Atlanta’s Rickey Smiley has good reason to smile.
Just a few years ago, he was known as a regional stand-up comic from Birmingham. In 2009, he moved to Atlanta from Dallas to anchor his growing syndicated radio talk show, heard locally on Hot 107.9. Three years later, he now has two TV shows on the air, debuting within eight days of each other:
- A syndicated gossip show “Dish Nation”, seen locally midnight on weekdays on Fox 5, which features five different radio shows who comment comically on the local pop culture news of the day. It debuted Sept. 10.
- A family-friendly sitcom “The Rickey Smiley Show,” on TV One starting tonight at 9 p.m., which is a fictionalized version of his actual life as a single dad with three kids juggling his radio job. He gets buddies such as Musiq Soulchild, Waka Flocka Flame and respected radio rival Tom Joyner to pop in.
“A lot of times you set out with small goals,” said Smiley in a recent interview. “You have no idea what God has in store for you. I sat back and watched other people’s careers take off. I’ve been on the sideline. I’ve been a cheerleader. Cedric the Entertainer. Bernie Mac. It was great. I didn’t know I was in preparation mode. I was very patient.”
The 47 year old said as he matured, “I knew how to handle things better and God gave me new opportunities. I kept it clean and kept it real and kept it fun.” And now the rewards are being bestowed upon him.
He is an admirer of Martin Lawrence and his early 1990s sitcom “Martin.” So on “The Rickey Smiley Show,” he gets to play multiple characters, including a pastor in a church and a gospel singer. And like “Martin,” his show is a work/life combo. “Nobody is doing characters now except Tyler Perry,” he says
Smiley has never acted before. But over 10 episodes, he was surrounded by pros such as J. Anthony Brown (has written for “Sinbad,” “The Steve Harvey Show” and Arsenio Hall) who plays his boss, Ray J (”One on One”) is his producer and Roz Ryan (”Amen”) is his busy-body aunt. “I really had to step up to the plate and learn quickly,” he says. (Kim Fields of “Facts of Life” fame also directed a couple of episodes.)
He had nothing but praise for his cohorts. Ray J: “A lot of fun. I’ve known him since he was a kid. Very professional.” Roz: “She’s like the mother of the whole show.” Brown: “It’s hard to work with him because we can’t stop laughing.”
And Atlanta’s Roger Bobb, former right-hand man for Perry, produced the sitcom. “Easiest person I’ve ever worked with in my life.”
Though the show hasn’t even aired yet, Smiley is confident TV One will pick up a second season.
“Dish Nation,” in its first week in national syndication after a test run last year, was the No. 1 magazine show in Atlanta among women 18 to 49 and No. 1 in its time period across all demos. Smiley gives his team of radio players plenty of breathing room to be funny on “Dish Nation,” including HeadKrack (who is often seen introducing the news item straight into the camera), Gary Wit Da Tea and Ebony Steele.
“It’s introducing us to a different fan base,” Smiley says. “And I’m the ringmaster. It’s fun being the host of the show. I get to instigate things.”
The “Dish Nation” producers throw them a dozen or so topics, some of which appeals to their radio show audience, some which does not. So it’s amusing to watch them comment about “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” or Kate Middleton.
The only challenge is he has to be in Atlanta to shoot “Dish Nation” from September to May. When he’s just doing his radio show, he could be in Miami or Birmingham or wherever.
midnight weekdays, Fox 5 (WAGA-TV)
“The Rickey Smiley Show”
9 p.m. Tuesdays, starting Sept. 18, TV One
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk