“It was an AMAZING experience,” Winfield said when asked to describe his recent appearance.
Winfield is no stranger to performing his unique brand of stand-up on television. He’s been featured on Showtime’s “Comics Without Borders,” hosted by Russell Peters, “Comicview” on BET, “Comics Unleashed” with Byron Allen, “Last Comic Standing” on NBC and “Live at Gotham” on Comedy Central.
Quite the resume for a man who, until recently was a grocery clerk working at the local supermarket chain.
At AmericasComedy.Com, we have always been a Winfield fan. Our first comedian interview dates back to August 2009 where we predicted great things for the toothy star. Shortly thereafter, he was booked on Comedy Central’s “Live at Gotham” in New York.
We caught up with Winfield at the Ambassador Suites, somewhere deep in the Midwest as he was finishing a national college tour and getting ready to fly into New York to tape his Letterman performance. He asked that we hold publication of this interview until he was done taping because, “I can only imagine if Sean ‘Puff Daddy’ comes into town, I’ll get bumped.”
And that is exactly what happened. Well, almost. There were these 33 miners rescued from a mine after 2 months, and Chilean miner, Edison Pena bumped Winfield to talk about life underground, his sanitation issues and the guy who got on his nerves. It took another 3 weeks to get back on the Letterman schedule.
Now, with his performance officially “in the can,” you will be able to watch it Friday on your local CBS station. Actor Billy Bob Thornton is also on the bill.
During our interview, we asked Winfield about his career.
Mike, your family has always been very important to you and a major part of your act. Now that you are traveling and performing extensively, how is that effecting you?
“The family aspect is always there. We are very close knit and everyone is very supportive. It’s working, but it’s just weird being gone so much of the time. I’m writing new jokes regularly, but I’m not really writing family stuff because most of my material is based on my experiences.”
Your career has been a bit cylindrical over the last few years yet recently you have been working non-stop. Are you hitting your stride?
“It’s a good time right now. I have been working and traveling between the (San Francisco) Bay Area and L.A., and I have new management. I’m working with Barry Katz from New Wave. Barry has produced ‘Last Comic Standing’ as well as working with artists like Dane Cook and, for a time, Dave Chappelle. So, yeah. It’s an exciting time for me.
My last tour was nothing but college campuses. I would be the only one on the bill, and I was the host, feature and headliner all rolled up into one. I would be up there for about an hour and a half, and that allowed me time to work out some of my new material and learn how to control the crowd. So, in addition to the new opportunities, there is a real growth happening right now.”
You once did a TV pilot with comedian Bobby Lee of MadTV fame. Do you have any plans to do more on TV or in movies?
“I did the pilot called ‘The Bobby Lee Project’ in 2007-2008. I’ve done a self-titled pilot right now with a guy named Travis Kurtz for Comedy Central, and it’s actually been completed. It’s a great-looking show, and I want to be able to distribute some clips via YouTube right after my Letterman appearance so people who ask themselves, ‘Who is this guy?’ after watching me on the show can do an Internet search and find these clips online.”
So what is the format of the show?
“It’s really cool. It’s like a sketch show but I play myself in every sketch (laughs). There are so many scenarios but they seem to love me when I am just being myself.”
So, what is the best show you have done in the last year? (This interview took place before the David Letterman taping).
“It was at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. We were in a basement with ceilings so low my Afro was just inches from hitting the ceiling. There were only about 45 people in the audience, which is all it took to pack out the place. I think I went for a full 90 minutes and it was such a wonderful intimate setting that I had a lot of fun.”
You work very hard at your profession and you are extremely goal oriented. You have the David Letterman show, a Comedy Central pilot that is completed and you are touring. What’s next?
“I do have some things lining up. I want to do a half-hour comedy special. But I really want to put some muscle into doing an ‘out-of-the-box’ special rather than the traditional hour. I am not a fan of the standard Comedy Central comedy special format. I want to so something that hasn’t been done, like doing a show outdoors or on a beach. Just something where there is a crowd and I am performing.”
How are you going to leverage your performance on David Letterman?
This coming Monday is going to kick off a week of one of the biggest promotions of my life! I plan on hitting the phones and calling all of my contacts. This is one of the biggest opportunities I can be blessed with.
We will leave you with a quote from Winfield’s interview last year:
“When I asked Mike what his ultimate goal was, he said simply, “I want to spread my joy and my goodness to the world through my performance. I want people to come away smiling and happily feeling the joy that I feel…. That, a sitcom and a couple of movies and I will be happy.”
Catch him while you can Sacramento, Mike E. Winfield is about to become a superstar.
Here is a video interview we did with Mike in December 2009. Enjoy!
About the Author: Steven Bloom is Founder/Publisher of AmericasComedy.Com. He is pursuing his dream of laughing every day and associating with some of the most creative people in the entertainment industry. Steven@AmericasComedy.Com