Comedy Central’s newest half-hour standup series, Kevin Hart Presents: The Next Level, continues this Sunday night at 11/10c with up-and-coming Chicago comedian Taneshia “Just Nesh” Rice. Nesh is a relatively young comic, having spent just a little over five years onstage. She ran the light at her first open mic but a year and a half later won a comedy competition that caused the scene to take notice. Since then she’s featured for Mike Epps, Cedric the Entertainer, and Paul Mooney and appeared on the first of Comedy Central’s Hart of the City. I talked to Nesh about the special, the Chicago comedy scene, and why she thinks Ellen is dope.
What was your day job before you started doing standup full time?
I was a social worker on the South Side of Chicago. I worked in the Department of Children and Family Services for about five years. I’m glad that I quit that…or lost it. It was a forced termination. I was not doing my job. I had caught the comedy bug and was not doing any work. We got audited and I had to leave. I was like, “I’m going to have to quit now because they’re going to fire me.
In your episode of The Next Level you get into the topic of dating sites. Have you ever actually used Farmers Only?
It’s very funny to me. I have actually signed up, but I’ve never dated anybody, never met anybody. I just wanted to go and see who was actually on there. There are farmers on there, but I’ve never hooked up with a farmer.
You also discussed your roommate situation, your roommate being your son. At the time that you taped the show he was 8 years old.
Yeah, he’s 9 now.
Does he get what you do for work? Has he ever seen you perform?
He knows what I do and he has seen me perform once. I had to take him with me when I had to do a family reunion or a birthday party. It was family-friendly. I just drug him with me because I knew I was only doing 15 to 20 minutes. I think he’s just now getting excited about it. Last year when he saw me on Hart of the City is when I think he started caring. Before that it was, “Oh, Mommy has another comedy show.” But he absolutely loves Kevin Hart. We’ve watched every movie. So now he’s like, “My mommy does comedy for real-for real.” I actually overheard him in a conversation the other day. He plays online with his friends with the headphones on and I heard him say, “My mom knows Kevin Hart.” He thinks it’s cool. I don’t know how cool he thinks comedy is, but he thinks it’s cool that I know Kevin Hart and that’s good enough for me.
You’re getting ready to celebrate a birthday, right?
Yeah, my birthday is actually Saturday. I’ll be in DC for my birthday, so when I get back home I’ll celebrate the Comedy Central special and my birthday. We’re going to have a big old bash July 3rd. This is a good weekend coming up.
A lot of comics I talk to say that they don’t watch their own specials. I was talking to one guy whose family was going to put on this big party when his special premiered. He said, “I don’t want to stop you guys from doing that, but while you are all watching the special I’ll be in the kitchen and when I come out after the special is over I won’t be making eye contact with anybody.”
I’m with him on that. I hate watching it, especially with parents. It’s like, “You guys watch it. I’ll check back in later.” It’s weird. I don’t like watching myself anyway. I am my worst critic.
Who do you look up to in comedy? Who has the type of career that you would like to strive for?
I definitely love Ellen. I love her energy, her TV show, her standup. It seems like everybody loves her. I would like to be one of those comedians who everybody looks forward to watching. Ellen is definitely dope. And oh my gosh, there are so many Chicago comedians that I won’t name because if I forget somebody…there’s so many that I love. A lot of them have helped me out. But I’m not going to name anyone because people will really get offended if they don’t get on this. So let’s just go with Ellen and the entire Chicago comedy scene. I will definitely mention Mary Lindsey. She’s the owner of Jokes and Notes. She’s given me a lot of advice and put me in a position to be where I am today. I appreciate her, so I will drop her name.
You have been getting out, touring, getting more club work.
Yeah, I’m actually touring with DeRay Davis and Dick Gregory. I’ve been working with Dick Gregory for a few years now. He’s about to go out on a book tour, so his standup will be slowing down. But I’ve been hosting for DeRay since October and we go out almost every weekend. I’m on the road a lot…I could be on the road for ever and be happy. I love standup.
Photo by Kevin Kwan & Hartbeat Productions.