Ben Jackson! Is that what you go by professionally as well?
Yea, on stage I just use Ben Jackson. Sometimes I get introduced as Ben-A-Damn-Fool cause that’s my handle for all my social media. People have told me, “Man you should go by Ben-A-Damn-Fool.” People done used the ‘Damn Fool’ before. I was just like, you know, I’m just gone make Ben Jackson pop. That’s what the checks gone come in! I don’t have to worry about showing no ID and saying no this is me and also me. Nah, this Ben Jackson!
What do you do & what inspires you to do it?
You know, just stand-up comedy. I love it! People knew me and I did a lot of different stuff. I was speaking in schools. I was on BET news when I was 15 because I was doing some stuff in the community. I was part of this organization called 504/713 Peace Initiative. I was 15 getting to leave school to go speak at elementary schools.
When I got to about 20 years old, I was kinda like, I knew I had a lot of different stuff that I could do. I wrote poetry. I went to school for journalism. I was class president. People looking at me like, you gotta do something. At twenty, I ain’t know what I was about to do! About twenty-one, I had my daughter and I ain’t know what I was about to do, as far as next in life. I didn’t really feel like I knew what was going on.
Comedy came about with my best friend wanting to do it. I ended up telling her, yea you should do it. If you do it, I’ll do it; on some support stuff. It’s crazy cause she quit a year later, probably less than a year. She didn’t like the open mic grind. What motivates me is, it’s not something that somebody picked for me. I always loved comedy. I used to stay up watching Def Comedy Jam, Comic View and stuff like that. But I never thought that was something for me. Once it was put in my face, it’s like I got obsessed with it!
How do you define success?
On the grand scheme of things, when you can support your family doing it, primarily, that’s successful. I don’t try to shoot for nobody else’s success. People say, “Oh you the next Kevin Hart,” I mean why, cause I’m short and black and I do comedy? [Laughs] Me and him different and I don’t try and emulate nobody’s success. I always feel like once I get to the point where this is it, I don’t have to go to work every day and clock in and clock out and take off my cape and put on my comedy cape, that’ll be the success for me. But as far as the grand scheme of things; when you doing what you do!
What would you say to motivate a younger you to be successful in life?
Aw man, if I could talk to younger me, one I would say, you ain’t that cool! A lot of times in life when I was coming up, I kind of just had this – people liked me. I’m a people person and I was able to kind of get by. I mean I put in some hard work, but I knew how far I needed to go. You ain’t that cool when it’s a lot of other cool people around. Don’t rely on thinking you that guy and put in the work early.
Once you walked into comedy was that something you wanted to do or was there something else before that?
I went to school to be in journalism. All my stuff has kind of been in writing. I used to write poetry when I was in college. That was one of my outlets. I wasn’t writing jokes. I was writing poetry, papers and stuff like that. I wrote for DMARS (a local publication in Houston, Tx). I had dreams of writing books and maybe getting into acting and stuff like that.
People used to mention comedy to me all the time and I was like, hey man I’m not a stand-up comedian. You can have a camera follow me around and see some funny stuff and this was before reality TV, but I ain’t no comedian. My comedy career kind of started off different than most people I guess, but once I found out comedy was what I was going to do, I said, this is it!
What’s the best business or personal advice you’ve ever received?
I got it from this guy, he’s from here, he’s been on BET, been touring and went viral a couple of times. His name is Blame the Comic. Blame told me a couple years ago, “I set a bar every month of how much I want to perform and what type of money I want to make.” He said, “Once you set your price don’t change your price.” Don’t negotiate your price to where you feel uncomfortable and you don’t have to accept every gig.
Photo by: LeTony Hadnot Jr. of Different Mind Designs
Do you believe in a higher power?
No lie, I think people start to think about it more the older you get. You know that your time is starting to; you’re on a ticker. When you’re a teenager and young, you go to church or you go to the mosque or whatever religion you may be. You’re into it and you believe it, but you get into the worldly stuff and you just be like I’m living life!
Now it’s kind of like, I think about life and it’s like, I don’t want to be one of the people that be out here. I would rather believe there is a higher power than be out here thinking that it ain’t!
And I get there and it is! [laughs]
Cause if I get there and it ain’t nobody there.
Well hell! I’m going to sleep! [laughs]
[LAUGHS ALL AROUND]
But if I get there and somebody there and he’s like, hey man!
You been out there wildin’ man [laughs].
