‘People Was Like I Don’t Remember You Being Funny’: Mike Epps Shares How a $500 Bet Launched His Comedy Career Despite Others Doubting His Comedy Chops

Mike Epps has been making people laugh for 30 years, but early on not everyone believed in his potential to become a successful stand-up comic.

While fans have grown to love him for his iconic jokes and roles in movies such as “Next Friday,” “All About the Benjamins” and most recently, “You People,” Epps said that his start as a comic was the result of a bet. During a Feb. 16 appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” he explained that a friend wagered $500 that he could not make an audience at a local talent show in Indiana laugh.

Mike Epps
Mike Epps. (Photo: @therealmikeepps/Instagram.)

At the time, Epps was around “19 or 20” years old, he said and went for it with no hesitation. “I think I had just got out of jail maybe two years … so I was talking about the commissary list in jail, what you get for $45. “They got the Tang on there; you can order peppermints and the little boxes of Tide and stuff like that,” he said to Kimmel of his first set’s contents. 

He won over the audience and netted the cash plus an invitation back on the stage the following weekend and an appearance on the radio. Still, not everyone was sold on Epps pursuing comedy beyond local shows. “When I told people I wanted to be a comic all of a sudden people was like, ‘I don’t remember you being funny.’ I was like, ‘You was just laughing an hour ago!’ ” he joked.

He further recalled how he proved to be the only star in the talent show lineup. “They had like 13 people that had went up. This was like a bar and grill, and I mean everybody was getting booed off the stage, and I’m just back there drinking, looking, and when I went up, I made everybody laugh. They loved me and then the next week, I was on the radio,” said the Indiana native.

Epps is currently starring alongside Wanda Sykes and Kim Fields in the scripted Netflix comedy series “The Upshaws.” The show is loosely based on the comedian’s life; he plays a father, Bennie Upshaw, who is trying his best to be a better husband and father after remarrying and expanding his family with his new wife, Regina Upshaw, played by Fields. It is in its third season.

Last summer, he spoke about the shock of the show’s success. “Being in the business as long as we’ve been in the business, we’ve always tried to have good TV shows. We’ve had series that didn’t work, series that failed, so when it works, you’re like, ‘Oh man!’ It is a shocker,” he told “TODAY” co-hosts Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager.

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