Well-known actor and comedian David Alan Grier apologized for his relentless sense of humor during Monday night’s “In Conversation” presentation at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.
“I’m constantly making jokes,” Grier said to a laughing audience. “I can’t stop it. Sorry.”
While the evening was filled with Grier’s quips, it also focused on serious discussions about family, race, and Grier’s rise to success. The actor has been nominated for three Emmys, received his B.A. from the University of Michigan and his M.F.A from the Yale School of Drama. He has starred in Broadway musicals such as The First and Dreamgirls, and is best known for his performance on the In Living Color sketch series.
The conversation, part of the Worldwise: Arts & Humanities Dean’s Lecture Series, was moderated by Associate Dean and Professor of American Studies Sheri L. Parks, who first asked Grier what single word he would use to describe himself.
“Father,” he said simply. He has a four-year-old daughter.
The conversation launched into a discussion about Grier’s own father, Dr. William Grier, who wrote Black Rage, which studies the psychological effects racism has on African Americans.
Grier explained that his father was particularly moved by the Broadway musical Porgy and Bess, which features a crippled character. He later discovered this was because his father contracted polio during the Korean War.
“So many times you think you know your family, and then you discover all this family history,” Grier said.
Grier is known for his performances in the Men on Film sketch series from the In Living Color variety show. Parks presented clips showing Grier’s performance of the effeminate Antoine Merriweather, and asked him about why it was controversial.
“In hindsight, everything is great,” he said. “But at the time GLAD was giving us a lot of static, and we were getting heat from the African American gay community.”
The sketch starred the only recurring gay men on television at the time.
Grier’s advice for how to become a successful performer: “You’ve got to diversify,” he said, explaining the importance of having experience in all types of performance and arts.