After years filled with preparation and setbacks galore, the comedy trio of Joey Wells, Na’im Lynn and Spank Horton — collectively known as The Plastic Cup Boyz — have finally released their new stand-up special, Laughing My Mask Off.
Although the name of their superstar comedy ring leader, Kevin Hart, is connected to the project as an Executive Producer, and they’re grateful for the years of support and continued collaboration with Hart, the Boyz see this opportunity as a solo venture of sorts that allows their own talents, curated over 20+ years in the game, to flourish freely on their own merit. The sets that came out of the project aren’t just new batches of material from each of the respective comedy lifers, but three separate specials that highlight their comedic genius as individual artists, and deliver the unique perspectives on the more comical aspects of quarantine living, fatherhood, and, of course, the affects of directly dealing with COVID-19, among a myriad of other topics.
Vanyaland had the chance to get on the horn with the trio to talk about the specials, and from the sounds of it, in a lot of ways, they’re just getting started. Check it out.
Jason Greenough: I’m glad we could connect to hype Laughing My Mask Off, guys. I thoroughly enjoyed these specials, and statistically speaking, I’m sure I’m not alone.
Na’im Lynn: We’ve definitely had good feedback. I’d say it’s at least ninety percent positive feedback that has come my way. I’m not sure what people are saying behind our backs, but the people that are around us have been saying good things about them.
This has truly been a wild 18 months, and you touched on that in the specials a bit. How have you guys been holding up?
Joey Wells: You know, I think we’ve all just been getting used to the new normal, you know what I’m saying? Every day, we have a different outlook on how everything is going, but for me personally, I feel like I’m holding up pretty good.
Spank Horton: I’m just glad the world is opening back up and we can be outside. It’s probably about to close up again, but I’m really enjoying the little bit of outside that we’ve been having.
NL: I’ve been blessed. I have a TV show (Tyler Perry’s Assisted Living), and I’ve been blessed to work two seasons during quarantine, so it’s good to have money coming in at this time. And radio has also been great, where it’s helped us sell tickets to our shows. So, considering what has been going on, things have been pretty good for us. I’m just feeling blessed.
With these specials, they’ve been out for a bit, but how does it feel to have these now after a bit of time has gone by?
SH: I love it, because it’s a platform that helps us promote ourselves outside of Kevin Hart. I feel like everyone looks at us as ‘those dudes that open for Kevin Hart,’ but we can all stand alone when it comes to the stand-up stage. So, I love it. It’s a great platform for us.
NL: The way it was promoted on netflix was sort of a solo venture, without Kevin being really attached, aside from it saying he’s executive producer. So, there’s a bit of a catch twenty-two there, because it was good for us to stand on our own, but if his name were on it, it’d probably have a few more eyes on it. So, it’s just one of those things where you take the good with the bad.
JW: It’s definitely one of those things, if I can piggy back on what Spank said, the first one had Kevin hosting, so it had everyone wanting to watch Kevin but it’s just his guys. But on this one, it’s us. Kevin is a producer, but it’s just us walking out on stage, and I think that’s a next step that we have now where it’s just us and Kevin is producing, which means the next thing could be us taking off to do our own forty-five minutes or hour specials.
NL: That’s definitely the plan for me.
I know you guys mentioned that the reaction so far has been overwhelmingly positive. How does that feel after all the work you put into it, and maybe not uncertainty, but going out on that solo venture without Kevin being the anchor in a way. How does it feel having that reaction with those circumstances in play?
NL: Well, Spank and I have been touring without Kev for a long time. Joey mostly goes out with us on the big tour, and when we shoot a special, he comes with us. But as far as the reaction, for me, there were a lot of things a lot of things up against it, where Spank and I were both really sick and trying to get one-hundred before we shot the show, and then it wasn’t full capacity, so with those things going against us, I personally was a little nervous about the response, so for people to even say ‘man, that shit was funny as hell,’ and people were able to enjoy it at home without hearing tremendous laughter from the crowd, it was definitely the validation that I was hoping for.
JW: I concur. For us, this journey actually started in, like, 2018, and it didn’t happen until 2021. Within that time, my mom passed, the guys worked on [a special] and production was kind of off. Then we were ready to do it again, and Kevin got into that big accident. Then we signed up to do it again and then COVID happened. Then we get ready to do it again, and all the cities are shutting down. So, just the fact that we got the point of being able to actually do it is a major accomplishment. For everything these guys endured during that time, they stayed focused, and we didn’t have the same amount of stage time that we normally would have had to do a special. I’m just so much more proud of us and what we did to accomplish this.
