The Book of J.B. Smoove: 'I Planted a Lot of Seeds'

khal
·40 min read

I could talk to J.B. Smoove forever. I feel like he's been entertaining me for forever. I was hitting freshman year in high school when he was first popping up on Def Comedy Jam, and I got my first steady job when Pootie Tang hit theaters. I was able to afford HBO on my own when he popped up on Curb Your Enthusiasm as the hilarious Leon Black, who showed up on Larry's doorstep in Season 6 and has become a fixture in the improv comedy series ever since. Throughout it all, he's been the same hilarious J.B.. That's not to say that he isn't a good actor, but he's just so good at being naturally funny that many of these characters become J.B., which is great for a longtime fan like me.

In October, I got word that J.B. was available for an interview. When I asked what the peg was...there wasn't any, really. Sure, Curb is celebrating 20 years, but J.B. is more than just Leon Black. What I learned in the hour we spent on the phone was that J.B. doesn't need a peg. He's been in the game going on 25 years, and sure, we could've spoken on how he played a Sharpie on Hulu's Woke (which just got a Season 2 renewal) or that time he was in the Spider-Man: Far From Home. No, this was a J.B. party, so we got into everything from his hardcore veganism and how he has spent quarantine to explaining how he approaches the role of Leon and much, much more.

How are you doing, man?
Man, you already know how I'm doing. I'm just trying to keep them first downs, man. I'm going to school all the time, but, man, I'm just trying to get the ball in the middle of the field, brother. That's what I'm trying to do.

You've been shooting the ball right down the middle for years.
You know what? I've been blessed with a lot of underhand pitches. Do you what I mean? In softball, you got the fastball pitchers and you got the underhand, the little underhand pitch. All I got to do is hit the damn ball, that's all I got to do. I'm not worried about no curveball, I don't got to worry about nothing, just a little underhand. I can just hit [it] out the park.

You know what I think [the thing] with me is? I planted a lot of seeds. I'm a seed planter. So, I like to plant seeds and watch things grow. Sometimes, it may take a day or two. Sometimes, it may take a week, a month, a year. It might take 5-10 years, who knows?

I've just been a happy man just to be busy like this, man. I think that shows patience and not willing to step on toes or burn any bridges. I think that's a smart way for all actors and anybody on the rise to think about that. Find that middle ground and just be prepared for whatever comes your way, and be ready to hit that ball because you never know when they're going to put you in the game. And in this climate, it gets harder. But if you plant enough seeds, you can survive through the winter and you can still nibble and still eat, and still have some shelter. You know, all the metaphors to think about. And keep your composure.

You were going on a standup tour right at the beginning of the year as COVID started going on. What's the last six, seven months of your life been like?
I was at the tail end of finishing our new home that we had been working on for a few years. And so, for us, it was, "Man, we got to get into this new house," and everything is ceased. Everybody got quarantined and we were like, "Oh no." Then we were sitting there like, "Wait a minute," and we thought about it: when you're not in this climate, you just want everything perfect before you move in. We were sitting in our original home—because we want to redo it and fix it up and rent it out—and we were sitting there like, "Why are we still here? We got a house that's finished and we're sitting here, not moving in, because we don't have all our furniture yet ordered, or we don't have little things, some lights are missing?" We didn't order our full lighting ... We got lights, but not a light, a light bulb.

It's not complete?
It's not complete, and we're sitting here like, "Wait a minute, why are we not here?" We started thinking about our previous apartment in Brooklyn. We said, "We moved in our Brooklyn apartment with zero." We had an AeroBed, no shades, no nothing. Then we said, "Let's just move, man, and just enjoy it. Because we don't know ... " At that time, I didn't know where the world was going to go. It was like, "We better enjoy this house because we don't know what's going to happen. The aliens can land, we don't know."

100 percent.
We've been keeping it real loose and just kind of blessed to have some things in motion already, blessed to have those seeds planted. You know, you're spending more time with your companion, with your wife, your family, you're kind of all together. You got some kids doing school online and all the things people are really going through. I don't think about myself in these times, I've always been a guy who thought about everyone else before myself.

