Friday, March 19, 2004

Earthquake's comedy career shakin'

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Who: Earthquake

Where: Funny Bone Comedy Club,1 Levee Way, Newport

When: 8 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. today and Saturday; 7:30 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $20

Information: (859) 957-2000

Like his stage name - "Earthquake" - would suggest, the comedy stylings of Nathaniel Stroman have been shaking up audiences and tearing the roofs off comedy clubs across the country during the past few years.

Earthquake got his start in comedy while still a sergeant in the Air Force, stationed at Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. He went from performing stand-up at the "Tops & Blues" military talent show to working comedy clubs in Atlanta and the southern United States before being asked to join the Def Comedy Jam road show.

But, despite years of hard road work, becoming a comedian wasn't really a childhood dream.

"You can't have dreams when you're hungry," he jokes about growing up in a troubled area of Washington. "That's why when I was in school I used to get F's in my first four classes before lunch. I'm like '(Forget) Christopher Columbus. What time is lunch?' "

Already popular with African-American audiences, Earthquake began making a serious push into the mainstream last year with appearances on Comedy Central's Premium Blend, VH1's The List and a guest appearance on Fox's Mad TV. Earthquake describes his comedy as "up front, straight to the point and without limitations."

"If you're weak, then you don't need to come to my show," he says.

His career appears to be on the fast track. Earthquake has signed a deal to develop and star in his own sitcom for ABC. He will shoot a pilot for the show, which is loosely based on his own experiences, in April.

"The Earthquake Show is about the unluckiest man alive. Anything that can go wrong for him, will go wrong," he said. "He slept with the preacher's daughter, got her pregnant, had four kids and now he's stuck making $40,000 a year trying to make ends meet.

"It's the Cosby Show without the professions and Good Times without the pity," he said.

He hasn't let his recent success go to his head, but Earthquake doesn't feel he's quite reached mainstream status yet.

"When you get as famous as Michael Jackson, without the kid trouble, that's when you're mainstream," he said. "A fan only blows when you're hot. I always keep it in perspective, but a true love for your art is always there."

Earthquake said he was looking forward to his return to the Cincinnati area, which he played last June. When asked what he remembered most about the city, he replied, "When (the police) say 'halt,' you better halt," he chuckled, referring to the city's police-community relations problem.

What's next for Earthquake?

"Hopefully, my TV show gets picked up and then I get caught in a scandal where I cheat on my wife with Beyonce and Janet Jackson, only to get left by both of them and marry Oprah," he joked. "But after I slap down Stedman (Graham, Oprah's boyfriend) and change my name to Harpo."


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