Wayne Brady returns to Schenectady’s Rivers

Versatile performer reflects on his career progression
Wayne Brady, shown here in Chicago in 2017, will perform Saturday night at Rivers Casino & Resort.
Wayne Brady, shown here in Chicago in 2017, will perform Saturday night at Rivers Casino & Resort.

Wayne Brady hasn’t had much of a break in the last 20 years, and that’s fine by him. 

The Emmy Award-winning comedian, actor, singer, producer, etc. will make a stop in Schenectady on Saturday with what he calls an improv rock concert. 

Brady made his first TV appearance on “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” in 1998 and has been on TV just about every year since then, whether hosting “Let’s Make a Deal” or “Don’t Forget the Lyrics,” or “The Wayne Brady Show.” 

“Most people cannot say that. That blessing resonates with me and I feel that I should be doing as much as I can as long as I can while I’m on this earth because I just have the capacity to,” Brady said. 

Growing up in Orlando, Florida, Brady discovered his passion for all things show business when he was 16 years old. After acting in a school production, he auditioned for a professional adaptation of “A Raisin in the Sun” and landed the role. 

“It’s amazing the things that you can do when you’re young and clueless. When you really have no idea what the odds are stacked against you and [your] limitations, you can do anything. So I thought ‘Oh, this is acting. I just show up and I read the words and get the job. This is awesome.’ Of course, years later I would find out exactly how wrong that was,” Brady said. 

As a teen, he performed in dinner theater acts at Walt Disney World and a few shows at Universal Studios, taking any job he could.

“My whole mantra was ‘I don’t care what I do as long as it’s in show business and as long as I’m working,’” Brady said. 

A few years after landing his first role at 16, he was working on an industrial film when a fellow actor told him about improv and got him started performing in Theatresports at SAK Comedy Lab. While Brady loved the improv competition, he viewed it as something to further develop his acting skills. 

“My aim was not to do improv professionally because at this point that wasn’t a thing, except on ‘Whose Line.’ I used to watch the British version [and] when I watched those guys I was like ‘Wow, those guys are amazing. There’s no way in Hell that I can do that,’” Brady said, adding, 

“I was going to at some point move out to New York to be on Broadway. That was my goal. Doing improv was merely a really cool thing that I could use to sharpen those muscles to help me as an actor. So little did I know that years later that would be the thing that would help me get someplace and that would give me a career.”

He was first on the British version of the show in 1998 before it moved to the United States. “They were closing that down because ABC in the states picked it up. But I didn’t know that at the time so I just thought it was a one-off show. . . I did a few episodes and then I got the call later that year that it was going to be on ABC. Then ‘99 was when we went on the air on ABC and that forever changed my life,” Brady said. 

Since then, he’s gone on to host and produce television shows, record an album, and act in “Hamilton” during its Chicago run. Yet, when asked if there are still segments of show business he still wants to get into, his immediate answer is “Oh God, yes. There are so many things.”

His list of goals is long, including originating a role on Broadway, winning a Tony Award, star in a great film, write a sitcom, write a book, etc.

“I think that no matter what your job is you should always be looking to whatever the next thing is that you can do. Enjoy the thing that you’re doing but I think especially for me in the entertainment business I know how lucky I am to be working . . . for as many years as I have been,” Brady said. 

His show at Rivers Casino and Resort isn’t part of a tour, it’s what he does when he has a free day or two. 

“. . . any time that I have free time I get on the road because I think just like a stand-up [comedian] does if I do not work this muscle out of improvisation it’ll atrophy. So my aim is to always be in front of an audience and to feel that rush, to get that feedback and to get that connection,” Brady said. 

He brings Jonathan Mangum, a fellow “Whose Line” improviser, up on stage with him, as well as Cat Gray, the most reliable one-man band a performer could ask for, according to Brady. 

“He’s my guy. I can say with complete confidence Cat can play anything under the sun. So he backs me up,” Brady said. 

Because most of the songs are made up on the spot, the show requires a musician that can roll with anything. 

“I start off with a free-style rap made up of words that I get from the audience. I ask for words that you’d never hear on the radio and we build this whole song. I use the audience in every game because it’s important to me that everyone knows that the improv that we do on ‘Whose Line’ truly is improvisation and it’s not a fluke. So the audience is a huge part. I bring the audience up for props, for sound effects. Then I use a couple for an R&B song for a made-up Usher song that I sing about their lives,” Brady said.  

It’s his second time coming to Schenectady and according to Rivers, he’s back by popular demand, bringing more improv games and off-the-cuff music. 

“The entire show is in the moment,” Brady said. 

Wayne Brady 

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Rivers Casino & Resort
TICKETS: $50-80
MORE INFO: riverscasinoandresort.com

Categories: Entertainment, Life & Arts

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