I consider myself a thinker, a thick-skinned person, someone who can figure anything out. Just give [me] a little time, I can figure it out. That's not the case with everybody, and I know that people are going through the struggle right now, trying to keep their small businesses open, trying to keep food on the table, trying to keep their kids educated. All these things, I think about that before I even think about myself because I feel like I've planted enough seeds that I can wait on some things and still be able to... In these little windows, I can just stay busy and keep my mind right.

I've got to entertain myself, too. I'm binge-watching things. My wife and I, we sit in the yard and we entertain a little bit with social distance and picnics in the yard. Two friends at a time come over and they'll sit like ... instead of six feet, we make them sit 10, 12 feet from us, and we'll just sit by the fire, just catch up. Everybody needs that, everybody needs to catch up with each other and just to check on each other to see what's going on. You can't get that all the time over the phone, you know?

What have you been binge-watching?
Oh, man! We had never watched Game of Thrones. And people were having them Game of Thrones parties and everything during the last season, and we were like, "Ah, so whatever." And then we said, "You know what, let's go ahead and just try it and see what it is." Man, we started watching that damn Game of Thrones, and we were hooked! I'm talking about, we started watching like two or three episodes in a row, in the middle of the damn day. To me, some shows feel like night shows. Like, you're supposed to watch them in the evening time. We're watching Game of Thrones at 10 in the morning, "Let's catch up on three of them. Let's watch three a day." We're watching three, four a day, catching up on Jon Snow and the whole crew.

We're [also] zombie fanatics, too. We watched this one called Kingdom, and then we watched another medieval show called The Last Kingdom. We've been catching up on some good stuff and watching some really good movies and really good stuff. But at the same time, we've also been busy. I've been busy writing and creating some shows, getting my producer hat on, starting to create some stuff under my banner. My wife is a singer, so she's been in the studio doing stuff. We've been blessed to have some things to do and at the same time, we're lending our voices to a lot of causes.

I'm heavily involved with the Boys & Girls Clubs. I'm heavily involved in KIVA, trying to help these small businesses and people create generational wealth, especially for all these struggling Black businesses who are struggling to stay afloat. I want to think about it like this: when you see someone going through it and they're trying to keep their business going, that's their dream. That's their being disturbed by the climate and things we're going through right now. I always think about, "Damn, they worked so hard, they always wanted that for themselves," and it's hard to turn your back on these small businesses. You want to have them have an option that's not going to set them back. Something that they don't have to worry about interest rates and all that kind of stuff skyrocketing, and people taking advantage of them. So in this climate, people will take advantage of you.

I'm just blessed, just to have the opportunity to lend my hand and my voice to everything that's going on right now. From racial injustice to the pandemic, supporting my Boys & Girls Clubs. Supporting all the things that really matter, education and planting, and getting these young people... [That's my] mindset moving forward.

JB Smoove performs at Bomhard Theater on October 25, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky
Image via Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images

Speaking of small business, and I hate to make this type of segue, but small business was a big part of Season 10 of Curb Your Enthusiasm. I don't know what your opinions are on Curb, season by season, but there were some people that felt that Season 9 wasn't up to par with some of the other seasons, and they were appreciative of how amazing Season 10 was. Do you even worry about that type of stuff?
Here's why I think how Curb works. Some people love it when Larry tackles the climate that's going on in the world. That's Larry's way of giving his opinion. We had the whole MAGA hat, we had all that stuff mixed into the season. And we also had Larry being a small business owner, although it was a spite store.

It was a spite store.
But Season 9 was great also because Season 9... See, Larry has his different temperatures where it's like classic Curb, awkward things of the world and how people irritate each other, really Curb-y. Larry gets to go off on little things that annoy everyone in the world. You know how Larry has been in the past [with] the chat-and-cuts and all those little things that drive us crazy as people, he has a way of tapping into that. But then you have the seasons where he can do things like voice his opinion on hats and whatever is going on in the world, he can attach Curb to that because people respect that. And right now, we're going into Season 11, and look at all of this stuff that's going on right now in the world. I don't even know what Larry is going to tackle, because sometimes I like to read the outline but, most of the time, I don't like to read them because I like to play it in the moment. I don't like to overthink the season, I don't like to overthink my lines. Because we improvise, so why go in there with a ...

