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The Black Power Rangers Comedy Tour will make its first stop in the Queen City on Thursday, October 20th. Taking the stage at the Black-owned Urban Reader Bookstore will include a lineup of comedy wunderkinds Deshawn Mason (Savannah, GA), Brandi Roberts (Raleigh, NC), Jarrod Fortune (New York, NY), Cordero Wilson (New York, NY) and headliner Wills Maxwell, Jr (Wilmington, NC).
The Black Wall Street Times spoke with Maxwell and Roberts about their upcoming shows and what audiences can expect.
“I’m excited about this lineup. I been doing comedy in North Carolina for a long time so I get excited when I get to pick my own lineup. These guys are all over the country right now,” says Maxwell, who spearheaded the scheduled tour.
After meeting everyone while on tour himself, Maxwell says he “wanted to make the lineup I wasn’t booked on. These guys are amazing and cool so I wanted to do a tour of us five comedians going place to place. We all grew up in the South so we all have that perspective of being Black southerners and connect to an audience who knows what that’s like.”
He continued, “There’s a lot of Black comics across the South; we’re not all the same, there’s a diversity to everybody’s style and points of view. That’s what Black Power Rangers is.”
What’s in a name?
The original Black Power Ranger is named Walter Jones. Beginning in 1993, for years he played the fan-favorite, Zack Taylor, in the cultural phenomenon Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Since then, the character has developed and other actors have portrayed the iconic Black Ranger.
Over 900 episodes have aired since Mighty Morphin Power Rangers originally premiered, with the 942nd episode being the premiere of the 29th season, Power Rangers Dino Fury on March 3, 2022.
When asked about the tour name, Maxwell reflects on the role watching Power Rangers had on him, “when I was a little kid, before I could tell time, I knew when Power Rangers was coming on. And two, I wanted it to be about Black Power, and as soon as I thought of ‘Black Power Rangers’, I threw all the other names away.”
Roberts saw herself in the daytime 90s hit show, “When you think about Power Rangers, they live a dual life like other superheroes – just like us – we go to work but when we on stage, our Black voices hold weight. Power Rangers were the first superheroes that anybody could plug themselves into those suits and feel empowered. We’ve been overdue to amplify Black voices in North Carolina.”
Roberts embodies what comedians do so well, turning pain into comedy. She laughs while remembering the early years which crafted her into the comedian she is today, “As I child I was never heard or never gave me a chance to be understood so this is now my payback – this is my revenge.”
Maxwell isn’t afraid to connect history to present, “I see a direct line from slavery to Jim Crow to housing inequality, public school underfunding and I saw how it affected me as a kid growing up in North Carolina who got bused to neighborhoods that weren’t mine,” says Maxwell. “Some people think it’s ancient history and say ‘why do you bring race in everything?’ Because race is everything. I don’t even want a post-racial America, I want a racial reckoning America.”
Maxwell continued, “I prioritize saying what I’m thinking. For as long as I’m on stage – if I have a 30 minute set – the audience is going to learn what it’s like to be me. That’s 30 minutes of you knowing what it’s like walking around North Carolina in Black skin. I want to make the audience laugh, but I also want to be honest.”
Black Power Rangers are a real 90s vibe
A fan of Disney’s 1994 Lion King, Roberts reflects on the classic as a comedian in the age of cancel culture. “The way Lion King was shot, the voices, it made you feel prestigious about yourselves. Now, we’re at an age where Black culture is mainstream, and even still we do a lot more than what we get credit for. We use the platform to amplify what we’ve been through.”
Inspired by Will Smith’s 1996 Independence Day, Maxwell knows how to captivate an audience with a blockbuster lineup. Maxwell has been on the North Carolina comedy scene for the better part of a decade. He’s well-known to viewers in Southeast North Carolina for his comedy news segment “What Did We Miss?” which aired weekly on ABC/CBS affiliate WWAY for 5 years, with 182 episodes reaching a viewership of 110,000 households.
The “Black Power Rangers” tour stops include:
10/20 Urban Reader Bookstore in Charlotte NC, 7:00 p.m.
10/21 Front Porch Improv in Savannah, GA 10:00 p.m.
10/22 Alchemy Comedy Theatre in Greenville, SC 9:00 p.m.
10/23 Little Brother Brewing: Barrel and Bottle in Graham, NC 7:00 p.m.
“This is the start of us doing something bigger,” said Maxwell “This is just the first tour but we’re going to continue to highlight Black voices and connect Black talent across the South.” When asked who the intended demographic is, Maxwell replied “Anyone who wants to laugh.”
Tickets and Information are available at WillsMaxwell.com/Tour2022