Yea you been wildin’ and not only have you been wildin’; I forgive people that wild. But you know what I’m sayin’? You ain’t believe in; I done gave you Jesus, Buddha. You ain’t believe in nothing!
It’s like, I came at you twelve different ways and you’re still like nah [laughs].
So, what I want to say is religion is one of the things that baffles me more than anything. Because you can prove math. One plus one equals; if you’ve got one penny and you get another penny, I see two pennies. If you tell me red and yellow make orange, I can see that happening. But religion is different because all religion is predicated pretty much on faith. Like, who was the first person? If you say it’s Adam and Eve, where they come from and who made them? It has to be something. I don’t know what it is. I know that I felt it could be spirits. I felt I guess the ambiance of a higher being around me. I know a lot of people can say they been dranking or doing whatever and done made it home, but don’t remember how they got there.
For real [laughs]!
You know what I’m sayin? [laughs]
Yea that’s real [laughs].
You know what I’m sayin? I woke up and I was walking into my door! Getting out the car and I’m like whoa! I remember getting on the freeway. I really don’t remember driving the freeway.
Bruh, I’m talking about you literally go back over it in your head and all you remember is okay I got in the car…
Turned the music on, start rolling and I’m here.
So, I do believe in a higher power because it just has to make sense in that way. No one has proven necessarily whether it’s Jesus, Buddha; you know because I hear different things. Allah and all the different religions. God is going to judge you off your heart and not necessarily your religion. I would hope!
Cause I be thinking shit, Ghandi wasn’t no Muslim. Ghandi wasn’t no Christian. Mother Theresa, Harriet Tubman and people like that. For the stuff that they’ve done, where do they go? Because at the end of the day, with these religions, a lot of them say that you have to be against the one. So, are you doing stuff in vain? You tell me that God is forgiving so will He forgive me? Or is it about my heart? Which one is it? So that’s where religion kind of loses me. Because people aren’t as open and loving as their religion says they should be.
I get you. I do. They try and make a lot of that so black and white. You’re telling me these people who gave their lives for humanity and positivity and you’re telling me they’re not going to make it?
They can’t make it in? If it’s Jesus Christ and you’re supposed to be a Christian. If that’s what it is, and you have somebody who has spent their who life giving to people and they done helped saved so many Christians in their life. They’re not a Christian themselves. But they’re trying to live the right life as best as they can. Maybe ghetto heaven is for people who weren’t Christian.
You can get up here, but that top floor is for the other folks. Like, it just don’t really make sense. I think that’s what helps keep us divided. Religion does a lot for people in a good way, but it can divide at the same time. I guess you gotta take the good with the bad.
Ok cool. I absolutely see what you’re saying.
I wouldn’t be able to go to my grandma house if I even put in an article I didn’t believe in a higher power.
That’s a whole notha’ whippin!
Man, don’t get me started dude. They’ll be like, you comin in here with that foolishness [laughs].
Aw man, they wouldn’t have heard nothing. Nothing in the article would’ve been talked about.
Did you see all the good stuff I was sayin? Nah, nah, nah.
[Laughs] Yea. It would be like, when you got to that one question.
Yea. Exactly! I know you had to see the other stuff! [laughs]
[Laughs] Aye, bruh that’s so real because that’s how they operate man.
But that’s only because that’s how religion is though. If you tell a person I don’t necessarily believe in a higher power. If that’s how you feel, I respect that and I can almost understand it. I mean, I don’t know what type of life you done lived.
Maybe the things that I thought were signs of God don’t come off as signs of God to you.
You think they are coincidences or whatever it may be. Or, you think it’s energy. I hear people talk about energy and everything like that. So, it could be that. But with religion, somebody will tell you, you a bad person solely off you saying you don’t believe in Jesus or whatever religion it may be. There are people out there that would be like, I don’t even want to talk to this person.
My grandfather kind of opened me up to it. My grandfather’s a Muslim. He’s been a Muslim for all I know. My dad, he dibbled and dabbed. Well, he couldn’t be no Muslim; he eat too much pork!
But my granddaddy owns a lot of different property up in Milwaukee. My granddad’s been into this like real estate type of stuff, since back in like the 80s. So, right across the street from my granddaddy’s house, which is right on the corner, is a church. Every black neighborhood got a few churches. My granddaddy does so much work for that church. Him and the pastor are cool. Because, that’s his belief and that’s their belief. Whatever your belief is, that’s what you’re gonna have to answer to. You’re gonna have to talk to your God about it.