A whole set.
A whole set or a whole waist full of bullets in my holster, when I can just sit there and like, "Okay, let me feel it in the moment, what Leon would naturally say to this." You know what, I don't know, because Curb is a product of the times. It's hard to judge each season against each other because it really is a product of the times. And whatever the climate is, the temperature of that climate, that's what kind of Curb is a pace car for it. It's on the track right now, we've got a lot going on in the world. Now, what's this pace car going to do, and how is this race going to start and how is this race going to end? And that's where my mind is right now.

Coming from a guy who was a big fan of the show before I got on the show. I found it, I followed Curb, I know what it is. At this point, I know how Larry thinks. I get it. Curb has been pushing buttons and pushing the envelope, the content that we talk about, and the things that we do. So I get it.

Curb Your Enthusiasm
Image via HBO/John P. Johnson

That was a conversation I would have with my homeboy. Because it's kind of like even when you're talking about a season that you feel might be "bad" compared to another one, it's still a season that's like an A-minus, B-plus, whatever. So what are you even comparing?
Compared to what? Compared to what? Compared to the classic New York season? It's my favorite of all time, I freaking loved the New York season. That was so New York. That's my favorite season of all time.

Towards the end of Season 10, we were just getting into the very beginning of the quarantine, and there's a scene inside Latte Larry's, and because Larry is who he is, there's already hand sanitizers all over the table. It was one of those things that cracked me up because of how everybody was buying up all that stuff weeks later. But now the immediate question, like you said, was... is Larry even going to bring COVID-19 or how is any of this stuff even going to be brought up into the next iteration of Curb? You said you don't read outlines, but do you talk to him at all about what an arc of a season might be before he gets in and starts really sketching things out?
Okay. For season 10, we were at the ... my first time going to the Emmys. Based on the previous season, it was based on Season 9, because we had already shot [but] we hadn't aired 10 yet. So, pre-COVID stuff. While we were at the Emmys, Larry, he would give me a slice of what's going on, "I got some really good stuff for you this season. I think you're going to like it." He'll throw a few little bones, here and there. I think he's fascinated with how I think. And you got to realize, even when we're on set, we don't really have rehearsals. We do blocking, we line the shot up, and if we do a little bit, we never say anything. We only go, "Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah," because he doesn't want to waste it.

You've got to realize, in the world of improv, you listen just as much as you speak. And my whole thing is, when we're working together, I try to learn his beats, I try to feed him stuff, feed Larry stuff in that. So I like to give Larry something new every time we're in a scene together, something new he didn't know about Leon, the character. Now, [sometimes] I ignore him and don't answer. If he asked me, "What do you mean about ... ?" Sometimes I answer and sometimes I won't. Sometimes I just use it as a little something to throw out there and make his eyebrows raise.

Take Season 9. We talked about lampin' and stuff, and I said, "Yeah, you know..." We talked about the constipation thing and I was like, "Are you kidding me, man? I was in a hot dog eating contest, constipated... and I still won. I ran a 5K marathon, constipated. Shoot, I shot a porno, constipated." And Larry says, "You shot a porno?" But I didn't answer him. Now, I could have answered him, but I can hold that for another time. I can always throw that out again and then go into detail with it. Because that scene wasn't about the porno, it was more about just the secretary who took the day off for constipation. So, I've already planted good seeds: the hot dog eating contest, the 5K marathon, and the porno, shooting a porno constipated. So, even if I took out the constipation part, that's three amazing things that he didn't know about Leon. So I got to test it, I got to test the waters. And also, we would these scenes, I got to decide, as a character, if I want to have Larry's back or if I want to go against him. That's something I decide in the moment. It's easier to have your friend's back, but it's a lot harder to go against him, on this topic. For me to say...for Leon to say, "Larry, you're wrong about this," and try to prove him wrong or if I say, "You're right," I got to have a reason to ride with him on this thing. And I'll go to bat for him, defend him against anybody.

