Interviewed and written by Tocarra Eldridge
Multi-talented superstar Jay “Lil JJ” Lewis began his career at the young age of 13, annihilating adult comics as he successfully won BET’s comedy talent search competition “Coming to the Stage”. Though still a teenager, he picked up gigs at world renowned comedy venues, sharing the stage with many comedy greats. His powerful stage presence captivated more than just miniature audiences. I had the opportunity to follow Lil JJ throughout his career. While viewing his own Nickelodeon television series Just Jordan, I witnessed Lil JJ showcase his extraordinary abilities, starring in a well-balanced show containing humor, morals and a great plot teaching respect and responsibility. Having such a tremendous presence and charisma at such a young age, there was no doubt that this young talent would have continued success.
Lil JJ is a successful multi-faceted entertainer: stand-up comedian, musician, dancer and actor. Although his life has taken some diversions since his teens, Lil JJ has never forgotten one of his first loves – stand-up. There is no question, he will continue doing comedy. Now grown up, entertainment mogul Lil JJ continues to act in both television series and movies, as well as performs stand-up. Lil JJ currently has a starring role as Brandon in the TV One television series “The Rickey Smiley Show”.
We [Consciousness Magazine] got the chance to chat with the megastar about his exciting role in “The Rickey Smiley Show”, returning to his roots in stand-up comedy, balancing life as an actor and comedian, and much more.
Tocarra Eldridge: What is your experience like working with Rickey Smiley and the rest of the cast on the Rickey Smiley Show?
Lil JJ: It’s an amazing experience as far as us being a family. After the first season we all got to know each other and felt each others vibe, now we have an onset chemistry. Given my feedback from the people that are watching the show this season… I feel the funny is there, because we understand each other. Rickey is hilarious! (laugh) Just seeing him going in and out of all of these different characters, and just watching how the show is developed even outside of being on set, it’s just amazing.
TE: Have you learned any pointers or advice from any of the cast members when it comes to perfecting your craft?
Lil JJ: Yes. We have Rickey and other cast members who has done sitcoms and shows before, but I learn a lot from the up and coming new faces…just the way that they are hungry and eager to perform and be on set. It makes me feel good and love what I do. That’s the type of energy that I feel everyone needs. One thing I have learned is how to be a little quicker on my feet. I’m a comedian so that has helped me a lot as far as improv and my timing.
TE: What do you like most about your character Brandon on the show?
Lil JJ: He [Brandon] is in college. I got an educated character and I’m a college student, so it’s like me and him have a lot in common as far as me understanding the life that he lives. He is trying to understand himself. He has crazy friends, relationships going and a crazy father. (laugh)
TE: At one point of your career, you were one of the youngest comedians of your time. What gave you the courage and belief to follow your dreams and goals?
Lil JJ: One thing that I’ve always known growing up is that in any situation laughter is the best medicine. I feel like if you don’t laugh in a day then it’s a wasted day, because that’s what people remember. You’re either going to remember sorrow, sadness or you’ll remember what was the funniest thing that day. When I was young watching Comic View, watching Bernie Mac and Richard Pryor, and even having the chance to go on tour with Kevin Hart…that made me understand that this is something different. I don’t have to be this little black kid that wants to be a rapper or do all the typical things. I can go a different avenue and expand and show my characters and let people know about my life and my family from a young perspective. Now I’ve been back hitting the stage doing stand-up in the comedy clubs. I had taken a break for a minute because I was doing the acting thing. I realize it’s nothing like your first love, so I just turned back to it. I’ve just been having a great time.
TE: As a stand-up comedian you’re always on the stage in front of a crowd. How different for you is acting versus being a comedian?
Lil JJ: Well acting is pretty much way easier because you rehearse, you can work with acting coaches and you’re working with other actors. That one-on-one helps you as far as speed and with the scenes. When it comes to comedy, that’s a whole different beast! It’s you, a mic and a bunch of people you don’t know. (laugh) You have to be funny. If you’re not funny then those people that you don’t know are going to quickly leave with one of two impressions…either he was funny or no he’s not funny. When they walk away with that, that’s pretty much what you’re stuck with. You have to really be ready when it’s time to do stand-up.
TE: What can fans expect in the future from Lil JJ?
Lil JJ: One thing that I do want to build with my fans is a relationship where we can help each other. Fans always help the artist, actor or entertainer. Like for myself, without my fans I wouldn’t be where I am, because I won a competition based off of votes. I want to be able to reach out to those fans that have talents and abilities. I want to be a director; I want to be able to shoot movies. If it’s a kid that’s inspired to be a comedian and I did my own tour I want to be able to go to that kid and get him and say let’s rock, let’s go. I think that will build a relationship with my fans to let them know that you’re not just helping me, but I’m also willing to come and help them the best way I can. I’m doing films, directing and writing more. I have my own company Young Star Entertainment. I’m building outlets for the youth so that they can see it’s not just about what’s in the videos; it’s about scholarships and using the talent that God blessed you with, and not settling for less.
TE: What advice or encouragement would you share with up-and-coming comedians or actors who are looking to be successful in the entertainment business?
Lil JJ: Stay focused. There are so many distractions and focus is the main key. The minute you’re not focused, someone else is and they’re going to get ahead of you. So you have to stay focused. Be determined to outwork people. In today’s time, either you’re going to say ‘I’m going to do this’, and you’re going to do it or you’re going to do it and then quit. But you have to do what you love, and they say if you’re doing what you love you’ll never work a day in your life.
TE: Would you like to add anything else before we close the interview?
Lil JJ: Yeah. Turn up! Turn up! (laugh)That’s the extra advice that I’m going to give to people. It’s 2013…turn up! (laugh)
TE: This has been a really fun interview Jay! Thank you for taking the time out to pursue this interview with Consciousness Magazine.
Lil JJ: Thank you! I look forward to checking it out.
Interviews with the cast of The Rickey Smiley Show
Last modified: April 16, 2023