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Former ND student showcases comedic stylings tonight

Katie Peralta | Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Owen Smith, a 1995 Notre Dame graduate and stand-up comedian, will perform his one-hour special, “Anonymous,” at the Century Center in downtown South Bend at 7:30 and 10 tonight.

This is Smith’s first taped comedy special.

Comedian Terry Crews, who plays Chris’ father, Julius, on the CW comedy “Everybody Hates Chris,” will be opening for Smith.

Smith has recently gained distinction through his work as a writer for “Everybody Hates Chris” and his upcoming animated comedy on BET, “BUFU,” which was co-created by comedian-actor Orlando Jones. Smith also appeared on a McDonald’s commercial featuring the “Cha-Cha Slide” that aired during the NFL Season Opener game. Smith’s movie, “Unhitched,” is currently in the pre-production stages.

“It’s like the opposite of [Will Smith’s 2005 comedy] ‘Hitched,'” Smith said. “and I’ll be the guy breaking up couples.”

Smith, originally from Maryland, said he has known he wanted to do comedy since he was nine years old. He drew inspiration from one of his favorite comedians, Eddie Murphy, whose comedy show, “Delirious,” thrilled Smith as a boy but shocked some of his religious babysitters.

“When I would watch it they would change the channel when he cursed,” Owen said, “but change back to see what he would say next.”

Later, in high school, Smith sold candy bars as regularly as the drug dealers did their business on the other side of town. Smith’s candy-selling business was making between $200 to $300 per week. His aptitude for money dealing prompted Smith to major in finance when he went to Notre Dame. He lived in Grace Hall.

“College is the best time of your life,” said Smith, who said his experience at Notre Dame was beautiful. He said he is thankful for the positive encouragement he received at the University.

Smith, who once got caught breaking parietals in Grace, scored the game winning point of the final game in Bookstore Basketball to win the tournament during his senior year. “People were so serious about that stuff,” said Smith. “I would go around and pants the guy on the other team.”

After college, Smith went on to work at Prudential Preferred Financial Services selling life insurance. After 11 unfulfilling months, he quit the job to pursue comedy. Inspired by big names like Bill Cosby, Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor, Smith headed to Los Angeles.

Smith tries to make his comedy a personal expression to which his audience can relate, he said. He never talks down to college students as “you kids” as some other comedians might do, he said. Rather, he loves talking about his college experience.

His three main points during his routine are politics, race and relationships.

“I don’t just mean to make jokes about black and white,” said Smith. Instead, he focuses on his encounters with a variety of races in his Maryland hometown, and contrasts it with the relative homogeneity of Notre Dame in the 1990s.

“‘Any man who curses can’t think of anything else to say,'” Smith said, quoting Bill Cosby. He emulates this theory in his routines now, but uses the occasional expletive only when necessary. When he came to Notre Dame last April, an adviser told Smith that his routine “crossed the line.”

Smith said sophomore Cedric Joint approached him after the show and declared, “Yeah, you definitely crossed the line. And I loved every minute of it.”

Joint, who kept in contact with Smith and went out to Los Angeles this past summer to work with him, has worked tirelessly on production for Thursday’s show.

Tickets for Smith’s show are on sale for $5 online, at the LaFortune box office, and at the door of the Century Center. Doors for the first show open at 6:30 p.m. for the first show and at 9 p.m. for the second. Free rides will be provided from McKenna Hall and Library Circle starting at 6 p.m.

“I just want everybody to come out,” Smith said. “Even if you don’t have a ticket. Just hop on the bus and we’ll figure something out.”