Tommy Davidson: Flying Fearless and Using Laughter to Shape Perceptions
Comedian/actor Tommy Davidson’s fearless attitude has been on full display throughout his entire career, and has propelled him to be one of the most prolific figures in comedy over the last 30 years. Versatility, more so than any of his other traits, has been the key to his ascension in comedy, and his ability to be a substantial figure in multiple generations.
When asked about his ability to stay relevant Davidson said, “The versatility that I have been blessed with has given me longevity, the Proud Family is a cartoon, Black Dynamite is a parody, then there are movies, then there are comedy specials. I’ve been able to do all those things and they’re different stages, so I’m just happy to be here.”
Davidson, however, did not always possess that same love for comedy – especially in his younger days when he still preferred his music stylings to anything comedy related. “I didn’t like comedians as a kid,” Davidson admits. “I was into music – that was my thing. When I got into comedy, it was just because a friend told me to try it. I used to say something when I was a kid, and everybody would start laughing at me. So one day I pulled my mother to the side and asked her why everybody was laughing at me? She said, ‘They’re not laughing at you, you have a way of putting things that makes people happy so fast, they laugh.’”
Davidson is aware that his voice takes on a heightened sense of importance in this current social climate, stating this when asked about the difference. “A solid sense of purpose, everybody has their thing that they do. This is real world that we live in people make bombs.” Davidson hopes to create an honest image of black life through his ability to use laughter to help shape perception.
“Now what I’m able to do is, influence the way people think. Or I can take the way people think and give them my perception of what I think on it and they just laugh,” he says.
In an era of increased hostility amongst racial groups, Davidson hopes to create a full picture of our humanity. Although his audience these days is quite diverse, he knows that the core of his audience is black, and he hopes to make sure we are included in the human landscape.
“It is important to my audience, which is a core black audience, to let them know who they are from that standpoint. Because what we do is we create love, when you look at our contribution to the whole damn thing. My comedy stands for our humanity, we’re not outside of humanity. We’re not some culture that exists as some damn zoo, like Africa is not outside of humanity.”
Noting his power in shaping perception, Davidson explains, “When a white couple leaves the show and says damn he was right, it’s a lot more powerful than trying to tell them that.” Davidson knows that is important for the black community to maintain itself esteem as an example. “They make us think that somehow we come from poor culture even though we come from the richest continent.”
Out of all of Davidson’s comedic talents, his favorite medium is standup because he is given more freedom there than in any other areas of his career. “My favorite part is just being able to go there, just thinking of what I’m going to and then taking it there,” he says. “In the business that I’m in, you have to depend on so many people… When I’m up there, I don’t have to depend on nobody else. I can just call it up and take it from the moment.”
This freedom creates a powerful space for Davidson that allows him to feel comfortable speaking truth to power. Recently his fellow comedian Steve Harvey received immense backlash from his visit with President Donald Trump. Davidson, however, felt differently from many that dragged Harvey. “Somebody got to talk to him,” Davidson says. “Usually when a Black man is talking to a powerful white man, it’s the white man’s idea. We’re the ones constantly infiltrated by their power systems. When a black man talks to a white man, everybody hears about it, but when a white man talks to a white man, you don’t hear anything.”
“We’re in a war for resources,” Davidson adds. “They don’t call it the human race for nothing. We’re in this war, and we don’t even know it.”
If the theory Davidson posits is correct, and we are in a cultural war for resources, it automatically becomes in our best interest to gain as much intelligence as we possibly can. “If you have intelligence over another,” Davidson explains, “you’re likelihood of victory is higher. So what is the first thing they attack, our intelligence, so we have to be smarter than that to attack each other, because we need intelligence.”
Davidson noted the staunch difference in how the power structure approaches black communities, versus how black communities approach that same power structure. “When it comes to us, all of them get together,” he says, “we must be powerful. Instead of attacking him for talking to this cracker, let’s ask him how’d it go? What’d he talk about? If Donald Trump said he wanted to talk to me, I’d go talk to him, why not? He wouldn’t be scared to talk to me.”
As well as gaining knowledge of the motives of the oppressing forces in the world, Davidson also believes it is essential that black people begin to gain a greater knowledge of self. He points out, “There’s this connection that we have that came out of slavery that makes us this global nation. The second that we realize that we take a real different power, because of them we are French, Dutch, Irish, a little bit of everything. We have a whole continent, a huge continent and everything in between. We can then use that power to create greater leverage when dealing with the state and putting us into a more powerful position.”
Often being marginalized and disenfranchised has put us at the mercy of the state Davidson explains, “We don’t have any business relationships with the state…the only business relationship we have with the state of Michigan is the institutions where we’re in jail. We have the business of relationship of their drugs coming in, their guns coming and the taxes they take.”
Davidson also identified one of the main sources of his fearlessness is rooted in a deep historical understanding. “I ain’t scared you know,” he says. “I talk you know. The most important for black folks is to understand we aren’t from fear, we’re from faith, and the concept of faith came from us. By the time we made our conclusions, they weren’t even writing yet. We have the answers, we have everything we need, and the thing that scares them most is they know it.”
It is more apparent than ever that we must take ownership of our history and write the correct version of our narrative that has so often been skewed and shaped by Western oppression. “East Africa is important, make them think they poor, because they know how important it is,” Davidson says. “It belongs to us; all of our institutions are there. Our institutions are math, archeology, science, astrology and as long as we ain’t taking a look at it, we’ll never be able to connect it.”
In the near future, Davidson is working on a show called Vacation Creation. “I take families around the world,” Davidson says. “I take them and show them the vacation of their dreams. The coolest thing about that is the CEO of Carnival and Ocean Corporation is black. All those ships in the world are from a Black man in Louisiana.”