Actor-comedian Bill Bellamy finds his groove in front of an audience

Bill-BellamyThis week is the first time comedian, actor and television host Bill Bellamy has returned to Wisconsin since early in his career.

The last trip Bellamy made to the Badger State was in the mid ’90s when he was working as a VJ for MTV and visited the University of Wisconsin during a tour of college campuses.

Bellamy’s career has expanded well beyond MTV, and his comedy material has found a permanent home in pop culture. He’ll be performing Thursday through Saturday at the Comedy Quarter in Neenah.

A talent for telling jokes would propel Bellamy’s career in show business, but he didn’t always recognize that standup comedy was meant for him.

“I was always a funny guy just hanging out with the fellas,” he recalls. “But I didn’t know if I could transfer that to the stage and the microphone.”

Bellamy discovered his skills for making an audience laugh when he performed standup while attending Rutgers University. His routine helped him win a male beauty pageant. But the Newark, N.J., native chose comedy over pageantry.

Bellamy’s biggest break in comedy was his appearances on HBO’s Def Comedy Jam, which is produced by media mogul Russell Simmons. Bellamy calls those appearances “an amazing opportunity.”

“It’s basically like getting thrown into the big leagues,” he says. “You’re basically being stamped as one America’s hottest urban comics.”

It was during a Def Jam performance that Bellamy apparently coined the term ‘booty call.’ He realizes some people doubt he was first to use the expression now widely known as a late-night call to a lover for some casual sex. But Bellamy says you can find his original clip on YouTube. “Booty Call” was also the name of Bellamy’s Showtime comedy special.

Bellamy’s work on the screen is just as recognizable as his comedy. His movie roles include an NFL wide receiver in Oliver Stone’s “Any Given Sunday,” in which he acted next to Al Pacino. His other films include “The Brothers,” “Love Stinks” and “How to Be a Player.”

He recently finished two other films: “Getting Played,” a romantic comedy with Vivica A. Fox and Carmen Electra, as well as another comedy project with a cast including comedian Mike Epps and rapper/actor Ice Cube. On television, Bellamy has been the face of reality programs featuring comedians. He hosted the sixth season of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” and currently hosts and is one of the producers on the TV One cable series “Bill Bellamy’s Who’s Got Jokes?”

Acting has been a big part of Bellamy’s life, but there’s something he gets from performing standup comedy that’s much different than working in front of a camera.

“When you do movies and TV, you’ve got scripts to read,” he explains. “You’re reading somebody else’s words. Comedy is liberating. It’s really who I am.”

He calls comedy an “outlet” that lets him give his take on the issues of our time.

“I think now my comedy is really in the right place,” Bellamy says. “This is a great time to be funny because there’s so much going on in this country.”

The performer fully expects to give the Comedy Quarter audience a good show. Bellamy says people shouldn’t have to worry about the two-drink minimum. “You gotta buy two beers because you’re gonna knock the first one on the floor laughing.”