On this earth, he’s a black man trying to make a difference. My granddaddy feels like, I’m gonna help a black man trying to make a difference in a black community. That’s kind of like where I am. I don’t have a problem with gays. I don’t have a problem with whatever. I don’t have to indulge. It doesn’t bother me. Long as you don’t get no glitter on me, I don’t have no problem. You do what you want. That ain’t none of my business.
[Laughs] I feel you!
Like I said, religion sometimes brings people together and sometimes it divides them. Hopefully we can get past that.
I’ve got lighter questions now man. These will go pretty fast. What’s something you can’t live without?
I’d have to say my kids. Okay, that’s the parent answer. That’s the right answer
I kind of hate when people do that stuff. Cause you know what their talking about. If you got kids, we know that you don’t wanna…..
I said this joke the other day, when I meet a woman and she’s like, “let me just let you know my kids come first.” I’m like, they should!
Maybe you need to change the type of men you’re around if that’s the first thing you need to let them know!
[Laughs] Because why do they want to be with you if your kids don’t come first.
That’s my answer on the parent side. If I had to say on a worldly side, right now it would probably be my phone. It’s crazy how dependent we are on the phone and computer. It’s my alarm clock. It’s my TV sometimes. It’s my music. It’s everything! In all honesty, if I leave the house and I left my phone, I’ve got to turnaround. I’ve went to work without my wallet before, but I need my phone.
I knew I was okay. I’m just going to work. I knew after work you gotta go straight home cause you ain’t got your wallet. You can’t do nothing! Your phone ain’t important if you ain’t doing shit. If you just a regular nigga we know why your phone important.
[Laughs] If all the network providers went down, we would all be in trouble!
I mean, me and you. I was like we can meet up and you like, just hit me on the phone.
I’m glad you said it. I’ve been doing this for like 3 years. I think I may have gotten that answer like once. Every interview from the past through the future, that hits everybody [laughs].
When people are bored, the first thing they go looking for is their phone. Honestly, it’s not a bad thing. Anything is bad, if you make it bad. So, it’s dependent on how you use it. Imagine your life now without it. Not when there weren’t any cell phones, but now? You on your phone typing this! [laughs]
[Laughs] That’s hilarious.
I love my goddamn phone and I ain’t gone let nobody make me think it’s wrong!
[Laughs] Aye, so where do you see yourself in 3 years?
In 3 years, I expect to be no longer working. Though I love it, love my people and everything, it’s not the end game. I expect not to be working and being a full-time comic.
Are you single or taken?
As of right now, I’m not in a relationship. It sounds cliché’, but lately I’ve just been going home man. I do enjoy conversation with women. I work with a lot of women. I was raised in the house with my mom and my grandmother and I have my sister.
I love women! I realized, which it took me a while to figure out, you can’t screw every woman or at least try to. You muddy yourself up. Before I was doing comedy, it was just trying to get women. Now you got bodies on you. Now I’m here and I got these people attached to me.
Some of the best material that I’ve gotten is just hearing a woman’s perspective and having a conversation with them and taking it from there. I like women and like being around them and do my thing, but I can’t focus on them right now. I had to finally stop being selfish. With age is supposed to come maturity. I’m in this game man.
I understand, you’re getting it. Do you have any tattoos?
Yea, I got about ten. The last tattoo I got was my oldest daughter’s name on my back. I’ve got to get my youngest on there. Nothing too crazy. At this point I ain’t that into them like I was when I was younger. The older you get, things change. I had a whole bunch of tattoos that I wanted. The one tattoo that I wanted since was 13, I got it on my arm, it’s the Serenity Prayer.
I also wanted this tattoo when I was a teenager, I said I wanted to get this tattoo of every woman I sleep with, I was gonna get their name in like this book on my back. I’m so glad I didn’t do that!
[Laughs] Me too bruh!
When I said earlier, I thought I was just that cool? That’s the type of shit that I was thinking.
At 29 years old I’d feel like a goddamn fool!
[Laughs] You’d be like, man what was I thinking?
Man, I’m so glad I didn’t do some of the dumb things I thought about doing.
Because at the time it really sounded solid [laughs].
The thing about it is, the only thing that keeps us from doing a lot of dumb stuff we’d do is the resources. [laughs]
[Laughs] Yep, that’s it.
That’s why I’m hoping they do some type of screening for these reparations! Some of these niggas need a payment plan.
