Don Reed is a nationally renowned comedian - maybe you've caught him during his warm-up act on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He started his career doing stand up, performing around the country with comedians like Chris Rock, Robert Townsend, and Damon Wayans. But, he says, when it came to getting big gigs like they did, he never made the cut. The feedback was always the same says Reed, "I'm too white."
Reed isn't white though, he's black. Talent agents thought his act wasn't black enough.
At the time Reed also says, "I was an impersonator. I wasn't talking about my authentic self, I wasn't portraying what was really happening in the 'hood."
Not anymore. His new one-man show, "Can You Dig It?" delves intimately into his own life -- growing up black and in the "hood." He chronicles his childhood on East 14th Street in Oakland, California. Reed embodies the characters of his childhood -- morphing into his strict mother, his pimp father, and his gay brother. He incorporates lots of music and dance, and portrays himself as the lisping, awkward child he was.
KALW's Hana Baba recently went to see his show, and then interviewed him backstage about the influence his family has had on his work.
DON REED: "My father used to wake me up every morning and say, 'baby, it's time to go to college.' This is the same man that never learned to read and write but he was going to make certain that I was not going to go on the negative path that he was on."
You can catch Don Reed’s one-man show "Can You Dig It?" playing at the Marsh Theater in Berkeley through December 15, 2013.
Click on the audio player above to hear the whole interview.