And, also, you got to realize I'm a standup comedian, so I know when I got you on the ropes. If I got Larry on his heels, I noticed that he nods his head a lot and on the right side of his mouth, his lip goes up higher, like he's trying to... He's like, "Ah!" He's trying to hold it in. I go into standup mode, where I'm trying to make a snot bubble come out of his nose, do you know what I mean? Larry is trying to hold it in and I know I got him. So I just got to keep turning the screws a little bit more and I start going deeper on the improv, and that's when you start to get these genuine moments between the two characters. I'm going to actually come to set, I no longer go into JB mode, I just try to be Leon the whole time because then I'm always in character. And I will only reply with things that Leon would say and would think about.

Curb Your Enthusiasm
Image via HBO/John P. Johnson

Talk about that. Is Leon based on somebody? Or is that just more like a side of JB?
Leon, I think he is a wild card. Everyone knows someone like him. Whether they're white, whether they're Black, they know the character. He doesn't have to be a Black guy, he doesn't have to be anything. He's a certain type of person. Some people compare him to Kramer, because Kramer didn't have no damn job, Kramer always was available, he always had these crazy ideas. They compare him sometimes because they're both characters who are a wild card. They don't have a true origin.

I use origin because you don't know where he came from, you don't know his full powers, you don't know what his full life is. He only tells you a little bit of stuff at a time. So you really don't know where he really came from. All you know is that he lived in LA, his sister lived there. But then he stayed, his sister left, and it ended up he and Larry became friends. But he still gives Larry these little small teaspoons of who he is, who he really is. The only thing he knows about Leon, deeply, is that Leon got his back. That's all he really know.

I base Leon on a mixture of different people. Leon is the condom in your wallet. He's that dude you take to meet somebody, to meet a girl, and he's that dude you take to break up with a girl. You know what it is? He has that full balance of he can go either way with you, he's just trying to have your back because you got his back. And I think that people really miss that kind of person in their life. Someone who truly has their back. Maybe they don't have their whole life together, but when it comes down to it, you need that dude around you. You need that dude to just stand next to you and nod his head and say, "Yo, you're right, Larry." And when things hit the fan, Leon is the one dude who will stand in front of you and say, "Yo, first of all, this is how it's going to go." And Larry can appreciate a guy like that. And I think that when I walked into that room to audition, I had an idea of who he was already. But it's classic TV, it's classic TV. Remember when Rollo used to walk into Sanford and Son's junkyard?

Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Larry said, "Look, I used to love some damn Rollo." Or Larry, on Three's Company, he would walk in there and steal Jack boy, go to the Regal Beagle. Remember Regal Beagle? Shit! Come on, man. The Regal Beagle? Come on, man. It was the coolest god damn bar in the world, man, the Regal Beagle.

Especially when Larry is down there.
You're damn right. Go to the Regal Beagle. That's where it's popping off at, the ladies are there. They got drinks, they got ladies. Come on, man, it's the Regal Beagle! It's worth it to just Google ... When you're traveling and you're going to different cities, it's worth it to just to Google the Regal Beagle in every city, see if they got one. Remember the Regal Beagle?

Oh, man. That's crazy. Now, one of the things that you're doing, aside is cracking me up, is...you're able to just make anything funny. Over the last couple of years, with the Internet and the rise of cancel culture, you always hear comedians talking about how it's harder to make comedies because people are "too woke." Do you believe that sentiment?
Comedians, we are the ones who are going to get us through all this, number one. There is no other profession that's gonna get you through this. There is no other profession. You can watch TV all you want, you can watch pre-taped stuff all you want, but none of that stuff is in the moment. None of that stuff. Except for the late-night guys. The late-night guys are in the moment because they got to do this every day, they got to do this every night. Every weekday, they got to do it. So that's different. But we are the ones who are truly in the moment, the comedian and the news guys.