[Laughs] Don’t give them nothing all at once!
I can’t even imagine what these niggas would get or be trying to get! Excuse me sir, we can’t make that. Man, make that shit, I dreamed that shit you can make that shit!
[Laughs] That’s hilarious. That’s so true.
I’m so glad I didn’t have the resources for some of the dumb stuff I wanted to do. I probably wouldn’t be doing comedy!
[Laughs] You’d be out there.
I don’t know what I’d be doing. I’d be out here looking like a fool!
You’d be like, yea I became a pimp once I got my reparations. I incorporated and everything.
You got some music you banging right now that’s sticking with you everyday?
I listen to old school rap. I listen to some of the new stuff, but it’s too many of them and I feel like that’s when you know you getting old. [Laughs] Back in the day, I hear a song on the radio twice and I know all the words. Now! I’m like, I don’t know the name of the song, but when I hear it, it be going in. I don’t even know the words! When you get older and you be skipping words. That’s how you know you getting old! [Laughs]
You don’t care to learn their names. It’s a good song and it kind of bang. I knew I was old when I was in the club shazaming! Usually I got my Jigga-Man, I’m gone play me some Tupac, Scarface. I still listen to Fat Pat. I do a little bit of everything. Mostly old school R&B. I love Johnny Taylor, that old music man. They make too much noise and shit in the music. Back in the day, sometimes they would stop talking and let the beat run.
Like Prince, oh that’s another one. I’m a huge Prince fan. I cried when he died! I love Baby I’m a Star. I love the lyrics. He let the band cut up for about a minute and a half. You can just jam! Nowadays, the stuff they put out it sounds the same and it only caters to one type of lifestyle. It’s hard to listen to R&B now, because I don’t even know who some of the singers are. The R&B singers are rappers.
Singers were what you could listen to with your kids. Times have changed and it’s translated to the music and it’s hard to listen to some of it.
You got a favorite movie?
Aw man it’s tough. It would either be Five Heartbeats. I can quote Five Heartbeats. From childhood, Lion King. Life and Purple Rain. It’s not good acting, but I love Purple Rain. Like, I can’t watch a low budget. I can damn near smell a low budget. [laughs] I’ll be like man don’t put that shit in.
Like Scarface, that’s a horrible acting movie, but it’s a classic. It’s not one of Al Pacino’s best acting movies. It was good, but it’s the story. If I had to give one more movie, a movie that grabs me now that’s new, it’s hard for the new stuff to stick. Tied for number five would be Forrest Gump and The Notebook. I know a lot of people gone give me some heat!
Oh, that’s going to rock to put that in this interview. Cats really be out here like they don’t watch that stuff. Like the wife and I, I don’t know what it is about Pretty Woman. When you look at the story line of that movie, you ain’t supposed to like that movie man.
That’s what I hate about us men. Man, you might pull up next to me and I might be bumping some Cardi. When Cardi album came out that shit was hot! That don’t make you more of a man because you only listen to men rap all day. That don’t make you harder!
It’s a comedian he said, “Hey man this don’t make me gay because I’m listening to beautiful women serenade me all day!” [Laughs]
[Laughs] That’s real.
You know what I’m saying? [Laughs] If it’s a good movie, whether it be drama. I like thriller or suspense more than comedy. I like to watch a series more than I like to watch movies now.
What do you like to do for fun? I know you said earlier you like to go home, but do you like to get on video games or something?
Man, I’m hanging out with the kids and doing stuff with the kids. I like a little sports. I don’t really do video games like I used to. I play a little 2K. That’s about it. I’ll be trying to find me a little show to watch if I’m not doing anything. I’m a homebody. I’m an introvert, but it just depends on how you catch me.
Yea that’s me.
I know how to turn it on when I need to. I like to hang out. I don’t like going out. I like real environments. I’ve never had as much fun in the club as I’ve had with people just out having real conversations kicking back and talking. Real intimate shit. I like to connect to with people.
My last question. What’s next for you, what’s the next move for Ben Jackson?
Rehearsal for gigs coming up. The main thing for me this year is you’re gonna see more of me on social media trying to build up this social media brand. The only way I can obtain where it is I want to go is with this social media. I was one of those people I don’t do the little internet shit, I’m a real comedian. I do real stand-up on stage. But you can’t deny this monster that is the internet. Definitely more internet and more travel.
Photos courtesy of Ben Jackson | This interview has been edited and condensed | © 2019 DRTY ONES™