On this day in comedy on December 13, 1967 Comedian, Actor, Musician, Producer, Mogul, Jamie Foxx (Eric Marlon Bishop) was born in Terrell, Texas.
The multi-talented entertainer was a natural when it came to being funny. In the second grade if the kids were good Foxx’s teacher would reward them with a joke session by one of their own. Musically he was admittedly a reluctant piano student and credits his adopted grandmother’s insistence for his success. His piano lessons started when he was five years old and Foxx went on to play piano in his Baptist church, lead the choir, sing in a band called Leather and Lace and later study classical music and composition at the United States International University. Thanks to her stability and guidance he spent his formative years as not just a budding musician, but a top-rated student and star athlete (basketball and football, where he played quarterback and was the first in the school’s history to throw for over 1,000 yards).
Then one night Eric Bishop walked into a comedy club and he left as Jamie Foxx. The year was 1989 and it was open mic night. His date dared him to go up, he did and decided he was going to keep doing it. The name change came to assure stage time. When comedy club managers looked at sign-in lists they always tried to get as many female comic’s up as possible because there were less of them than males. So, he adopted the name Jamie since it sounded female. The Foxx part was less strategic; merely a tribute to Redd Foxx.
Foxx cut his teeth at the Comedy Act Theater and other clubs around Los Angeles. He won competitions and got middling attention (though his talent was evident paid gigs were so infrequent he had to sleep on couches as many unknown comedians do), but it was a scheduled week look booking at Atlanta’s Comedy Act Theater that changed his career. His week got held-over for weeks as lines grew around the block to see the dynamo performer: joking, singing, doing impressions and generally seducing his audiences with his unmistakable versatility. At the advice of a club promoter, he had a piano placed on stages for his act and yet another dimension was added to his presentation.
In 1991 Foxx became a cast member of the Fox network runaway hit, In Living Color. His signature character of Wanda, the ugly girl looking for love, catapulted him to national prominence. He had a recurring role in another Fox hit, Roc, and then Jamie Foxx got his own self-titled sitcom on the WB. Soon films were added to the equation (The Truth About Cats & Dogs, The Great White Hype, Booty Call, Players Club, Held Up) with his breakthrough in Oliver Stone’s 1999 football epic, Any Given Sunday. Foxx played opposite acting legend Al Pacino, who after a scene cut told Foxx he was a helluva an actor. That statement played out in nominations for subsequent films, Collateral (Academy Award Best Supporting Actor nomination) and Ray, the role of musical genius Ray Charles culminating in a Golden Globe for Best Actor and an Oscar as well as a slew of other acting accolades.
On the musical front, Foxx took his cemented fame to concentrate on his initial entertainment goal: music. His collaborations with Twista, Kanye West, Ludacris and Field Mob all shot up to the top of the charts. His Platinum certified album, Unpredictable debuted at #2 and went to #1 the following week. The Grammy Award winning artist released his third album, Intuition (his first was 1994’s Peep This) in 2008 and produced even more hits. He not only made his own chart busters, but made frequent appearance on practically everyone else’s songs; including the country group Rascal Flatts. His album Best Night of My Life debuted in 2010 followed by Hollywood: A Story of a Dozen Roses in 2015.
Besides more movies (Jarhead, Miami Vice, Dreamgirls), Foxx expanded his brand by moving into radio. He established “The Foxxhole” for Sirius-XM with a format of comedy and music. He’s done animated voices (Rio), produced programming for other talents (In the Flow with Affion Crockett), hosted award shows (BET Awards, MTV Music Video Awards), toured (2006’s The Unpredictable Tour and 2009’s The Blame It Tour), had televised stand-up comedy specials (Straight from the Foxxhole, I Might Need Security, Lost, Stolen and Leaked) and made more movies (The Soloist, Due Date, Horrible Bosses, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Django Unchained, White House Down, Annie).
A perennial award nominee, Jamie Foxx is the recipient of over two dozen acting awards and a half dozen musical honors.
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton
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