Comedian, actor, writer and producer Lil Rel Howery – cinema’s most-loved TSA agent – is living his 10-year-old Chicago childhood dream two thousand miles away in Los Angeles.
In celebration of Lil Rel Howery: Live in Crenshaw, HBO hosted a live screening event with Howery at NeueHouse in Hollywood.
“I’ve always wanted an HBO special,” Howery confessed to more than 200 friends, family and notable supporters during a Q&A moderated by 106th & Park veteran Terrence J.
Returning to his stand-up roots, the special was shot at Susan Miller Dorsey Senior High School. There is a small stage set up in the center of the gymnasium with bleachers and chairs on all four sides. A sea of sunshine floods the gymnasium through the floor-to-ceiling windows.
“That was Jerrod Carmichael’s idea because he felt like that would be the best environment for me and for the type of comedian I am,” Howery explained.
Howery referred to the vibe of the special as a “comedy pep rally.” In the hour-long special, which was shot entirely on film, the viewer can watch the sun slowly setting in the background as the special progresses. It opens with the Black national anthem and a step-team performance.
“This might be the ‘Blackest’ special, maybe ever seen,” Howery joked. “I enjoy being unapologetically Black.”
During his uproarious comedy set, Howery touches upon various topics: returning to his hometown for his uncle’s money-conscious funeral; his experiences in the entertainment industry; Disneyland’s security; and budget-friendly Spirit Airlines.
“You know this is a dream come true for Lil Rel,” Tina Knowles-Lawson captioned under a selfie with Howery on Instagram.
Howery’s career has skyrocketed since he first began as a comedian on Chicago’s East Side. He is now one of the most popular comics on the scene today.
“He dreamed of this since he was a kid and he did it,” Knowles-Lawson said.
Howery made his national television debut in January 2007 appearing on the television competition Last Comic Standing. In 2015, he co-starred in the role of Bobby Carmichael on the NBC sitcom The Carmichael Show with the show creator Jerrod Carmichael. In 2018 on Fox, he starred in his own sitcom, Rel, which was loosely based on his life as a divorced, single father.
Lil Rel in Get Out
On the big screen, Howery landed starring roles in Get Out, Tag, Uncle Drew, Bird Box, Good Boys and The Angry Birds Movie 2, voicing Alex. Nowadays, the comedian is laser-focused on building generational wealth for his children hence his decision to decline a lucrative offer from Netflix.
“I don’t chase the check, per se,” Howery said.
Netflix offered Howery more money than HBO. However, one of the biggest determining factors was that he wanted to give his kids – Brittni and Judah Howery – a producer credit. Netflix said no.
“HBO was okay with giving my kids consulting producer credits,” Howery said. “It means a lot to see their name in the credits and they’ve got their own card, consulting producers.”
Plus, Howery already had a relationship with HBO because of his guest role on Issa Rae’s Insecure and a couple of other projects.
“I talked to Jerrod [Carmichael] about it first because he did two specials,” Howery said. “I knew I wanted my next stand-up special to be with HBO.”
Comedy should make you laugh and it should be honest. Moreover, it doesn’t have to necessarily be mean. Howery affirms the latter in his stand-up special. It’s no surprise his comedy star is shining bright.
“I’m walking my path of what 10-year-old me thought was untouchable and unrealistic,” Howery said.
A path that now is taking him to new places and new laughs for us.