When comedian Michael Colyar talks to the LA Sentinel this past week, he has literally just had one of the most surreal experiences he’s ever had in his life. Not only did legendary soul musician Stevie Wonder just call into a radio talk show while Colyar was being interviewed, Wonder also asked Colyar for a ticket to one of the upcoming performances of his show Michael Colyar’s Momma. Colyar states excitedly, “He calls in and asks me, ‘Can I get a ticket to the show? I wanna come.’ Oh man, Stevie Wonder!”
Michael Colyar’s Momma will run September 12th and 13th at the Barnsdall Theater. Showtime is 8 PM on both nights. Colyar promises it will be as funny and entertaining as anything else he’s done. He says, “It’s a one-man show in two acts where I play seventeen characters and no one who comes, is ever bored! The audience is leaning forward, engaged the whole time because it’s so crazy!”
That’s not to say Michael Colyar’s Momma doesn’t cover some very serious terrain. Colyar, who said he wrote the show because he was ready to tell his story, chronicles his rough Chicago childhood, into his career as a comedian. It’s a career that he says was seriously impacted by his twenty-three years-long relationship with drugs, another topic into which Michael Colyar’s Momma delves.
Colyar shares that, ironically high on his early success, he began to do drugs right at the beginning of his career. It’s a sadly familiar tale of an enthralling alchemy that transforms the components of talented lives to fodder for the stage and eventually into the wealth that becomes their undoing. Colyar laughs, “Was it Robin Williams who said cocaine is God’s way of saying you have too much d*mn money?”
Now eight years sober, Colyar has the privilege of perspective. He explains, “Crack addiction kept me stuck in one spot. When you get high, your life is on hold. Cedric the Entertainer, DL Hughley came after I’d already done four Def Jams and co-created Comic View”. Good-natured laughter punctuates Colyar’s next sentence. “Now those guys are rich enough to pee green!”
Though he at first says his drug use had no real impact on his life, it doesn’t take long before he reveals that it indeed caused pain to both himself and the people he knew. Colyar says he was always able to hide his drug use from his beloved mother. “I’m certain she knew,” he says. “But I never did drugs around her. I would never do that. I was a functioning addict so a lot of people are finding out now as I’m telling my story.”
The powers of narcotic delusion notwithstanding, friends and industry colleagues had caught on. He recalls this started to dawn on him when he regularly lost out on jobs that by all rights he should have gotten. Their awareness revealed itself in what Colyar describes as a certain “coldness and distance” that crept into interactions with once very close friends.
There were also the surreal experiences that seem to mark the addict’s life. “I got tired of seeing my wife cry every night when I would creep in from partying, sweating like R Kelly at a playground! I got sick and tired of waking up in dirty motel rooms next to people I wouldn’t want to talk to in the light of day.” Colyar invokes Fannie Lou Hamer’s famous refrain. “I got sick an tired of being sick and tired.”
When Colyar sat down to write Michael Colyar’s Momma, he was mostly motivated by his instincts as a storyteller and a readiness, perhaps triggered by his sobriety, to reveal who he really is. “People think they know me but they don’t, so I decided I should really tell my story. People don’t know I fell so many times and finally pulled myself up to a place where I realized everything is about family and God; before everything finally came together.”
There is also the hope that his story will resonate and give hope even as his audience laughs along with him. “I think a lot of people are taking similar journeys and need to know it’s okay for you to not get it right the first time and to know happiness is not always linear. It’s these ups and downs and zigs and zags that get you where you need to be.”
Colyar is well-known for his overwhelming generosity of spirit a relentlessly positive attitude. He isn’t bitter or particularly regretful about any of his experiences. “I don’t curse anything that has happened to me,” he says emphatically. “Because of my mother and Father God, I love myself and my story is a joyful story because I’m a positive cat every day, twenty-four hours a day!”