Our Conversation With Rickey Smiley – Comedian, Radio Host, Reality Star, Actor… All Around Industry Powerhouse
World-renowned comedian, radio host, and actor Rickey Smiley has been giving us the real for over 20 plus years now—and we still can’t seem to get enough. Gaining his comedic start, opening for other comedy pioneers, such as Steve Harvey, George Wallace, and Carl Strong, Smiley forcefully rose to stardom, making a name for himself throughout the realm of urban comedy. With his impeccable style of ‘clean’, but raw humor, many immediately took a strong liking to the Alabama native. However, though comedy is what ignited Smiley’s career, he has thrived with a number of other accolades since.
The 48-year-old is an industry powerhouse. From selling out your biggest comedy arenas to gracing your TV screens—in films like the honorable Friday franchise, Friday After Next, and being a personality of his very own top rated, nationally syndicated radio show, The Rickey Smiley Morning Show. Rickey Smiley has managed to build an everlasting empire, throughout the entertainment industry, that will stick with us for decades and decades.
Born and raised in the bible belt of the south, Birmingham, Alabama, Smiley comes from humble beginnings. He was just a country boy with city boy goals, aiming for greatness. After graduating from high school, then spending some time at Tuskegee’s Job Corps Center, Smiley attended Alabama State University. He went on to pursue his comedic journey, landing him in places he’d never imagined. Still, God had even bigger plans in store.
In 2000, Rickey Smiley earned a spot on BET’s Comic View, as a headlining host. He hosted two consecutive seasons, captivating the audience, each and every episode. After his stint on Comic View, he then went on to host The Way We Do It—another one of BET’s shows, in 2001. Once again, he made a major impact—boosting up the show and the network’s ratings, tremendously. Still, God wasn’t through with him yet. He took his craft to shows like Showtime At The Apollo, Def Comedy Jam, and Snaps—all while snagging acting roles, with films like All About The Benjamins.
Embarking into the film world, Smiley still maintained to grow his fanbase with comedy. Creating unforgettable characters, like, ‘Bernice Jenkins’ and Lil’ Darryl, Smiley’s brand skyrocketed. The people were loving it, as the characters became a regular asset to his routines. His infamous, hilarious prank calls are still talked about, to this day.
After serving as a morning show personality for KBFB in Dallas, back in 2004, Smiley joined with Radio One four years later. The Rickey Smiley Morning Show was officially born. The show was an instant success, being that people had already grown to love him on the mic. Since, Smiley has become a radio phenomenon, with The Rickey Smiley Morning Show being one of the best morning radio shows in the country. The show strives to spread love and light while providing early morning laughter for the soul.
Along with his steadfast radio presence, Smiley has taken his funny to the sitcom world. In 2012, his sitcom, The Rickey Smiley Show, premiered on TV One. The series, based on his life, lasted three great seasons. More recently Mr. Smiley decided to come back with a new show, called, Rickey Smiley For Real—an unscripted reality TV show, chronicling his everyday life, behind the scenes, and at work. Though the show displays what goes on at The Rickey Smiley Morning Show, Smiley’s life as a single father plays a big part in the show as well. The show debuted back in November of 2015 and has been going strong ever since.
A comedic mogul, loving father, philanthropist, and God-fearing man, Rickey Smiley’s career persistently succeeds, as he walks in God’s purpose—inspiring people, along the way, while bringing joy to those in need.
Check out our exclusive interview with Rickey Smiley, as he talks about Rickey Smiley For Real, his old-fashioned ways of fatherhood & more…
Parlé Mag: Rickey Smiley For Real is in its third season. It’s been doing extremely well! How did this reality series come into works?
Rickey Smiley: Well, you know, we had a scripted sitcom about the same thing. So, I mean, I have an interesting life, and my morning show is a part of my family structure. You would not believe the funny stuff that happens. People really need to see the insight. They listen to it on the radio, but they don’t get to see that stuff that really goes on in the studio—which really should be on camera because I think it’s just as entertaining. Probably more entertaining than any other reality shows, and it’s not negative! It’s peaceful moments. You know, because we are all Christian family, Christian-based folks, and good people. You got people like Brat [Da Brat]—raised by her grandmother. She’s Hip Hop, but she’s got good Christian values. You got Headkrack and Rock T; they are great fathers. Just the stuff that we do together. I thought it was an awesome concept. So, Roger Bobb and I, we talked about it, and we shot a pilot, put up the money. The network said, ‘Hey, we like it.’ Well, everybody at the network, except one person. Most of the people at the network liked the show, but one person. She didn’t have the vision; she was against it. But, after it happened, it’d be funny to watch her show up and stuff, smiling as if she was always down since day one. Yeah, I’m throwing shade!
Parlé Mag: [laughs]
Rickey Smiley: I’m one of those types of dudes.
Parlé Mag: I see!
Rickey Smiley: I love to throw shade on people like that. Yeah, she didn’t. One person didn’t believe in it, but we ain’t gon’ say her name. I’d love to see her come to all of the events and sit there with her legs crossed, as if!