The news guys are always in the moment because they got to report to you what's going on. But then the comedian takes what's going on, from them, and we reprocess it through our filtration system that's built into our bodies, our natural filtration system of being able to take drama, taking tragedy, taking anything you can think of, reprocessing it, not that we're not hurt by it, not that we're not affected by it, but find some way to give it back to you in a more manageable form. No matter what it is, you can go back as far as you want in history, we have taken ... You can go back into anything. Creation of man, you can take slavery, you can take anything, anything in this world that we have been through, and take it, reprocess it, and make light of it. But that's the only way some people can deal with it, is to make it funny. Believe me, I'm telling you, man, nobody knows anything. Everybody who is walking around with you, in your timeline, doesn't know shit.

They don't know any more than you know, because they are here on the planet at the same time you are. They don't know shit, they're just saying shit. They can only tell you stuff that's in the moment, that they see. They don't know how it's going to turn out. They're not time-travelers. They can tell you a possibility. So, that being said, we have to be in a moment. And when all this is said and done, let's say 10 years from now, we'll be taking all this stuff...this will be history 20 years from now, 30 years from now. Comedians, 40 years from now, will be talking about this stuff, because this is stuff that we went through. They'll take all this we're doing right now, and this shit will be hilarious to them on stage. Do you know how many slave jokes there are? People fucking laugh their ass off. Do you know many Color Purple jokes there are?

You name it, you fucking name it, people are going to be throwing impressions of people. You name it, everyone's going to ... No one knows shit. So, our thing is this, man: we take the climate, you reshape it in its form, we are the ones who are going to be eating, no matter what goes on in this world, man. You know, I don't listen to shit anybody says because they don't know any more than you know. They might have read about it before you did, they might have seen a social media post before you did, but you can pull up the same information they got. They can't give you anything different than you can look up yourself. That's why you have to find these moments and pockets to enjoy your life, you have to find these moments and pockets to take what's given to you. They always say, "You take what's given to you." Even in boxing.

You ever seen boxers? They'll say, "I just waited around until he made a mistake or until he gave me what I was waiting for. I was waiting for an opening to throw that hook, but he wouldn't give it to me. He had that damn arm in the way, I couldn't get that fucking hook in. But I waited around to the ninth round, and he put that arm down and I got that fucking hook in there." That's what life is like. Life is waiting around for that fucking hook. That's all it is. You wait around for that fucking hook. But don't believe shit. You don't believe everything you fucking hear because you got to look at everything that's given to you. Everything is false, everything is fucking wrong. They tell you shit to calm you down, they tell you shit to keep you at bay. Like the president said, he didn't tell people about all shit going on...he didn't want a panic.

So, think about that. Think about those words and think about the history of how long we have been, probably, dealing with the same shit. Because there's tons of shit we don't know about. They probably knew about every disease you can think of, but wouldn't tell everybody. That smoking causes cancer or that, "This is going to happen to you if you do this. This food has the wrong shit in it." It's better to be vegan. They're not going to tell you to go vegan because they don't want all the other businesses, that are not vegan, to go out of business. So, it's economics. Economic reasons will kill people, I promise you.

I was reading that you've been two years, maybe more, as a hardcore vegan.
Almost three, almost three. All three down.

Almost three. Now, I love hamburgers and I wanted to ask, do you have recommendations for... Have you had the Impossible Burger? What's your diet like and how do you supplement? What's the best way to supplement some of those cravings for a chicken wing or a burger or a steak, in your opinion?
Yeah, you better hop on that Impossible Burger, man. I promise you. You just order, they call it The Brick. It's bigger than a brick. It's more than a cinder block. It's like a small, half a cinder block of Impossible Meat. I'm telling you right now, Impossible Meat will blow your mind. You will not be disappointed. You can make it like regular burgers, man. You make them burgers, make them patties.

