“…with the people who say that I’m “difficult to work with,” I want you to look at where they are, and look at where I am.”
Rickey Smiley is an incredibly entertaining comedian and radio host. He’s been doing his syndicated radio show for 12 years now but he continues to supplement or leverage his radio career while continuing to do sold out weekend comedy shows. While he pokes fun at the black church he is a devout believer who feels most at home in it as well as away from all the pomp and circumstance of show business. During our interview, he was at a relative’s house named Ms. Jenny, in the projects in Alabama. He had to let the elderly woman in the background know that he was on an important call when she was trying to have a conversation with him.
Rickey’s somewhat of an anomaly like I have found most comedians, you know who they are on stage but what you get off stage may be completely the opposite. During our conversation, I noted that Rickey is an astute entrepreneur and family man to his children. He is not the type of comedian that jokes around all the time especially when it comes to taking care of his business. He eluded to what I have heard many Black entrepreneurs state, that having a dedication to hiring and helping our people can sometimes come at a high price when a sense of entitlement overrules respecting another black person’s business. Rickey started his career in the radio industry in Alabama as a sidekick on a morning show before he achieved national fame for several years. He just released a book “STAND BY YOUR TRUTH: And Then Run For Your Life,” Some of the points Rickey makes in his book are:
- How it’s impossible to come back from mistakes without self-forgiveness
- Why “The Deadbeat Dad” is a myth
How to break out of that comfort zone — because you are not a chicken
- The often untold ups and downs raising kids (and teenagers) as a single father
- Proof success can only happen when opportunity meets long preparation’
- Ways speaking up for yourself is nothing to be ashamed of, so “Handle Your Business”
- Why, now more than ever, our lives depend on what we stand for — and then sticking by it.
… all of Rickey’s real-life experiences.
Kevin: So let’s talk about the book. Um, you, some of the statements that you made, I found pretty interesting, about forgiveness. Can you tell me about that?
Rickey: I mean, forgiveness is something that I am personally still working on, ‘cause I do hold grudges, but there are certain situ-, you know, as you get older, as you grow.
Rickey: You know? You have to learn how to forgive. You know, I had to forgive a young man that almost took my life. And, you know, sometimes we have to forgive, and not, uh, you know, uh, do anything in retaliation. Retaliation is sometimes you have to let God handle it, and it that case, uh, God did handle it. The dude served time in prison, served twenty-two years, I think, or twenty-three years in prison. And you have to read the book to find out what happened after he got out of prison, ‘cause, you know, we from the same community, and I was trying to set up a conversation where he and I could talk, you know, just where we wouldn’t run into each other. You know what I mean?
Kevin: So the name of your book is Stand by Your Truth, and Then Run for Your Life, which is pretty funny! (laughing) Is that in jest Do you believe to a certain extent that you, that your truth may scare you?
Rickey: Well, stand by your truth, but you have to run for your life ‘cause other people can’t handle the truth
Kevin: Oh, I see what you’re saying. Okay.
Rickey: You know?
Rickey: Yeah, yeah. Especially us, we don’t, we don’t like that.
Kevin: No, we don’t.
Rickey: Black folks, black folks want you to tell them what they want to hear. As a matter of fact, if you go, if you go to my Facebook page and look at a video that I put out, uh, you can get a lot of material and content from that, a video about using the word, “no.” And, and, and, uh stop, stop allowing people to bully you and pressure you into doing things that you don’t want to do. But you have to watch the video, it’s a fifteen-minute video that went viral that’s probably got about, uh, two or three hundred thousand views, if not more, uh, where people are sharing the video. Because we all Christians and have a good heart and trying to do the right thing, however, you know, we don’t, uh, we don’t know how to say, “no.”
Kevin: Right. Yeah, and then we’re like you said, we’re put in a position because we’re always in the position of need, you know, we want to help each other, you know to the extent of fault …
Kevin: perfect sense. (older woman interrupts in the background)
Rickey: (talking to a woman in the background) Hold on, this an interview. I’m at this lady named Ms. Jenny’s house I’m sorry.