Parlé Mag: Well, you proved her wrong!
Rickey Smiley: We did!
Parle Mag: So, how much longer do you see yourself doing Rickey Smiley For Real? Will there be a possible fourth season?
Rickey Smiley: Yeah! I expect to do a fourth season.
Parle Mag: Okay.
Rickey Smiley: A fifth season—sixth, seventh, and eighth. I mean, I’ll do it as long as we can because, once people get attached to the family, you start growing and watching the kids grow up. Maybe one day, the kids will get married, have kids, and, you know, what my life would be like once I slow down a little bit. It is just so many elements to me and different people on my morning show. Gary is about to get his own show now. So, you’ll get a lot of elements of that.
Parle Mag: Wow.
Rickey Smiley: Oh, yeah! A lot of elements of that, behind the scenes, and building his show. I hope and pray that Swan Harris gets to produce that show because she’s a great producer. She works with us on Dish Nation. And, just to see everything. Everything! Things just evolve and change over the years. Some people resign; some people get new people to come. Watching these interns and interviews. I want people to see what really goes on. So, I’m excited about it; I would like to do ten seasons!
Parle Mag: Amazing. Reality TV is steadily growing. What are your thoughts on reality TV as a whole and overall perception of black people on these shows?
Rickey Smiley: Well, it just depends on what are we trying to give out. Now, I’m not a fan of the cursing, the fighting, and the throwing drinks. Different stuff like that, I’m not a fan of that because I think sometimes that can put us in a bad light. I think, on some of those shows, you have those moments; that’s fine, but I think some shows do it too much. Every other scene is a fight or drinks being thrown. It just kinda sets the wrong tone with our young people, as to how to resolve issues. I’m just trying to do it the right way. I’m allowing you into my life, and I’m not perfect, but I want to try to find a better way to resolve conflict. You understand what I’m saying?
Parle Mag: Right. Of Course.
Rickey Smiley: With life, there is always going to be conflict, but the question is, ‘how do we resolve these issues’? We got counseling; we got therapy on the show. We have strained relationships, between father and son. Strained relationships between father and daughter. Strained relationships between staff and employees, that have to be resolved. So, it’s all about how you do it, and we just hope and pray that people can learn from it and get something out of it.
Parle Mag: So, you believe that you can do reality TV and still make a good show without all of the negative?
Rickey Smiley: Oh, absolutely. You see, the www.rickeysmileyfoundation.org [Rickey Smiley Foundation] in works, doing positive things in the community. Clothing people who don’t have clothes. Feeding people who are hungry. Educating people who are not educated. Trying to do some wonderful things in the community, having fun doing it, and entertaining while doing it. So, that’s what it’s all about. It’s all about how you look at it.
Parle Mag: Exactly. Now, on the show, it’s very evident that you are very, very close to your children. Protecting our children in today’s society has become even more important nowadays. How’s fatherhood, for you, in this new world?
Rickey Smiley: Fatherhood is easy if you have kids who want to be fathered.
Parle Mag: [laughs]
Rickey Smiley: [laughs] In order to have a good father, you have to be willing to be fathered. When you have kids who are respectful, kids who listen, fatherhood is not hard at all. The hardest thing about fatherhood is just trying to be a provider. Making sure that they eat. Making sure that they have clothes to wear. Making sure that they’re educated. Washing clothes and folding clothes. Picking you up from basketball practice; taking you to football practice. Taking you to gymnastics. Taking you to cheer practice. Learning the cheers with you. Doing hair. I’ve done hair; I’ve done some barrettes and hair bows and all of that stuff. That’s just a part of being a dad. Sometimes, man, when they get a certain age, sometimes they give you the middle finger. Some of them are like, ‘Dad, we really love you and we really appreciate you.’, and then, there are some that just keep the middle finger because you don’t give them everything that they want. They have a sense of entitlement and a bad attitude. So, that’s the hard part about being a father. I’m just being honest!
Parle Mag: What is something that was instilled in you at an early age, that you’ve always tried to instill in your own children?
Rickey Smiley: I got ‘grandma ways’. Everything that my grandmama was, I just try to instill that into the kids. That good old-fashioned tough love and tough home training ain’t never hurt nobody.
Parle Mag: That’s true!
Rickey Smiley: It has not hurt anybody. Ain’t nothing wrong with some good old-fashioned, get in your face, no nonsense, home training. That’s where charity starts. Charity starts at home. So, that’s what it’s all about. This generation is sensitive, can’t say nothing to a kid. I had a kid who was home for fifteen days. I told him, he needs to go to Chick-fil-A and get him a job because he’s not going to sit here every day and do nothing. I had a niece who told me that she thought that was a ‘little extreme’.
Parle Mag: Extreme?