Now, here's what I do when I make my burgers, man. I don't know what your ingredients are in your burger, but here's what I do with my burger. For my burger, I get their Impossible Meat, I will toast a piece of bread. Or you can do it with bread crumbs. But I like to toast some damn wheat bread, then I will crush that bread up, that toast, and put that in my little bowl with my meat. Put some JUST Egg—it's an amazing egg substitute. I'm telling you right now, if I don't tell you what the hell it is, you will never know it's not a real burger and it's not real egg.

So get some JUST Egg, put a little egg in that bad boy, cut some little onions up, put a garlic in that bad boy. Go get some of that Delish seasoning, they got imitation bacon seasoning. Oh my god, put some of that in there. Make it all together, make that burger. Remember when Eddie Murphy talked about he wanted some McDonald's-

Yes, yes.
... and his mama said, "You don't want no damn McDonald's. I can make you McDonald's, I can make you McDonald's, I can make you McDonald's." Remember that? "I'll make you McDonald's. Hand me that meat, go into that refrigerator and get that meat. Get that meat, go get that meat. Go and get that bread. Go get an onion. Give me that big old onion, that green pepper." "There's no green pepper at McDonald's." You're basically doing that.

You mix that up real nice, man. Oh my god, I'm telling you. Make me some patties, put them in some foil, line them up, make like 10 of them, and have them ready for you. I'm telling you, it will be the life of any party, any grill. Make sliders out of them. I'm telling you right now, man, it will blow your mind. My wife and I even have something called LA Urban Farms. We have three vertical farms-

Oh wow!
It's like a silo, there's a big drum at the bottom, put a little water, and the water cycles through the whole silo. There's like 28 pockets for each silo. And we grow kale, we got chard, you got collard greens, we got broccoli, we got cauliflower, we got tomatoes. You name it, we can grow as many things as we want. We have our own garden on our property. So now we can get up in the middle of night, cut some off, rinse them off, make a salad, do anything we want to do with it, man. And I'm telling you, LA Urban Farms. The vegan lifestyle is incredible, man, I'm trying to tell you. Man, we make zucchini spaghetti. We got a spiralizer on our food processor, it makes spaghetti spirals. And we boil the water, we dip it in there for five minutes, pick it out, so there's still a little crunch to it, and make spaghetti out of it. And we make our own spaghetti sauce, using the Impossible Meat. We fry it up and use it as our crumbles. Man! Are you kidding me, man? And then ... I'm giving you the tea, bro.

These are jewels!
If you like sausage ... Do you like Italian sausage? Like, you know how you used to go to those Italian festivals and they would make the hero with the sausage and the peppers and the onions? We're going to get you some Beyond Sausage. Beyond Sausage is like sausage links, like kielbasas. You fry them babies up, get them nice and brown. Cut some nice onions up in there, cut some peppers up in there, green peppers up in there, get you some of that hoagie bread. Whew! You cut that hoagie bread open, lay it on top, get a little steam in it, put it on the top of your stuff that you're trying. Take it out, put that in there, man. And I'm telling you right now, it will blow your mind, man. Don't get me started now.

I didn't realize how deep you were into veganism...are you as deep into veganism as you are the NBA?
Yeah. You know, I'm a suffering Knick fan. We'll see what happens.

With Kyrie and KD in Brooklyn, do you think the Nets could finally take over the City from the Knicks?
Man, let me tell you something. I love those guys, they're friends of mine, but I'm going to tell you something. It doesn't matter who comes to town, it's always going to be about the Knicks, man. It is what it is, man. Win or lose. If the Knicks win, it's going to be on the back page of the Daily News—if the Knicks win or lose, it's going to be on the back page first, before the Nets. It's just what it is. It's a Knick town, man. People have embraced the Nets in Brooklyn, people who are in Brooklyn. But, overall, Brooklyn is just one borough. The city is always going to be Knickerbocker fans. It's just what it is. Now realize, the Nets came from New Jersey, came here from Jersey. So, I mean, come on. It's always going to be a New York Knick city, win or lose, sadly.

