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story.lead_photo.caption George Lopez hosts “The Black and Brown Comedy Get Down” at North Little Rock’s Verizon Arena on Saturday.

"The Black and Brown Comedy Get Down" tour, featuring six powerhouse black and Hispanic comedians, happened because, well, it played in Peoria, Ill.

The six comics -- Cedric The Entertainer, Mike Epps, Eddie Griffin, D.L. Hughley, George Lopez and Charlie Murphy -- gathered for the first time in October in Peoria, when Lopez hastily arranged a benefit show to pay off and finally finish a half-completed statue of the late Richard Pryor that had been gathering dust in a warehouse for half a decade.

‘The Black and Brown Comedy Get Down’

8 p.m. Saturday, North Little Rock’s Verizon Arena. Cedric “The Entertainer,” Mike Epps, Eddie Griffin, D.L. Hughley, George Lopez and Charlie Murphy perform

Tickets: $49.75 and $75 plus service charges

(800) 745-3000

ticketmaster.com

"Richard Pryor's statue was half complete and it had been like that for five or six years," Lopez recalls. "When [he] was ill, he picked the sculptor to do the statue, and they ran out of money.

"I know Jennifer, his widow; she was always talking about doing a fundraiser to finish the statue. I was going to be in Chicago, so I said, 'What if the next night I go to Peoria, and get some guys to come work and try to knock that out.'

"It was called 'A Night for Richard'; I personally called Mike Epps and Charlie Murphy, I called all those guys, and they said they'd do it -- they'd change their schedules and move stuff around." Lopez also asked Steve Harvey, Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock; they weren't available, but if they had been, "it would probably have been even more guys."

The show was a success -- it "sold a lot of tickets, a lot more than we thought we'd sell," Lopez says. The statue was finished and unveiled shortly thereafter and, Lopez says, "it's pretty impressive."

"You can't get people to agree on much, especially now -- everybody has an opinion of some thing or the other -- but the one thing in comedy that people agree on is that Richard Pryor was the best stand-up comedian. Never any doubt to that."

That show, Lopez adds, "just felt so good to all of us, so we decided to take it on the road."

The order of precedence, when they perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at North Little Rock's Verizon Arena, will be the same as it was that first night in Peoria.

"The order was I would host, and then Charlie would go, and then Eddie, and then D.L. [and] Cedric, and Mike Epps would close. And then we'd all go back up [together] at the end. It's been that way since the beginning, and it works well that way."

Each comedian's set lasts 20 to 25 minutes; a clock on stage winds down, "and we stay close to the time," Lopez says. "Going over affects the next guy, and it affects the end of the night."

The set-up is similar to that of the successful "Blue Collar" comedy tour, which also toured arenas, and in which Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, Ron White and Larry the Cable Guy did separate sets, with each show ending in a four-comedian improv session.

Lopez cites that as an inspiration -- "That was a brilliant idea and a brilliant name," he says -- along with similar powerhouse touring shows like the Original Kings of Comedy. (Hughley and Cedric were two of the four kings; the others were Harvey and the late Bernie Mac.)

"I've never been a part of a tour like this, but I enjoy it," Lopez says. "It's a lot of fun, even getting from gig to gig. We all get along very well, so that helps too." All six comedians have branched out into other media, including movies and television, "but this is what we truly enjoy doing," Lopez says.

Lopez himself starred in an eponymous ABC sitcom for six seasons, and, for two years, hosted a late-night talk show, Lopez Tonight, on TBS.

"It's a very diverse audience that comes, and it's good for us, age-wise and diversity-wise," Lopez says. "I've never performed in front of an audience that's particularly more African-American and less Latino, so it's been interesting, too, to go up in front of people who've never seen me before, live; they might have seen the television show, but not seen me do stand-up."

And Lopez says he's glad to get back from TV to the much less restrictive format of stand-up comedy.

"It's the last place for free speech, the last place you can communicate your views," he says. "When I did the talk show -- it seemed like a great idea in the beginning, but every day [became], 'Don't say this, don't say that,' having people judge comedy, particularly [people] who have never sold a ticket.

"I had an executive that would shoot a lot of stuff down because he didn't think it was funny. 'We're not writing it for you, we're writing it for the people who watch it.'"

Weekend on 06/18/2015

Print Headline: 'Black and Brown Comedy' gets down at Verizon

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