Rickey Smiley: Oh, yeah! ‘I think that’s a little extreme for you to tell him to go get a job on his school break.’ I say, ‘I didn’t say he had to work full time.’ But, if you can work your twelve or thirteen hours a week, where you can get some experience, because the outer mind is the devil’s workshop. Hard work ain’t never hurt nobody. Trying to start them while they’re young. But, when you get a generation that will challenge you, and tell you that it’s extreme for somebody who’s home for fifteen days to go and work, at that point, this generation is retarded!
Parle Mag: [laughs] You think so?
Rickey Smiley: It’s mentally retarded. I’m talking about used the word ‘extreme’! Now, mind you, this is coming from somebody who doesn’t have kids. So, in my house, what I say goes. It’s not a conversation because I sit kids down in my house and tell them what they’re going to do. The discussion is not whether you should or shouldn’t. You have to follow my demands or you have to find somewhere to stay. I’m one of those types of parents. I’m just no nonsense. It’s black and white.
Parle Mag: Right!
Rickey Smiley: ‘Okay, here’s the deal! We’re going to go and work over here at Chick-fil-A and then we’re going to go to a little basketball camp and take some agility classes, once or twice a week to help you out with your basketball. Here’s the little plan!’ Keep you from sitting on the step, staring into a phone screen all day, every day. Doing nothing. Asking can friends come over, and can this person come over and shoot basketball. This, that, and the other. See, you slow all of that down by keeping them busy. Giving them something to do. Then, you get the older kids, who don’t like your ass anyway! They try to undermine what you trying to teach. Now, mind you, the ones who try to undermine what you trying teach, they ain’t doing shit with their life. So, my thing to my fifteen-year-old, ‘You need to follow me! Follow me!’. You can’t follow nobody who ain’t going nowhere, because misery loves company. We’ll address some of that on Rickey Smiley For Real. My clash with my 26-year-old son is just unbelievable. You know, it is what it is. Me and our comedian, Special K, we talk about this every day because our sons are just about the same age. Me and Special K are hated by our oldest sons because we have ground rules, and we not going to bend. We’re not going to change. My son don’t take care of me; why I got to listen to him? He doesn’t take care of me; he doesn’t pay no bills. Rickey Smiley For Real puts extra money in his pocket. He’s in a car that I bought. I don’t have nothing in this house that I’m benefiting from, from him being here. So, why I got to listen to him? You’re right; you’re driving because of me. You’re not in prison because of me.
Parle Mag: He should be thankful!
Rickey Smiley: Absolutely! So, when you’re dealing with a generation that wants you to help them when it’s convenient for them, but then they’ll turn around—when you help them, and flip you off and give you the middle finger. ‘We need to sit down and talk like men’. That was his last statement to me; so, I told him, ‘Well, we not going to talk because, if we talk, you need to understand your place with me because we ain’t two men who can’t get along. I’m your father’. So, it ain’t no two men talking. It’s a father and son conversation. See, I set the tone for the conversation. You know, then you get that curse out text, ‘Well, you’re not my father. You changed, and I don’t know who you are anymore’. Well, that’s fine. Last night, I laid on my couch and I watched Seattle versus the Panthers, without worrying about somebody coming in and out of my house, all the times of night. I slept good last night. With the fireplace lit, the Christmas tree lit, hot bowl of chili in my stomach! Without nan’ n*gga in here bothering me.
Parle Mag: [laughs] So, you’re good.
Rickey Smiley: I’m good! Man, I don’t care. I ain’t lose not one minute of sleep. See, I’m one of those type of people—like my granddaddy used to say, if you stop speaking to me, that means I don’t have to be bothered with you. I’m good. My life is great! You’re the one ain’t going to be on the boat, with me this spring, going to the Bahamas, when I’m going across the Atlantic Ocean. Looking at the clear blue water and running into a slew of dolphins, every now and then. You going to be hitting that nine to five, lifting them boxes. Mind you, I’m just only a dad who went to court and got custody and raised you. Went to court to find out that you are my son, when I was told that you are not my son. I went to court to prove that you were my son! I forced a DNA test because I ran into you a few times, and you looked just like me. Now, I’m the worst person in the world.
Parle Mag: Wow, unbelievable.
Rickey Smiley: Oh, yeah.
Parle Mag: Where do you see your career going from here? Any upcoming projects?
Rickey Smiley: Yeah, we’re working on Gary’s show. So, I’m excited about producing that show. And, Rickey Smiley Morning Show. Our contract is about up, and hopefully they do a renewal. Hopefully some more years on the radio. Rickey Smiley Foundation and doing some big events. I’m kind of slowing down a bit because I’ve been at it for twenty-seven years.
Parle Mag: That’s a long time!
Rickey Smiley: Yeah! Since the first time I went on stage. So, no more comedy clubs, doing three and four shows a night. So, I’m just going to relax. Sitting around watching old Alabama football games, and I’m going to travel. I’m about to get some rest and just enjoy my life. I’ll be spending a lot of time either on an ocean or some lake. Listening to ‘53 chill’, on XM. [laughs].
Don’t forget to tune in for Rickey Smiley For Real, every Tuesday night at 8/7c on TV One!
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