J.B. Smoove, the professional funnyman you’ve seen on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Everybody Hates Chris, and rookie CBS sitcom The Millers, learned his craft on the streets of Mount Vernon. Known then as Jerry Brooks, he graduated from Mount Vernon High School in ’83 and headed west—but still retains a strong connection to his roots.
“We had cool carnivals, Italian feasts, basketball summer leagues in the park, block parties,” Smoove says of his home in public housing on 3rd Street. “There was cool stuff going on back then. Mount Vernon was the place to be.”
Q: Are you still in touch with many Mount Vernon people?
A: Man, I have the same group of friends I grew up with. An old buddy of mine is my road manager—we’ve been friends since fifth grade. I had a good group, a bunch of fun guys. We played football together, stayed at each other’s houses, all that good stuff.
Q: Do you come back much?
A: I go to Mount Vernon to see my mom and brother and daughter. I try to get involved in anything I can. You try to stay connected, especially when people look up to you and are rooting for you. I touch base with them, let them know I’m doing great and appreciate all the support.
Q: What was your pizza place growing up?
A: I was torn between Joe’s on 4th Avenue and Peppino’s on 241st street. It was an easy little walk down 3rd street to 241st to get some Peppino’s.
Q: Denzel, Diddy—why does Mount Vernon produce so many famous entertainers?
A: You see somebody else making it, doing amazing things…Watching Denzel growing up, it inspired me. Watching Heavy D and the Boyz perform, it inspired me.
Q: Your character on [former Fox sitcom] ’Til Death was Kenny Westchester. Was that random?
A: No, man! When you meet producers and writers and directors about being on a show, you tell them where you’re from, cool things about you, and they find ways to incorporate them [into your character]. They knew I was from Westchester, so they named me Kenny Westchester!
Q: You play a local news cameraman on The Millers. Did you watch local news growing up?
A: Always, man—Storm Field, all those cats. On my television on the set of The Millers, I actually get New York news. If I could get my Mount Vernon paper and my Daily News, my life in LA would be complete!