Up-and-coming comedian Rob Cantrell‘s star is definitely on the rise. This Brooklyn-based comedian has made recent appearances on The Colbert Report as well as the FX series Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell. Rob has also made two full-length hip hop videos which were featured on the Comedy Central show Atom Films.
In addition, Rob has been a panelist on Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn and was a top ten finalist on the very first season of Last Comic Standing. Rob most recently was a guest on Doug Benson‘s Doug Loves Movies podcast, which is where we caught up with him to talk comedy and his new CD, Dreams Never Die.
Socialite Life: How did you get your start in comedy?
Rob Cantrell: I was a funny, oddball kid growing up. I wasn’t a jock but wasn’t a nerd, I just did my own thing at all times. (Comedy) was a dream that kept nagging in my head really bad since I was very young. I loved watching early HBO specials of Eddie Murphy, Robin Williams and was completely obsessed with SNL. I come from Washington DC and grew up part my life in a small town in central Virginia. I didn’t know anybody that was in showbiz and I wasn’t a theater person. I went to a small college and became a English major because writing and reading made more sense to me then any other subject. I got a boring “Office Space” (the movie) type of job after college, it was pure cold calling hell and I did not enjoy it, I quit after 3 years. I decided to leave my east coast roots, saved up some money and moved to San Francisco in 1999. I picked up a paper that listed comedy open mics, wrote some stuff down and went to one. I haven’t stopped performing since.
SL: What was your experience like on Last Comic Standing?
Rob: Cool. I love being on TV, but it was also a super odd experience. It was my first real break, it gave me national exposure at a very early time in my career. It opened a lot of doors to the industry, but it was also very confusing because I was on the very first season of the show. It was a huge smash hit for NBC, out of nowhere, and I had only been doing comedy for 3 years, living in San Francisco on a couch without even a proper headshot.
SL: How would you describe your comedy?
Rob: PURE JOY. Out there but down-to-earth, stuffed with comedy gold. I also rock some dope-ass rhymes.
SL: What comedians inspire you?
Rob: Richard Pryor (for showing vulnerability and just being human on stage), Chris Rock (for going hard with ideas against the grain), Tenacious D (for rocking), Bill Hicks (for tapping into something deeper about all of us) and Mitch Hedberg (an amazing joke writer and a nice dude )
SL: How did the rapping come into play?
Rob: The guys who got me off the couch and started performing comedy were Tenacious D. They blended comedy and music without parody, which blew my mind. My first paid gig in showbiz was breakdancing in middle school. I am old enough and young enough to remember hip hop really jumping off nationwide in the 80s in this country. Besides comedy, music (hip hop especially) was my other passion when I was a kid. Rapping is filled with comedy punchlines, metaphors and is an awesome outlet for an individual performance style, which is really close to stand up. On my first stand up album, I put a couple of hip hop songs at the end of the album as a bonus and they got a lot of traction and positive feedback. To be a working stand up comic and have a well-produced hip hop album are just two dreams that I had to get out of my head and into reality. It was very instinctual, like wanting waffles in morning, and you pull out that funky old waffle maker you got for Christmas but never used. Then you just make them your damn self.
SL: How have you been spending your summer vacation?
Rob: My wife and I went to a small lake house in Michigan to visit some family. We went on a tandem bike ride in the woods and ate farm fresh corn, you know, hardcore rap star stuff. I actually lost my wedding ring swimming in a lake, which was awful, but thank God it wasn’t my iPhone. My wife is cool, I got another ring from Target, but if I lost my iPhone…. dang, I don’t even want to think about it.
SL: What are your future plans?
Rob: Comedy, eating biscuits, space travel and making hip hop videos.