Jack Harlow andJ. B. Smoove virtually attend Game Four of the NBA Finals on October 6, 2020
Image via Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

What did you think about the Bubble?
They impressed me. That Bubble was so impressive, man. They had such a success with this Bubble, I think they could have done any kind of bubble and still made it work. You know the solution you use to blow bubbles? They could have done it with that kind of bubble. They could have done it with a spit bubble, they could have done it with a snot bubble. It didn't matter, they had it all figured out. I'm impressed because you got to realize, every sport there is has so many issues with their bubble, trying to get these players to be responsible and stay in and not expose yourself to anyone. Now, we still had guys trying to sneak girls in. It what's going on. Like, "Come one, man! Have respect for everybody else. Have respect for everybody else, man."

And I got to give it to the Lakers, man, they got it done. They had discipline, professionalism, and they made it happen. And the NBA did a great job, man. They made it happen, they kept everybody safe. They got a championship out of a pandemic, man. You're talking to a guy who's been to the last six All-Star games. Of course, when I'm in New York, I go to the Knick games. Of course, man, we all are going to miss sitting in those stands and watching these games, man.

I was talking to my friend Lil Rel, and what happened was we actually sat together, he was with some friends and my wife and I, and we all sat in the same row at the All-Star game. Chicago did such an amazing job with the Kobe tributes, the organization of everything. That was the best All-Star game I've ever gone to. Out of the six I've been to, that was the best one. I'm telling you, I've never been so impressed. It's funny, though, because me and Rel sat next to each other, talking smack about the game. We probably shared popcorn, I don't know. Then we got back, it was right after the All-Star game, there were rumblings going about this COVID. And it's like crazy! We're sitting here like, "Wait a minute." We were on the Zoom show I had for a little bit and I was interviewing him, and the first we talk about was, "Man, we were just talking to each other, we were just sitting with each other, we were just sharing popcorn at the All-Star game." You're talking about two weeks before they announced the COVID and we're sitting here like, "Wait a minute, man. It was all so simple, it was all simple then."

You have these pockets, man, when you really have to enjoy life. Because you really don't know. Like I said, we don't know anything. We're only privy to what they tell us. And now, after everything started coming out, come to find out there was shit going on in January. The human race is the weirdest, craziest, most unpredictable race on this planet, man. I mean, we're the human race. Animals find ways to figure this shit out before we will because we're not born with it. They are born with the best mechanism. Shit, animals are born knowing. They already know how to have sex, they know how to reproduce, all this shit is already in them already. They already know what they got to do. We don't know half the shit that animals know. They can sense things, they know everything that we don't know. So, we're just as dumb as anybody on this planet. We're the dumbest, we're the dumbest.

J.B. Smoove
Image via J.B. Smoove

You're talking about what the world is now, and Hollywood is starting to get back into the swing of things. Do you know of any time when you will be on a set? Have you been on a set or stage during the pandemic?
I canceled probably 20 shows this year. At the top of the year, I just canceled everything. I said, "You know what, let me figure it out. I can reschedule all this stuff." My first show is in March.

There is minimal stuff, they've been testing people. They've been creating their own bubbles now, with these TV shows. They've been testing you 72 hours beforehand. You get retested when you get to the set. You get tested through the week. You get tested again. You get isolated. When you're ... transportation in a van, just a row, you're the only one in the van. All these precautions are being put in place. So, there is a way of doing this safely. They've been very cautious, they've been really trying to minimize and contain everything. So yes, I've done one thing. I've had people here shooting me in my yard on, out in the open. It's an open yard. We wear our masks until we are ready to shoot. Put the mask back on. We can look at tape and see what we're doing. So I've just been really careful, man, and really, really particular about what I'm taking.

Most of the stuff has been favors for friends. In this climate, unless you really need it, your safety is first. So, I do go back to work, we will be starting shooting Curb this year. So, that's good. And we will have the same precautions and all the protocols setup. We'll testing and all that kind of stuff. I got to get tested today at 4:30, just to do wardrobe.

Oh wow.
Just so I can do wardrobe, I got to get tested.

