Comic's gig as MTV veejay jams career into high gear

September 23, 1994|By Lisa Wiseman | Lisa Wiseman,Contributing Writer

"I'm in the hoooouse!"

With his now-famous tag-line, Bill Bellamy ends another hour of his television show, "MTV Jams." Bellamy is looking sharp. The tall, dark and handsome comedian grabs your attention with his easy-going style, charm and quick wit. He's been the host of the show for only a year and a half, but he looks like a natural.

Not really. In fact, Bellamy, 26, began his entertainment career in a most unlikely way -- by graduating from Rutgers with a degree in economics. Not the usual preparation for starting a life of stand-up, interviewing director John Singleton, hanging out with Snoop Doggy Dogg or going on tour with Janet Jackson.

Tonight, Bellamy will appear with comedian Jamie Foxx, from the TV show "In Living Color," at Pier Six Concert Pavilion.

How did a nice guy from Newark, N.J., wind up as a comedian? Bellamy says he doesn't have a clue; he wasn't funny as a child, and no one else in his family was particularly funny.

"I would have never thought of being a comedian," he says from his home office in New Jersey. "I had aspirations of being a lawyer or a businessmen."

It was during his years at Rutgers that Bellamy discovered he could make people laugh.

"My friends would say, 'Bill, you are out of your mind. The stuff you're saying is funny.' So then, every time I said something funny I would write it down," he says.

But Bellamy didn't do much with all those jokes -- until he entered a male beauty pageant during his junior year. For the talent competition, he did the only thing he could think of -- make people laugh. His funny business helped him win the pageant (of course, it helps to be the good-looking guy that Bellamy is).

"It was then that I realized that I had a gift for telling stories and forcomedy," he says. "And I realized that I should use that gift more. So I practiced. And the more I practiced, the better I became. I just went with it."

It took some convincing to get his parent's blessing to pursue comedy. You know how parents are -- they tend to get upset when they invest a lot of money in a child's education, then the kid says he's going to be a comedian.

"At first, they couldn't understand it," Bellamy says. "They would ask me, 'Why do you keep messing with this comedy thing?' But finally they said, 'Well, son, as long you have college, and something to fall back on, it's OK.' "

After working in comedy clubs in New Jersey and New York, Bellamy experienced the dream of most young, black comics -- a spot on Russell Simmons' "Def Comedy Jam" cable TV show.

"It was amazing. It was perfect," Bellamy says. "I was on the very first show ever. I was the very first comedian . . . I was in all the commercials." He then asks himself, "Did it help my career?" and quickly answers, "Oh yeeeah!"

After that, MTV came calling. The network was looking for a fresh face to be host of "MTV Jams," its daily show featuring music videos and interviews with the who's who in hip-hop.

Bellamy was 13 when MTV first aired. He notes that a lot has changed. Bellamy has three words to say about the cable station back then: "No black people."

"The only person was Michael Jackson," he says. "All you could see was rock videos. But I watched MTV just to see 'Beat It.' "

Bellamy is quick to add that the station has "definitely evolved."

"It's a sign of the times," he says. "The music has changed. People's listening habits have changed. MTV wouldn't be successful by sticking with the old format."

Even though Bellamy is enjoying his success, and loving the life of a veejay with a 2 1/2 -hour work day, he knows that life at MTV won't last. Remember Martha Quinn? She was one of MTV's original veejays; now she makes pimple cream commercials. "I'm trying to make the best of this," he says. "MTV is doing a lift for my career. It's giving me a lot of exposure."

Bellamy hopes the next level will be more involved television, or movies. He's currently developing a TV show that should air in 1995. In the meantime, he says he'll continue to work the comedy circuit. "Stand-up is an outlet. It's a way to express yourself in a way that you can't do on TV."

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