making relationships among black couples work,” he said.

And, he added with a serious tone, “It is a challenge, but worthwhile. Black love is one of the best loves out there.”

Accioly.Juliana@Yahoo.com

Photo: Finesse Mitchell

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Finesse Mitchell

WHEN: Thursday, May 13 at 8:30 p.m.; Friday, May 14 at 8:30 p.m. and 10:45 p.m.; Saturday, May 15 at 8:30 p.m. and 10:45 p.m., and Sunday, May 16 at 8:30 p.m.

WHERE: The Miami Improv Comedy Club & Dinner Theater, Shoppes of Mayfair, 3390 Mary Street, Suite 182, Coconut Grove.

COST: Thursday and Sunday, $20.69; Friday and Saturday, $23.90; plus a two-drink minimum per person each day. Purchase tickets at miamiimprov.com, or call
305-441-8200.