Here, George shares his passion for the business of comedy and teaching
young up-and-comers the importance of knowing their worth.
Where are you from and what inspired you to pursue a career in comedy?
I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia; Brookhaven to be exact. I went to college
at the University of Akron in Ohio. That’s why I’m Lebron James’ daddy. [laughs] I’ve
always wanted to be a comedian; since I was six-years-old. My parents were well known in the local church and my daddy was a deacon, but
they still had the party records around, so I listened to folks like Red Foxx and Moms Mabley. I also watched comedians on TV like Johnny
Carson, Richard Pryor, and Red Skelton and would take their jokes back to school and use them to make people laugh. That’s how I became a
comedian, just watching and listening to the greats who did it before me.
So after college, you worked in the advertising industry in New York City. Tell us how you went from
that to doing comedy?
When I came out of college I sold rags and then after that I moved on to become the Vice President of one of
the world’s largest outdoor advertising agencies, Metromedia. A lot of the billboards and spectaculars in Times
Square, well, that’s what I used to do. I also handled the ads on over 5,000 buses in the top 10 markets in
America. After that, I moved to California and started writing for the Red Foxx Show and I’ve been doing
comedy ever since.
With advertising being so different from comedy, how was it making that transition from one to the
It wasn’t a hard transition because I understood that it’s show business. I don’t think people like MC Hammer
realized before they got into this (entertainment) that there’s a business side and you have to have some
business sense. You see it all the time with boxers and all kinds of other athletes and entertainers. These guys
make millions of dollars and by the end of their career, they’re broke! I think it’s something like 80% of the NFL
football players go bankrupt because they have no business sense? I don’t know if very many of the guys in
entertainment went to school or not, but I did and so I got to work in advertising and learn different things that
you won’t learn if you’re not educated. Education is so important these days because if you’re looking for a job
today without a degree in something, how do you expect to get it (job)? You’ve got a guy who’s educated and
has his degree, and he’s looking for the same job you want, so how do you expect to get it over him? You just
have to be smart and have some business sense if you want to make it out here.
Tell us a little about your Vegas show and what do you love the most about your job as a comedian?
It’s a blessing because I love going to work every day. I’m in beautiful Las Vegas, Nevada and I’m the only African-American who produces and
directs his own show. I’m one of the very few in the Las Vegas strip who doesn’t work for anyone else. I’d say 99% of the folks in Vegas work for
the hotels, but I don’t. The room I do my show in seats 750 people and I’m there every night with a crowd full of people. I’m actually in my eighth
year at the Flamingo and have actually made history by headlining a major show in Las Vegas for more consecutive years than any African-
American in history. That goes back to Red Foxx and Sammy Davis, Jr., God bless them, because they paved the way for me to be able to do
this. Just to think, the same stage at the Flamingo that they had to go through the kitchen just to get on stage, and if they were still alive they’d
be surprised that we still have to go through that same damn kitchen. [laughs]
Initially, I went out to Vegas for 30 days, but because my show did so well, they asked me to stay. I have the most diverse crowd at my shows as
well. Young people, old people, white people, black people, you name it and they’re at my show. I do all my own marketing and advertising and
I don’t work for any of the hotels. I’m blessed, I love it, and I enjoy life.
A lot of comedians these days want to be actors more than stand-up comics. What’s your take on that?
People are entitled to their dreams no matter what it is. This thing with Vegas is what I want to do and that’s my choice. When Seinfeld and I
started out early in our careers, I always said that I didn’t want to be an overnight superstar; I just wanted to enjoy life. I tell people that I’m the
most successful comedian you’ve ever met, because success has nothing to do with how much money you make. Being successful is doing
what you want to do, how you want to do it, and being blessed enough to be happy in the position you’re in. At this point in my career, I’ve got
enough money to retire if I want to and go anywhere in the world, and I’m very happy with my life.
What’s your relationship like with Jerry Seinfeld?
Jerry Seinfeld is my best friend and we go way back. I was his best man in his wedding and we still hang out. We actually just did a tour in
Europe together. We went to Stockholm, Oslo, London, Copenhagen, and all kinds of places over there. I mean, he (Jerry) has the #1 sitcom in
the history of television, so he can’t go pee without people bothering him and paparazzi chasing him. [laughs] Now, I get people who come up to
me and say, “Hey, Mr. George Wallace!” and they ask for my autograph, but I can still go pee without people following me with a camera.
What’s been the toughest part about what you do?
The toughest part is the business part, because there’s so much BS going on. Anytime you’re trying to make some money there’s BS that
comes with it, and it doesn’t matter who you are. You just have to learn to deal with it and walk around it.
Other than Vegas, you’ve also done radio and movies. How does an up-and-coming comedian get those types of opportunities?
You put your business in the streets, that’s what I learned from advertising. If people don’t know who you are then you won’t get the big
opportunities. I did Arsenio Hall a lot back in the day; I did Oprah and Leno too because they knew who I was. They came after me because I
had my business in the street. So when I would be in Chicago doing Oprah or doing a show, I would be on radio with Tom Joyner, who used to
do radio in Dallas and then fly to Chicago to do radio on WGCI. Doug Banks was also on WGCI in Chicago as well. So when they would go on
vacation or change positions or fire somebody, they would bring me in to fill in. The next thing you know, I’m in Chicago and doing the radio
regularly. I was with Tom Joyner when he first started the Tom Joyner Morning Show. I told him he needed to hire Jay Anthony Brown because
Jay is good at radio and his laughter is contagious. That’s how Jay got the job with Tom. So you just have to get out and be seen; meet people
who are doing something because they might pull you into what they have going on.
What advice can you give to young people who are so focused on being rich and famous that they’re miserable trying to make it?
I tell young people all the time to go overseas and travel as soon as you get out of college, and charge it to your parents. [laughs] Go out there
and see how other people live, and do it while you’re young. I hear old people saying they can’t wait to retire so they can finally travel the world,
but that’s backwards. You want to do all that when you’re younger, not when you’re too old and out of shape to enjoy it. So I tell young people
to go out there and have fun. Don’t worry about being rich because the meanest people in the world are old rich people. Think about it. Who
starts all the wars? It’s old rich people who just want more money. There are good people everywhere, so get out there and meet people from
other countries so that when you’re old you can remember those good people. I think a lot of wars could be avoided if people just travel when
they’re young. Enjoy being young and make money later.
What area of the entertainment industry do you see the most room for improvement?
No matter what part of the business you’re in, there’s always going to be something that needs improvement. It’s really just about doing a better
job than what you’re already doing. I think improvements are based on people and how they handle their business. Like I said earlier, getting
educated and having some business sense will make things better, because when people don’t have any business sense they get taken
advantage of and it makes the whole industry look bad. But it has gotten better and the good thing is that improvements are always being
made as time goes on, we just don’t realize it until it’s already there.
Copyright © 2009-2013 I Am Entertainment Magazine, a publication of NFluential Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
|I Am Entertainment Magazine
|GEORGE WALLACE aka MR. VEGAS, TALKS ABOUT HIS CAREER, JERRY SEINFELD, AND HIS FAITH
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George Wallace’s entrance into the world of
stand-up comedy was anything but
conventional. Before becoming a legendary
comedian and entrepreneur, the Atlanta
native obtained degrees in transportation
and marketing from the University of Akron
(OH) and then went on to a successful career
working in New York City’s advertising
Using his corporate advertising skills, George
has not only become an award winning
comedian, but he’s also recognized as a radio
personality, actor and Las Vegas
This Interview was published in Vol 2, Iss 12