Russell S. and Sri Lakshmi in the House
Lucky 8 Productions was on the scene with two crews as Def Comedy Jam taped a new season last weekend. We shot documentary material with key players and comics as well as a promo with host D.L. Hughley which will start airing next weekend on HBO. Among those we interviewed was the legendary Russell Simmons, pictured above on our set wearing a t-shirt bearing an image of Lakshmi, the Indian Goddess of wealth and fortune. Speaking of which, that’s Stan Lathan, the show’s producer and director, in profile on the right. Though Stan has the job of actually putting the show together, this is definitely “Russell’s joint” and to speak to him is to be quickly oriented on how the show – and the shirt – figure into his potent world-view. Here is an excerpt from an interview I taped with him last year:
The whole hip hop phenomenon is about people coming out of struggle. People who are oppressed the most come with the best music, the best poetry, the best comedy, the best everything. In fact, all of American culture comes from struggle and poverty. So, with Def Comedy Jam, we go right back to the space where the blessing was created …
Hearing him, one realizes that Simmons’ amazing success is no accident. His intentions are high-minded and crystal clear. He is a lightening rod and Def Comedy Jam, as well as his whole media empire, thrive because of the grounding he provides for them. He sees Def Comedy Jam as a launching pad for urban talent that would not ordinarily get exposure – and indeed, if one looks at its track record, this has definitely been the case. Chris Tucker, Bernie Mack, Dave Chappelle, Martin Lawrence, Chris Rock, D.L. Hughley, and many more, all got their start on this show. And, rest assured, there are more coming (stay tuned as our campaign for this very young season of DCJ rolls out).
In this year’s interview, Russell tied his mission to the lady on the shirt. “She’s the god of giving,” he told me. “That’s all I can do, is give back and keep giving back.”