If you have ever attended Overtown’s one and only amateur night at the Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater, then you’ve witnessed the magic of Chello Davis. Davis, a local comedian, has been hosting “Lyric Live” on the first Friday of each month. Davis has been the host of “Lyric Live” since its inception back in 2014 thanks to Timothy Barber, executive director of the theater. We got the chance to speak to the emcee right before he announced Friday’s winner, Michael Lawson, and got to learn more about his comedic origins and his love for Miami.
Q: How did you get the opportunity to start hosting “Lyric Live?”
A: Tim just got my number and called me. He had seen me perform at another show I was hosting regularly, it was an open mic night on Tuesdays and luckily by the grace of God, he came and showed up with some of his friends. He saw me and the rest is history.
Q: How do you enjoy hosting Lyric Live?
A: I live for this show once a month. It can’t get here fast enough. I love it; I love it; I love it.
Q: What do you love so much about it?
A: The nostalgia of performing at this theater, especially knowing the history behind it. Knowing that this is the stage that Red Fox got to perform on, you know some of the greats, Ella Fitzgerald and people of that nature. So to be the new generation that is stepping on the same stage as them is an honor and a privilege. I don’t take it lightly at all.
Q: Good, good. So how did you get into performing?
A: I started at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center in Liberty City. My dad was the director there. I had been taking art classes all my life basically. Since I was 5 I’ve been doing some sort of form of the arts: dance, drama, things of that nature. So doing that the entire time and just having that support system allowed me to stay in it and follow my dream.
Q: Did you always know you were funny?
A: I didn’t know I was funny. I knew I wanted to be in entertainment. I’m really a theater major. I prefer to do acting. And I always tell people I’m more of an actor than a comedian. So when I’’m on stage and I’m being funny, I’m usually acting like a comedian.
Q: Well then how did you stumble upon the comedy genre?
A: I had got a theater scholarship to Miami Dade College and while I was there, they needed a host for an event. So they asked me to host it and that’s literally how I got my start. They were the first people to offer me money and once I realized the potential to get some funds, that’s what made me stay in it a lot longer than I had anticipated.
Q: What are some other events that you host around Miami?
A: Right now, nothing locally. This is it. If you want to see Chello, you have to see me at the Lyric Theater.
Q: Does that mean you’ve branched out past South Florida?
A: Yeah, I’ve done a little bit of everything. I’ve opened up for Katt Williams, Mike Epps, Bruce Bruce, Sommore. I’ve done the Tom Joyner Fantastic Voyage twice, Family Reunion. I just got through filming some extra work for a new show coming out on ABC this past weekend. So I’ve just been staying busy.
Q: Are you ever nervous before going up on stage?
A: Always. When I don’t get nervous before a show, I’ll quit. If I don’t get nervous before a show, I promise I will stop doing this.
Q: Take us through your mental preparation to get rid of those nerves.
A: Aw man, they don’t leave. That’s the thing. I have to use them. They never leave. I’m usually nervous while I’m out there. I don’t know whether they’re going to laugh or whether they’re not going to laugh. You just have to roll with the punches.
Q: Do you have a go-to joke or skit you normally perform to get the crowd going?
A: I usually go for my local Miami, hometown crowd. If you’re from South Florida, nine times out of nine, hopefully, you’ll think I’m funny.
Q: Can you give us an example of a South Florida joke?
A: For me, if you’re really from South Florida, you have to know about the … you know, about Don Bailey laying naked on I-95. If you’re from South Florida, you have to know about, and I’m talking the old school South Florida, off the 826 exchange, the Coppertone ad, where the dog used to be biting the girl’s underwear and it used to go up and down. It was an old sign. If you’re from South Florida, you have to know about the man who used to stand in the middle of 54th and just box with the air. He was never boxing with nobody, but you got to know about that if you’re from South Florida. So if you know about these things, when I reflect and draw upon them, it should hopefully make you laugh.
Q: So being a Miami native, and incorporating that into your artistry, how close do you hold the city to your heart?
A: One, I try to keep my Miami swag. It’s a culture down here that I think the world looks upon. And everywhere I go, people say you’re a Florida boy, you’re a Miami boy, I can tell. What that entails, I have no idea, but I’m glad they can tell.
Q: And I’ve noticed just from people passing by, you’re well respected in your field, how does that make you feel?
A: It makes me feel great. I like to think that I earned it. I don’t ask for any handouts. All the love I give is genuine. So I hope all the love I receive is just a genuine.