Although Gary Owen might not look like the bulk of his audience (he's often one of the only white guys in the room at his performances), he connects with his fanbase on a level that few comedians can.
As "Black America's Favorite White Comedian" (according to Ebony ), Owen believes that it's his authenticity and honesty about his life and interracial marriage that's caused him to be so beloved by black audiences everywhere.
"I'm genuine with what I'm talking about, and I think people see that," Owen says. "I'm not playing into stereotypes or anything like that."
Owen certainly isn't the first white comedian to appeal to a black crowd, but the former "Funniest Serviceman in America" (during his six years serving in the Navy) currently has an extremely devoted following and sells out shows across the country.
"There were white guys that black people found funny, but there weren't white guys that black people would pay to go see," Owen says. "There wasn't anyone doing what I do. Each comedian creates their own way. This is my way."
Along that path, Owen certainly had his detractors. Not the least of Owen's critics was actually his own agent early in his career.
"I had an agent who said I would only go so far doing what I do," Owen says. "I had to let him go because he didn't believe in me."
Owen's success has recently evolved from the stage to the big screen, with the comedian playing significant roles in movies Think Like a Man and Ride Along. Aside from the usual boost a comedian gets from entering the movie world, Owen thinks the films he's been a part of were particularly good for his career.
"The movies benefitted me more than mainstream movies would because they fed into my fanbase," Owen says. "Doing something like Avatar or a movie with Brad Pitt would've been awesome, but the ones I've done are for my audience."
Even more than the movies, Owen's popularity is due largely to the fact that he keeps his shows funny and relevant to everyone.
"It's a blessing and a curse to be the funny white guy to black people, but everybody laughs at my shows. I want everyone to be laughing at the same thing," Owen says. "I'm not the attacking guy. I want everyone to be comfortable and have a good time. My job is to make sure you're in a better mood than when you got there. If that happens, I had an awesome show."
A huge sports fan, Owen jokingly compares his set to some of the greatest athletes in history.
"It's like seeing LeBron James play," Owen says. "Or, since it's Arizona, it's like seeing Larry Fitzgerald catch passes from Kurt Warner. It's like seeing Charles Barkley in 1993."
At the time of the interview, Owen wants it to be known that he's picking Floyd Mayweather to beat Manny Pacquiao in their boxing match on May 2. Considering that his shows take place two weeks after, the comedian understands the risk of making an incorrect guess immediately before he visits Stand Up Live.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
"I'll either look like a genius or an idiot at the show."
Gary Owen will be at Stand Up Live for five shows May 15 through 17. Tickets cost $25 each (plus a two-drink minimum) and are available online.