Donnell Rawlings is one of the funniest and most underrated comedians around. You may best know him as Ashy Larry from Chappelle’s Show or Damien “Day-Day” Price from The Wire, but his resume spans almost thirty years and includes credits from projects like Law & Order, Spiderman 2, and Black Dynamite.
He’s always on the road entertaining audiences with his unfiltered brand of stand-up. The comic’s got his own podcast, The Donnell Rawlings Show, and he also appears in the drama Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty, which premiered on March 6 on HBO and HBO Max.
Read what Rawlings has to say about cancel culture, Joe Rogan’s use of the N-word, and what else lies in store for Ashford Lawrence.
Why does he have so many projects going on at one time:
“When I look at my son [Austen] and realize that I got to prepare for his future, [he’s] the reason why I work as hard as I do. It keeps me motivated and inspires me to want to go hard. I love what I do. I love the job that I do. It’s a fun job. Making people happy, feeling good, and just working with some of the best people in the business is the reason why I keep doing it.”
On comedy and “cancel culture”:
“I mean, there’s no such thing as good or bad comedy. It’s a small percentage of people that are very sensitive, thin skinned, that can’t take a joke. They don’t understand that this is only the way we look at the world.
“I understand people have to make decisions on what they want to say based on relationships. They want to deal with corporations with networks and stuff like that. But the really solid comics? They weren’t affected by “cancel culture” because they’re going to say what they want to say within reason.”
“People make the argument about freedom of speech. But freedom of speech doesn’t mean you have to be irresponsible. So the people that know how to be responsible and say what they feel aren’t going to waver. And it’ll come back to a point where if it’s somebody you like, then you’ll go see them. And If there’s something that you don’t agree with, you just won’t go see them again.
“I think that Dave Chappelle and his feelings on when he did The Closer and standing his ground on its comedy, I think that gave us some more leeway and… Well, for the people that don’t have a heart, it gives them a little bit more confidence to say or feel that they can say what they want to say and be who they are.”
“As a comic, I don’t believe in ‘cancel culture.’ That exists when they just want to stop you from getting your money. The one thing that ‘cancel culture’ wants to do is to stop you from making a living.”
Joe Rogan and the “N-Word”:
“[Rogan] can’t get canceled, but he could have a scar in the public opinion. And it’s a tough one because I’ve considered Joe Rogan to be a good friend of mine. In fact, when I started doing my podcast, he was one of the guys that really motivated me and inspired me to go do it.
“Again, it’s tough for me because if I don’t completely say, “Yeah, we got to get Rogan out of here,” then I’m going to be called a sellout and Uncle Tom and all this bullsh*t, which I don’t agree with. But I will say the Joe Rogan that I know – in my personal experiences – is not the person that people are making him out to be.”
“He’s always been a stand up guy to me. He’s always been a stand up guy to the people that I know or he’s surrounded by. So it’s kind of tough for me to really speak on that without people understanding what friendship is.
“And then another thing that people don’t understand is that we don’t want to give people the opportunity to evolve. You know what I’m saying? I know that there’s things that anybody that’s reading this article would say they said, something some years ago, and that something might have happened in their life where they don’t feel that way anymore.”
On his role in the HBO dramedy Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty:
“I can tell you that I had the opportunity to work with a talented cast. It’s probably going to be one of the biggest sports documentaries that’s hit cable or regular TV.
“I play Magic Johnson’s father’s friend who works at the car factory with him. I think I’m in three or four of the episodes. It’s not a major role, but again, I get to align myself with some talented actors, some talented producers, and to put another thing on my resume.
“But I’m happy to have been a part of it, and hopefully I can continue to get chosen to do these roles: small, large, or whatever. I just love the opportunity to be able to practice and get better and better.
“And of course, anytime you’re building a super team like [the Lakers] did, there’s going to be drama, it’s going to be funny. It’s going to be exciting. And it has to be exciting because that was probably one of the most exciting periods in the history of the Lakers organization. But they were the winning team.”
What else is in store for Donnell Rawlings:
“You can just look forward to me doing what I’ve been doing for the last 27 years: ripping stages, and Netflix is a Joke will just be a continuation of what I do. I go on stages and I murder stages.
[“It’s been a blessing] with me being in the business that I’ve never had a dream of doing that made me able to live out my dreams. I just want to thank anybody that supported me from day one up to this point, that continues to support me. And the big thing right now is to make The Donnell Rawlings Show one of the biggest podcasts in comedy.
“I really believe that Hollywood is overrated. And if, during a pandemic you didn’t really realize what are really the important things in life, then you’ll never realize that. I don’t take anything for granted.”