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Buy one of the following Tommy Davidson movies on DVD from amazon.com:

'Booty Call'



Don't Embezzle the Booty: Tommy Davidson appeared in 'Booty Call' and is proud of it.

Soul Clap

Tommy Davidson is the funniest comedian without his own TV series

By Todd Inoue

FOR SOMEONE who gets paid to make crowds laugh, actor and comedian Tommy Davidson doesn't reveal much one-on-one. Bait him with questions about Michael Jackson, reality TV shows or LeBron James, and he volleys back answers that would please the talking heads on Crossfire. When asked what reality show he would like to appear on, Davidson ignores the comedic setup and comes from the heart. "Those shows capitalize on the desperation of people doing anything to be seen," he says. "I'm still into entertaining."

Davidson may not be funny on the phone, but hand him a microphone and he transforms into the Raging Bull of Riffs. The In Living Color alumnus has starred in three cable comedy specials. Davidson played San Jose State University six years ago and had the joint convulsing in laughter. He riffed about passing gas in the gym, careened into male/female misunderstandings and ended with a beatbox version of the national anthem. It all (probably) came straight off the top of his head, which is why he's so reticent to talk about his own material.

Davidson first surfaced on In Living Color along with Jamie Foxx, Damon Wayans and Jim Carrey. And while comedians like Wayans, Foxx, George Lopez, Bernie Mac, Cedric the Entertainer and others strut their stuff on the sitcom circuit, Davidson's luck has waned. He endured the profound task of playing co-host to Magic Johnson on The Magic Show. Last year, he showed up as third banana to Tony Siragusa and Michael Irvin on FSN's The NFL Show. Davidson may be the last comedian on earth without his own TV series.

"Don't rub it in," he counters. "I have had that aspiration since In Living Color ended. I'll continue to do so until it comes through."

In the movies, Davidson has fared better. He first starred opposite Halle Berry in Strictly Business ("It's the movie she never mentions when she gets awards," he quips). He was great in the rap-music parody CB4. He has even appeared in a couple of romantic comedies like Woo and, most notoriously, Booty Call--whose title became a catchword for everything vulgar about the movies.

Davidson defends Booty Call, which got three stars from Roger Ebert. "People said bad things about Booty Call," Davidson admits. "It's not like we're making The Piano or Papillon. It's a comedy! It's like taking Animal House or American Pie and analyzing it. Like, 'Let's take a look at the social aspects.' "

For those art film snobs who missed the subtle nuances of Booty Call, Davidson also worked with Spike Lee on one of the most controversial movies of 2000, Bamboozled. Davidson and Savion Glover play out-of-work actors who apply blackface in aa absurdly racist TV vehicle called The New Millennium Minstrel Show that becomes a hit.

Davidson entered an intense transformation during Bamboozled. "It was a big challenge for me," he says. "When I had to put on the blackface and everything, that changed me. Both me and Savion went through an emotional dip, because it made you realize what black entertainers had to go through to even eat. I'm sure that if on Schindler's List, if there were Jews in the cast and they had to go back to Auschwitz to shoot those scenes, it was the same exact thing.

"Spike made me see things in a broader sense, more artistically," he adds. "When I left the set, I realized I could do much more. I knew I could direct, produce. He changed me."

And his career was buoyed by the experience. Davidson currently hosts a Tuesday-night showcase in L.A. for musicians, comedians and entertainers to perform in front of industry bigwigs. He's weighing other movie offers. And he's been doing more standup comedy to keep his chops. Prodded about what San Jose should expect, he shoots me down.

"Just print, 'Expect the unexpected,' " he says. OK, Tommy, you got it.

Tommy Davidson appears Thursday-Sunday (Feb. 20-23) at the Improv, 63 S. Second St., San Jose. Tickets are $20-$24. (www.improvclubs.com or 408.280.7475)

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From the February 20-26, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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