NL: It’s like the Lakers winning the championship in the bubble.
JW: I didn’t want to say the Lakers.
NL: Joey just doesn’t like the Lakers. That’s what he means, but he just doesn’t like the Lakers.
JW: It’s like the Dodgers winning the World Series. There ya go.
I’m a devout Celtics fan, so I know I’m outnumbered in this conversation, but I’m happy we at least got Dennis [Schroeder].
NL: Y’all can have him. [Laughs]
So, just a matter of reference, how long have you guys been doing stand-up individually, and how long did it take for each of you to come up with this material to the point of it being “special ready”?
SH: I started in 2001 right after 9/11, so it’s been twenty years for me. It took time for me to come up with material because it was always something new for me. I was always the funny guy around the neighborhood, but I had to learn how to tell jokes on stage. There’s a big difference. So it took me months to get a real set together.
NL: Wait a minute. Didn’t you mean how long it took to build material for the special.
SH: Oh, my bad. For the special, I would say it had to be about two or three years, because we did the big tour, and then the little mini tour before COVID.
NL: I actually had to remove some material from my set, because Spank and I shot a special in 2019, like Joey was saying, and it wasn’t released. Some of that material was dated, so I had some COVID material that i replaced that with, but I’d say about half of my set was made up of jokes that I was doing on tour with Kev, so the other half was just stuff that I had come up with since then.
JW: For me, a few of the clubs out here in LA a few weeks before we shot the special, so I was able to work out some new stuff. But just like Na’im, I was able to use some of the material from the tour that was never released.
Now, Kevin’s involvement didn’t really influence this special, but you guys have still been working alongside him for years. How has the collaboration and partnership, not even just on stage but just in general, helped you guys prepare for this?
SH: Not at all. He’s a dick. We don’t really like him like that. [Laughs]
NL: You hear how nobody is really challenging that? [Laughs] One thing I’ll say about Kev is that he holds himself to a certain standard, and we try to follow suit with that. Once this special aired, we’re not doing that material on TV ever again. We’ll still do some while on tour in order to work on building a new set, but we’re going to be retiring this material.
Given the overall vibe of each of your sets, COVID has definitely affected all of you over the course of the pandemic. How did your experiences with COVID affect your outlook and approach to comedy?
SH: Well, I knew there would be a lot of comics speaking on it, so I was just trying to give my perspective on it. Even with all of us touching on it in our specials, the viewpoints were all different. So, I was definitely just trying to share my perspective, because I know I can be a little ignorant at times and I can be just a little off from everybody else.
JW: For me, I had to touch on it because I also had it. So, instead of generalizing it, it came from the truth of having it.
NL: I also had it, and it was just one of those things where we thought we would be coming out of it right about now. And you can’t do a comedy special at this moment and not touch on it. It just taught me to appreciate things, because we take a lot of things for granted like fresh air and being able to go outside and live regularly. There were a lot of things that we had to learn and experience this year, and it really made me appreciate the stage even more, because it was taken from us for a minute.
Now, in terms of creative process and writing comedy, how did the downtime affect that ability to write and build material?
SH: It affected me because I can’t sit down and write. I have to be on stage and write. That’s how I like to write, from right off the top of the dome while I’m live in action. I like building material from thoughts I have in front of a crowd, so it definitely stalled me.
JW: For me, life will always write material. Another ten of fifteen minutes, life will write it for you. But when you’re stuck in the house, there’s only so much you can really talk about, and for the first nine months or so, that’s what we were doing. The only thing we had going for us was the radio, but all we were talking about was how we would go to the grocery store, but then we had to go back home and lock it back up.
NL: For me, I was inspired just from sitting in the house. Shopping online and finding things to keep me occupied and all that stuff, so that was very influential in my writing. My writing process is the same as it’s always been, where I’m always ready and open and I receive things and then I just jot them down in my phone, then I go to the stage with it.
Right on. Well, I’m glad we could connect to do this. I’m down to my last question, though. Above everything else, what was your favorite part of putting these specials together?
SH: My favorite part was just being backstage again with my guys, man. We tour so much with Kev, and being back in that type of setting really had me reminiscing about all the times we had on the big tours together, and it was fun to just be talking trash with my guys again, like we always do.
NL: I agree. The camaraderie is always a big thing with us.
JW: I gotta agree with Spank. You don’t really appreciate it, but all that time on the road and on planes, and making fun of each other and laughing, and even the stressful parts of touring every day, you’ve just been doing this for so many years, and all of a sudden you’re not doing it anymore. It’s that same backstage thing that I like to think about.