Eugene T Barnes Helms A New Generation of Comedic Talent
Comedy today is filled with mainstream legends like Kevin Hart and Mike Epps. These greats have paved the way for a new generation of comedic deliverers. Comedian Eugene T Barnes has joined this new generation of talented artists and is even taking it a step further by helping to establish a family friendly version of comedy. Barnes sat down with Parlé Magazine to discuss his current rode to success and what motivates him to stay on the path.
Parlé Mag: Who is Eugene T Barnes outside of comedy?
Eugene T Barnes: I am originally from a little town in Florida called Lakeland, which is right in between Tampa and Orlando. I moved up to New York right after high school to attend an acting school. While in school, I met my wife and we have been married for about eight years now. She is a signer/song writer, so we are both in the entertainment industry. We are both getting gigs and run a production company “As One Entertainment” where we produce live shows around the city and we do some social media content as well. I’m a comedian, a family man, and a Christian. I am big into my church. Being a Christian in the comedy world is what makes me different. I work clean, but I still do my thing. I perform in clubs and can go toe-to-toe with other comics. That’s my thing; family comedy with an edge. I never want to be corny. Someone once described me as a mix between Bill Cosby and Eddie Murphy.
What motivates me is not going back to a 9-5. I remind myself almost everyday that if I could put in that type of work and those types of hours for somebody else, then it is the least I can do for myself. ~Eugene T. Barnes
Parlé Mag: Do you find it difficult to go toe-to-toe with more seasoned comedians while keeping that family wholesome feel to your jokes?
Eugene T Barnes: I don’t find it difficult at all because it is who I am. I’m not pretending nor do I have to try to do it. I think I would be way less funny if I got up there and tried to do what the other guys do. The audience would clearly see that I was uncomfortable cursing and talking about certain subject matter. Honestly, working clean forces you to be funny. I have to work around things. It would be a lot easier if I was just able to say this word, but I have to suggest and make an innuendo. It makes me work a little harder and smarter.
Parlé Mag: What made you choose to go into comedy?
Eugene T Barnes: I don’t think I chose it, I think it chose me. I went to an acting school, so I knew entertainment was what I wanted to do. I got out of school and pursued acting, theatre and some film work. The comedic stuff is always what came to me. I always looked at guys like Martin Lawrence as inspiration. Just watching his show made me want to just go ahead and do it. I started researching other people. Watching these guys on stage and command the audience made me, ‘think I want to do that’. I was acting and doing improv, but there was nothing like stand-up. It scared me for a while. I had been wanting to do stand-up for a while before I got the guts to actually do it. Once I did it, I never looked back. I’ve been doing this for about five years now. I started out working on this part-time, but as of October, I’m doing it full-time. I got laid off from my day job and I vowed I would never go back to that.
Parlé Mag: How do you find the energy to keep going after losing your job and going into a career that isn’t guaranteed?
Eugene T Barnes: What motivates me is not going back to a 9-5. I remind myself almost everyday that if I could put in that type of work and those types of hours for somebody else, then it is the least I can do for myself. I managed a Starbucks for eight years. There were times that I would work seven days a week for 12 hours. I wasn’t receiving any extra pay and I hated it. I hated every second of it. I was killing myself for a paycheck. I remember those times and I remind myself that if I can do that for something I hate, what can I do for something I call my passion. I call myself out at times because what scares me is me being the problem. I complained when I was at a 9-5 job and if I find myself complaining doing my passion, maybe it’s not my situation, it’s me. I don’t ever want to find myself there, so I give of myself gladly to my passion.
Parlé Mag: Do you see yourself venturing into any other lanes of the entertainment industry?
Eugene T Barnes: Of course, eventually. I just started to come into my own in the stand-up world so I’m definitely starting there first. It will open the path for other things like film. I write as well. I’ve written a couple of plays. My wife and I do skits online, which can be found on my social media platforms. I also do a lot of work within my church’s performing arts department. I would love to get into the writing and directing of things.
Parlé Mag: Do see you see yourself as a pioneer or trailblazer for up and coming comedians who want to stay in the family friendly zone of comedy?
Eugene T Barnes: I do. I should I hope so. I feel like there is a gap. Back in the 80s there was Eddie Murphy who was all the way raw and then you had Sinbad and Bill Cosby. Kevin Hart is kind of doing the in between thing right now. He is talking about family, but he will still curse and get kind of vulgar. I feel like there is an absence of someone who is clean and family friendly, yet edgy. I also want to fill the gap of somebody who is real. With the “fall of Bill Cosby”, I want to actually talk about what I live and go through everyday.
Parlé Mag: How supportive is your family during this transitional process you are on?
Eugene T Barnes: They are very supportive. I don’t know what I would do without my wife. When I first got laid off, I immediately had the thought that I didn’t want to look for another job. Even before being laid off, I knew I didn’t want a job again. I had left my position at Starbucks and I started working for a retail company called Quicksilver. I was there for less than a year. After I was laid off, I went to my wife and her first response was, ‘ok let’s do this’. No questions asked. Seriously how many women with two kids and bills to pay would say, ‘ok let’s do it’. She has been extremely supportive. We are partners. She is doing her thing and I am doing mine. It’s a balancing act. During the day I work at a comedy club called Stand Up New York and at night she has gigs to go to. Because of our children, only one of us can be out at a time. The kids are still young. We have a five and two year-old, but they know what’s up. They know daddy is going to a show. They tell me to break a leg. They have even come to shows with us. It is truly a family deal. Our kids are also in our videos on our YouTube page.
Parlé Mag: You have some upcoming shows. Can you give us a rundown of your show dates and locations?
Eugene T Barnes: The biggest thing I have going on right now is Juice Cold Pressed Comedy. It is going to be in the Prospect Park/Lefferts Garden area in Brooklyn. It is going to be at the House of Juice located on 642 Rogers Avenue. The establishment is black owned by a couple named Danny and Kevin. It’s a plant based juicery. They are trying to bring different food options into the neighborhood because it’s majority fast food restaurants in that area. They are trying to educate and diversify the neighborhood, which is going through something like a gentrification. They are working really hard at the House of Juice to educate people who have already been in the area because there is a huge difference between gentrification and change. People in the neighborhood are kind of eggshells not knowing the difference of what is happening in their neighborhood and Danny and Kevin are acting as the cornerstone for the people there. The show itself is a four part comedy series that we actually just wrapped up for the Summer. We are considering going into a Winter series. It consists of five comics and I host the show. There is art on display by some talented visual artists which is auctioned off. We also educate the audience on how to live a healthier lifestyle as far as their eating habits and other life aspects are concerned. It brings together different mediums of art along with education.
I also have shows coming up at the St. George Hotel in Brooklyn Heights, which is actually a college dorm. A bunch of different schools dorm in this one location and I perform there once a month. It is called The Bed and Breakfast Comedy Show. I host the show and bring out five other comedians who put on a show basically for the residents of the dorm, but everyone is welcome. The St. George is owned by Student Educational Housing and they have five locations around the city. We are looking to expand to the other locations. My goal is to eventually perform in shelters and other places as well.
Parlé Mag: Being a father of two young daughters, what is one piece of advice you would like to give your girls?
Eugene T Barnes: The number one thing I would want them to know and it happens to be one of the things that keeps me going, it’s that they can do anything because they saw dad do it. They didn’t just see me settle once I got laid off and just kind of mope around and get another job. I chased my dream and when they are older, I will have achieved them. I really believe anything is possible. People say it a lot to kids, but how often do those kids see someone chasing their dream!
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