All of my friends have been back on the road again, they've been doing standup, mostly clubs. The theaters aren't really doing anything, I don't think. It's the clubs, the clubs have the ability to do a half-capacity and they've been spreading out the tables at half-capacity. So, they can stay open. It's hard because it's so easy to ... When you start to add up salaries and all the things you have to do to keep a club open, you can [lose everything] real fast if things don't turn around. And they just found a way to open at half-capacity. Which means they're more than likely breaking even. They're just trying to hold on. Most clubs are holding on until they figure everything out.

You did mention that the human race is pretty dumb, but the human race is also pretty resilient, if you have a determined person, if you plant those seeds and just stay the course, I think you can overcome in some way shape or form.
Yeah, man. I always feel bad for the people who live check-to-check, because I've been there. I mean, the majority of my life was check-to-check living ... even not too long ago. You got to realize, when you're a standup, you really are subject to the times. And [with] something like this happening, it does ruin everything that you've been working towards. Now you're at a standstill. You can't really travel like you want to travel. You can't be engaging with your fans anymore. When I was on tour, I would do an hour-and-a-half show and spend another hour and a half just meeting people, selling merchandise, hugging people, hearing their stories, laughing with them, just touching and feeling the fans. So many damn hugs. I can't even count how many hugs.

Hopefully, the world can get better so we can get back to that, though.
It's hard because, here's the thing: the world may come back, but are people going to be comfortable?

Right, it's going to take some time.
In their mind, are they going to be comfortable? Because it looks like a long time for the vaccine, for the vaccine to even get into the system and start to work. And then they need long-term studies to find out the side effects of things, of everything. And I'm hoping and praying, just like you are, that we do get back to normal.

This planet is not ours, man. We are just living it on it like every other living animal is, living being, living on this planet too. We're just a part of the landscape and we got a certain time we live for and that's it. The Earth, it's a living being. The Earth itself is living. So, if the Earth decides to hit the reset button, the Earth can easily say, "You know what? I'm going to stop rotating. I'm just going to stop. I'm going to stop turning. Fuck it. I'm going to stop turning and everybody's going to freeze or burn to death. And then I'm going to start turning again and see what comes from the ashes and from the frozen tundra," or whatever happened. That's all the Earth would have to do is stop moving, and everything... You freeze or you burn.
You got to respect the planet. We haven't. We haven't respected the planet. So, the planet is actually fighting back with global warming and all these different things. It's defending itself from all the things that we-

From us.
From us! From us, yes. That's what it's doing.

Damn.
That's the scary part about not knowing anything. I'm sure there's research that we don't know about, that they're not telling us. Because it might not affect you, but it may affect your kids' kids. So, we don't know. It might not affect us in the moment, in our lifespan, where we are now. But your kids' kids' kids may be affected by something that they're not telling us.

With all these projects you're producing, I don't know if it's a Bill Nye-type show, but we need some show where JB is teaching the world. You've got a lot of gems and a lot of jewels. It's great to converse with you, but it would be dope to see some type of series like that from you—JB Explains It All or something like that.
Oh man, I love it. Have you read The Book of Leon?

I have not! I actually did not realize that you wrote a book as Leon.
You got to get that Book of Leon, man. That Book of Leon, it's written in Leon's voice. But I find it to be cool. Have you seen my guided meditations?

Yes, yes.
It's really like that. The Book of Leon is a bunch of shit that Leon only knows about. It's shit everybody knows about, but it is his take on things that he would give focus to. So, The Book of Leon is one of those books that ... I find it to be interesting because there is no timeline on it. It's evergreen. It's not topical. There's nothing in there that's going to change the world but it's things that he talks about, that make stupid sense. Sometimes we need stupid sense because it allows you to think about it in realistic terms. Not overthinking it, but thinking about it like really understanding how people are.

Or why something is the way it is.
Exactly. And you got to accept certain things, but you just got to know who not to fuck with. Basically, that's your defense mechanism. You know, the "I-ain't-fucking-with-you" mechanism. So, the book is really interesting. It's written completely in Leon's voice. When I was recording it, I even wore my do-rag and my robe.

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