Rickey Smiley can’t keep quiet.
The Southern-bred comic is sitting in a barber’s chair, in the lower level of his Birmingham home getting a haircut, with his beloved Omega Psi Phi emblazoned on his chest, effortlessly cracking jokes without pause. When his brand strategist Marvet Britto (who has been instrumental in the careers of Mariah Carey and Hill Harper) speaks of an event she wants to plan for him, he immediately boils the dress code down to “open casket sharp!” (Coincidentally, his 2011 BET special Rickey Smiley: Open Casket Sharp became a Walmart bestseller.) Seconds later, he’s recounting a childhood memory of how both of his grandmothers would circle the obituaries “like they was job-hunting” which would result in his great-grandmother driving all of them around “visiting.” For a young boy, the practice was confusing.
“I was like ‘damn these are pretty ass people lying in these nice hospital beds.’ I was about eight years old before I realized them people were dead,” he smiles, insisting it’s a true story. Funny is in his bones, but so is business. Before the laughter subsides, Smiley begins brainstorming on creating yet another vehicle—beyond the sold-out stage shows, his radio anchor The Rickey Smiley Morning Show, FOX syndicated show Dish Nation, TV One sitcom The Rickey Smiley Show and many successful recordings—to get more of these hilarious stories out.
How would he find the time? Smiley’s Atlanta-based radio show is now in 70 markets, reaching over 10 million listeners every morning. On top of that, Dish Nation, where he and his crew alternate with other radio personalities, mainly in Dallas, giving their nightly spin on the pop culture headlines du jour, has hit number one in New York—despite it not being a market for his radio show—plus the laughfest pulls strong ratings in L.A. and other key markets. And with another 26 episodes, his sitcom will soon hit syndication: the holy grail of television.