Finesse Mitchell spent three years on “Saturday Night Live,” creating the memorable Starkisha, and offering top-notch impressions of everyone from 50 Cent to Morgan Freeman to Venus Williams.
When he left the show in 2006, opportunity came knocking, and he appeared on several TV shows — such as “Mad Families” with Charlie Sheen on Crackle TV and Showtime’s “Roadies;” and he was a go-to guest for many late-night talk shows. He also seems to be doing a new pilot every year, such as the recent “The Middle” planned spinoff that ABC just announced last month wouldn’t go forward.
“I always have a lot going on in spurts, and then it sputters,” Mitchell says. “For the last seven years, I have been on a show every year that just didn’t come out and make it. The checks clear, the press releases come out, but no one ever sees the show. All you can do is keep swinging.”
He’s hoping his luck changes with a possible new daytime talk show, The Vent, which he is co-hosting with Jaime Pressly.
“People say they love it and they are trying to find us a home. It was her show idea and she wanted an African American male who was married to co-host,” Mitchell said. “We had so much in common. We’re kind of in the same place in life. I just had my second daughter and she just had her twin boys. She has an old soul, a musical soul, an ethnic soul, and we just connected on so many different levels. It’s a nice match and we’re all keeping our fingers crossed.”
And as he waits, Mitchell will continue doing what he’s done since the late ’90s — stand-up. His latest special, “The Spirit Told Me To Tell You,” premiered on Showtime this October and he’s currently touring around the country at top comedy clubs.
“The benefit and the rewards of getting laughter is the best high of any entertainment, which is why comedy is so addicting,” he said. “When you can change the energy in the room and make people forget about their troubles with laughter, there’s nothing better.”
From Dec. 27-29, Mitchell will perform five shows at the Stress Factory Comedy Club in Bridgeport, getting people in the mood for New Year’s Eve.
“It’s going to be like a year in review of what everybody has gone through, in the single-life game, in the married-life game, and politically as a nation,” Mitchell said. “I’ll be talking about everything from Kevin Hart and the Oscars, to Trump and Russians, to telling thoughtful, considerate lies to get out of the house. Sometimes, I’ll ask the crowd if they’ve seen the special and if only 10 people clap, I’ll do some of those jokes.”
Mitchell’s first taste of stand-up was at the Miami Improv in Coconut Grove and he felt his three-minute set killed. Over the years, he admitted, the story of why he went on stage has become something of folklore, but for him, it was as simple as wanting to perform.
“I was always a charismatic guy and wanted to get up there, and it went really, really well,” he said. “You can go back every week, so I returned the next week and invited 15 people, and I bombed so bad. My friends didn’t laugh and it was so silent in that room.”
When it was over, his friends basically ignored him rather than let others know they were with him, so Mitchell decided he needed to go back the following week rather than end his comedy career on such a sour note.
“It made me take it more seriously. I learned you couldn’t just get up there all willy-nilly, and you needed to have a plan,” he said. “The benefit and the rewards of getting that laughter is the best high of any entertainment, which is why comedy is so addicting. When you can change the energy in the room and make people forget about their troubles with laughter, there’s nothing better.”
Mitchell’s also an accomplished author, having written the popular “Your Girlfriends Only Know So Much: A Brother’s Take on Dating and Mating for Sistas,” a book that offers advice for women, born out of a regular monthly column he wrote for Essence Magazine. Next year, he’s hopeful he will release its follow-up.
“It’s another relationship advice book but it has a little spin to it,” he said. “The way I write it, I audio record myself and then I play them back when I’m on planes or at hotels, and transcribe everything that needs to be done.”
For years, he’s also been a devout supporter of the men and women in the Armed Forces, recently appearing in Ron White’s Comedy Salute to the Troops, which aired on Country Music Television to benefit the Armed Forces Foundation. And he just started a new podcast called, “Is This Thing On?”
“I’m also trying to do more social media sketches on Facebook and Instagram, because that’s the way the industry is going today,” Mitchell said. “I’m excited about the year ahead and looking forward to these Stress Factory shows that will get people in the celebrating mood for the New Year.”
For more information, visit bridgeport.stressfactory.com.