Kevin: (laughing) That’s alright.
Rickey: (more talk) Okay, I’m on the phone…Yes ma’am, but this a very important phone call…okay…oh my God, You see what I have to go through, Kevin?
Kevin: I was just getting ready to tell you or ask you, what is it like to be successful, ‘cause you definitely stay connected with the community,
Kevin: and with people that you came up with. Do you find that those people think that you do nothing all day and that you are just a resource for everything?
Rickey: Yeah, they, they, the thing about it is, man, you also get, you get tired of the celebrity part after a while,
Rickey: and then, and then, you have to boil down to being, being, being a regular person, just being yourself, helping people. If you don’t go around regular people and everyday people, then you wouldn’t have any type of content to talk about on stage as a comedian.
Rickey: You know, if you sit in your house and you forget about the everyday people and you don’t go to the barbershop in the hood, around the drunks, around the winos, around the senior citizens, you would have no content, you wouldn’t have anything to talk about. So, so, that’s why you have to continue, continue to go around people, and, and spend time with people, you know, and you can have something to talk about. You know, and that’s what you pull material from, because comedians, they just can’t write jokes.
Kevin: Right. So then the part about learning how to say, “no,” that you wrote about in your book. Has there been a time that you think that you said “yes” too many times?
Rickey: Yeah, you have to learn how to say, “no,” uh, and “no” is a complete sentence that warrants no explanation. And, and, and not allowing people to manipulate you into thinking that you’re mean because you said, “no.” And that is something that I talk on, if you read, if you listen to that post, I give a whole spiel on it, and it’s interesting, and I think a lot of people’ll learn from it.
Kevin: Why do you think that people don’t stand up for themselves, um, so I guess it’s all sort of related …
Rickey: Well, you have to. If you don’t stand up for yourself you’ll get taken advantage of.
Kevin: Do you think that black celebrities are made to feel like they owe the community?
Rickey: Uh, I think, I think a lot of African-American celebrities just feel, they just naturally give back. And I think that everybody has good intentions to help people once they make it. Because when you grow up and you don’t have anything, then, uh, when you make the money you want to just try to make sure that other people get an opportunity, but don’t go through what you went through. You know, so, so that’s just something that’s just natural, and I think people just naturally like to help people and do the right thing.
Kevin: Right. But you’ve also seen people who’ve done it to the extent where they’ve hurt themselves. Other celebrities.
Rickey: Oh yeah, absolutely, a lot of celebrities get bent out, and don’t have anything to show for anything. And that’s just what it is, so, um, you have to learn from that, and learn from some of those documentaries, in order to become a better person, and to try to, you know, set yourself up for when you do retire, that you do have something put away for yourself.
Kevin: Right. So your show, you have a lot of fun on the show, joke a lot, how important do you think it is that you educate the community?
Rickey: Well, you supposed to lift as you climb. So yeah, you have to educate the community and, you know, just do whatever you can, um, to help people, um, you know, learn from your mistakes, and keep people from making some of the mistakes that you made. So yeah, it is a, uh, something that you just have to do. it’s called paying it forward. Somebody helped you, and you have to help somebody else. That’s what it’s all about.
Kevin: Okay. So, what prompted you to write the book Just life experience or you just felt it was time?
Rickey: Well, 28 years in the business and my manager is a literary agent. so he said, “Hey while we, you know, we’re coming up some, let’s go ahead and write a book.” So that’s how we kind of put it together and, uh, Cherise, uh, I forgot her last name, Cherise came all the way down from New York, and, we spent a lot of time together, and we put that book together, and, um, and, and, you know, it’s a great book, a page turner, and uh, people absolutely love it.
Kevin: Okay. So tell me, um, as far as your show is concerned, you just did a new, two-year deal, uh, you’re in, are you based in Atlanta or Alabama?