How often does the class clown become a world-famous comedian? Ask Dale Elliott Jr.
The professional funny guy and breakout actor turned his childhood schemes, mimics and jokes into a career that spans nearly 10 years and has allowed him to globetrot for shows around the world.
The years 2014 to 2016 saw social media app Vine grow in popularity, and it was here that Elliott found his footing as a comedian. Then, while in college, he was offered the lead role in the highly rated 2018 film, Sprinter, which now arguably stands as one of the best movies to come out of Jamaica. Since then, Elliott has used his platform to grow as an artist even more, all while working to uplift the diaspora.
As he embarks on his first stand-up comedy tour titled, Problem Child: Bad Pickney, Caribbean audiences across the country can look forward to belly laughing as Elliott brings to life his childhood, complete with all of the quirks, traditions and “Jamaicanizms” heard and experienced while raised on the island by his grandmother. We spoke with the comedian about his introduction to the craft, Hollywood pursuits, character inspirations and more.
Talk a little bit about your experience on Sprinter
I landed the role of Sprinter by a random call from the director, Storm Saulter. He called me when I was in college, and he asked me if I could come down to his office and interview. When I interviewed, he told me to tell him about myself. While I was talking [about] my mother [living] abroad, my background in track and field, he said to me, “Hey, this is almost the same thing in the movie.” In terms of newfound fame, I never really realized the magnitude of it until it went to Netflix.
Then I started to travel the world, and people realized that I had acting talent. I’m just happy that I had my chance to have my little input in Jamaica’s big cultural impact on the world. And I will do a lot more.
When did you take the leap into pursuing comedy?
I was always a funny person, a class clown. Before acting, I always used to make videos on Vine and Instagram. I did that before Sprinter, which was how I was found. Traveling for Sprinter helped my comedic pursuits — it let me see a lot, and comedians learn from things that are in their environment. I used the experiences that I had from the places that I got to go to help my career. Sprinter gave me more motivation because it let me realize that, “hey, I can make a career out of [this].” It pushed me more to continue doing what I’m doing.
Who were some of your comedic inspirations growing up?
Growing up, I watched a lot of Eddie Griffin, Kevin Hart, Dave Chappelle, Ali Saddiq and Bill Burr. I always used to watch stand-up comedy and Def Comedy Jam on YouTube. A lot of my [character] inspirations were from the neighborhood junkies or some family members that were very funny to me. All of my inspiration came from my community and what I was watching.
What was your breakout video?
I had a viral video because I wrapped my head with a towel, and I was literally mocking my grandmother about me not washing the dishes. Everybody had that same sort of memory. Then I realized that because everybody finds this stuff relatable, let me continue to do these kinds of videos. That helped me to blow up way faster.
What is your signature shtick?
I always used to mimic people. I used to sit and observe anybody — down to the sanitation worker, the postman, the electrician, the plumber, anybody that is in my environment. I want to know what they are doing, and I practice how they talk and speak. Anybody who is in my space for a long period usually would end up in my skits or my comedy. That’s why a lot of my comedy involves my mother or grandparents or anybody that I find funny or that I am around.
How do you feel about embarking on your first headlining stand-up tour?
Even though I’ve done [shows] before, there’s always nerves. I have practiced, I have prepared. And because my jokes are always relatable, it’s good to convey them to different audiences, especially Caribbean people. Caribbean people always support their fellow people trying. I may not have a lot of stand-up comedy experience, but I’ve watched a lot, and I’ve been doing it for a couple of months now to the point where I know what works and what doesn’t work. It’s always best to tell a story. I don’t lie, just go on the stage and tell a story.
I am a person who believes in creating opportunities, and some opportunities will not be given to you unless you go out there and take them. This is my way of announcing that. This is what I want to do, this is what I love, this is what I’m going to do, and I’m very confident you guys will like it.
What is new on the horizon or what are you looking forward to post-tour?
I want to take a show to the UK and I want to take a show to Canada, but I’m also looking to build my YouTube, vlog more and travel more. I will always do acting. I’m going to focus on writing since I realize that it’s more of a process now to where I can come up with an idea, write what I want to do, film it, and find funding. Or whenever a personal role comes, I can take that. I still definitely have more acting, but a lot more content creation and expanding with the stand-up I am doing.
What is some advice you can give to the aspiring comedian?
No opportunity is given to you, all opportunities are taken. It is better to control your narrative, control your branding, and control the person that you want to be seen as. You have to be disciplined, you have to be consistent in what you’re doing [and] you have to love what you’re doing. When you love what you’re doing, it shows. Don’t let anybody tell you that you cannot do something. If you want to do something, do it. If you’re doing it and it’s not working, don’t stop because things don’t happen overnight. It takes years. Don’t wait for praises and congratulations because that doesn’t necessarily come.
So, focus on yourself, focus on your talent. Make sure that you are nourishing it, take care of it, exercise, have a clean heart and a clean mind, and push forward in anything that you are doing.
The Problem Child: Bad Pickney tour begins Saturday, September 16th at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts. Tickets are on sale now.