TuRae Gordon has done a lot of things during his time as one of the top local Philly comedians. He’s acted in films such as Underground Kings, he’s appeared on HBO’s Def Comedy Jam, and he’s headlined everywhere. What the gruff-voiced comic hasn’t done in a while is release a solo comedy album, a situation he’s set to remedy when he hosts a live recording session this Thursday at Punch Line Philly, September 20.
TuRae is one of the top local Philly comedians
Why now, and what’s changed about the comedian we singularly call ‘TuRae,’?.
“I’m older and wiser now for sure,” he says from his downtown Philly home. “The life that I’m living is more relatable to the guy I want to be, and say, on stage. “I once told my mom that I was nervous about what I was going to say at a certain gig to which she replied, of course, that I was always funny. That wasn’t the problem though. I know I’m funny. But how I’m going to be perceived, how that funny is going to be conveyed was crucial.”
As a man who jokes about his mom and the rest of his family – including his girlfriend (“dude, this lady, I promise, we’re going to get married”) – TuRae uses the latter love relationship as his barometer as to what he can and cannot share on stage about their lives. “I subscribe to the ‘happy wife, happy life’ theory,” he said. “If she doesn’t like it, I’m not to going to do it. BUT, she has to see me doing it and tell me she doesn’t like it because I also believe in an artist’s freedom.”
He’s not the comedian who sets out to hurt, wound, or ‘put anyone’s business out there that doesn’t need to be,’ as he isn’t that type of man in real life. That’s one way he earned being one of the top local Philly comedians. “Who do you want to be, onstage and off – that’s what means the most to me,” he said. The same thing goes for entering the political arena when entering the stage. TuRae is not looking to piss people off, divide a room, or “make people feel a certain type of way. I’m not there to be confrontational. Yet, if something needs to be said, if it’s about my life I embrace it. I’m just not going for the low-hanging fruit. I’m not out there Trumpy tripping… I might flip it, and not be on the haranguing tip. Maybe, he’s got a point, being all gangster and running the country like he’s running Death Row Records.”
All of that will figure into his upcoming live album. TuRae recalls his Philly youth listening to Richard Pryor’s albums – “he’s why I do this…. same with George Carlin. With Carlin, I had to laugh because my grandmother had all these Redd Foxx records, and then I was like ‘who’s this old white dude?’ With Richard, I found it supremely fascinating that I couldn’t see him while listening to those records of his, but I could just imagine how he moved and made faces. I knew I wasn’t supposed to find the stuff of drugs and pimps funny. I also found Eddie Murphy albums hilarious too.”
When I mention other Philly comedians such as Chip Chantry and Mary Radzinski have just recorded live albums, I ask why him, too, and why now? In typical confident TuRae fashion, he says that “I’ve been the best comedian in Philly forever, and the time seemed right to log my third album, add to the catalog. I want people to be able to find my material even when they can’t see me and listen at their leisure.”
Ask if he feels akin to other Philly comedians and part of the community of stand-ups, and he says, “some would tell you I am the community. I don’t say that to sound arrogant. I say that because I’ve spent a considerable amount of my career making sure that it’s not just single shows or one comic getting success and moving on. I do also feel as if the comedy community here is segregated. I don’t want barriers in my comedy. Comedians need to be considered by each other’s room and considered by all management and promoters. That’s not just here though, that’s everywhere across the country. The good thing is that comedy and comedy clubs are growing. Let’s focus on that. We can sing ‘Cumbaya,’ later.”