Arnez J shakes up the Big Easy Comedy Festival

Arnez J’s act is, in a word, energetic.

The veteran comedian is a blur onstage, jumping between impressions of his mom to a dancing uncle to a whole family of rednecks he once met at a baseball game. The physicality of Arnez J’s act makes perfect sense when one considers that before becoming a standup comedian, he dreamed of playing professional baseball and even had a brief stint as a Harlem Globetrotter before a knee injury convinced him that he was meant to be a comedian instead of an athlete.

“I also, believe it or not, did modern and jazz dance, and I was in the martial arts for a number of years. I was a very physical type of kid. I was never one to stay in the house. I was always getting into something,” Arnez said.

Arnez liked to entertain his family from a young age and would dance and emulate whoever was on the TV. However, sometimes his active imagination got him into trouble, like the time he decided he was Superman and jumped off the roof of his house.

“I had my Superman boxers on and I took a red towel with a safety pin in it. I tied it around my neck like Superman, and there was a branch that was extended maybe 5 feet from the house on the roof. We had a flat roof so I took a running start,” he said.

Although he was no man of steel, the young Arnez was unhurt, at least until his mother found out.

His mother made sure he was alright and then spanked him, Arnez said.

“I was like, ‘Superman doesn’t get beat!’” he said.

Because Arnez J’s father was a military man, much of his youth was spent moving from one city to the next. Not only did this force Arnez to learn how to make friends by making people laugh, it gave him a taste for travel and led to his career as a comedian.

“I think it opened my eyes and made me want to continue to see the world,” Arnez said. “It made me think I could never just move someplace and just stay right there. I used to sell Rocky Mountain newspapers. Why? Because I got to travel. Then I was a flight attendant. Why? Once again, I’m traveling. I’ve never liked to sit still. I’ve always wanted to be able to get out and move and go.”

The wanderlust that has defined Arnez J’s life has been tempered slightly by his son, who, like Arnez as a child, is a baseball prodigy. Arnez said that his dedication to his family has only sharpened his skills onstage.

“It made me put everything together,” Arnez said. “It almost made it to where my son’s baseball came first before me and sometimes even first before my wife. Some of it was unfair but it was a sacrifice, and I just wanted to be a good father. It helped me on the road better, because it helped me to actually love my craft and get serious about my craft because this is now my livelihood for my family.”

After a long and successful career that includes such honors as hosting BET’s “Comic View” and opening for Prince, Arnez wishes he could thank the first class passenger whose offhand compliment inspired him to try standup comedy.

“I was always clowning on the plane and the passenswger said, ‘You need to try your hand at real comedy.’ If I could find that passenger and find out who he was to say thank you, I would,” he said.

Arnez lists Louisiana as one of his favorite places to perform and has a message for all those coming to see him at the Big Easy Comedy Festival in New Orleans.

“The only thing I want to say is Louisiana, New Orleans, thank you, and I owe you guys,” Arnez said. “I thank you from the depths of my heart for you letting me do what I do.”

Arnez J takes the stage along with fellow comedians Sheryl Underwood, Earthquake, Mark Curry and Damon Williams at the Lakefront Arena on May 25. Tickets and information about the performers can be found at http://bigeasycomedyfestival.com/