Sinbad’s name recalls the literary legend that symbolizes strength, adventure and optimism and is what he strives for. “I renamed myself Sinbad because Sinbad is bad. He could hang with rogues and with kings. He didn’t have the strength of Hercules, but he could outwit anyone.” Born in Benton Harbor, Michigan, Sinbad grew up telling jokes to his three brothers and two sisters. The image sticks; Sinbad the wild child, off-the-wall Sinbad who would do anything for attention, acting stupid, free as the wind, on unpredictable force that can’t be harnessed, and always willing to pay any price, looking for laughs.
Sinbad’s first love was basketball and the Globetrotters were a childhood dream. He won a basketball scholarship to University of Denver. “I had flaming red hair and they called me Red Chamberlain. Had ‘Baby Wilt’ written on the side of my car. I was on my way to becoming All-American. I thought college ball was going to be the ticket.” But basketball’s loss was comedy’s gain and the comedian Sinbad has become one of the most famous comedians around.
His journey of becoming one of the best black comedians began in 1983, when Sinbad embarked on his “Poverty Tour,” going from city to city on the Greyhound, from comedy club to comedy club, working for meals, changing out of hotel restrooms. “I prayed, Please Lord, this is hard work. So if I’m not funny let me know right away.”
The break was Star Search in the mid-eighties. Sinbad was never a winner, but good enough to get on the show seven times and become a finalist. That led to a TV movie and a role as Redd Foxx’s son on The New Redd Foxx Show (“If you don’t do this right,” Redd told Sinbad, “we’ll get a white boy to play the part.”). The next break came from Bill Cosby.
Cosby became a fan. He cast Sinbad in A Different World which, along with Sinbad’s stint as host of It’s Showtime at the Apollo (a show which features black comedians), allowed him to eventually do the 1991 Share the Dream Tour of historically black colleges – a tour backed by Coca-Cola, United Airlines, and BET (Black Entertainment Television). That year, Sinbad’s first one-hour HBO comedy special, Brain Damaged, became the second highest “Comedy Hour” ever. As executive producer and head writer Sinbad developed an outrageously funny variety show — “Sinbad & Friends All the Way Live…Almost.” Sinbad continued to score with “Necessary Roughness,” his first feature film.
Sinbad has received extra exposure in the ad campaign for Reebok Blacktop basketball shoes. The Sinbad-Reebok campaign was the recipient of the prestigious 1992 Grand Elite Award. Blacktops were also voted New Product of the Year by Footwear News. Sinbad was the celebrity spokesperson for Polaroid’s new Captiva Camera also.
Sinbad never tells jokes – “I don’t know any,” he admits – but rather stalks the stage, telling real-life stories. He doesn’t deliver payoff lines; he slam-dunks them. His comedy is large, physical, impetuous. Psychologically, he jams us, poking holes in our lifestyles. His stories mirror our foibles. Sinbad is the explosive energy of the neighborhood, his phrasing is manic, musical and right on time. He doesn’t write his material; he relives it as he remembers it. Sinbad never curses – “I want people to bring the whole family to my show.”
In April of 1993, Sinbad gave us a blast into the past with his one-hour HBO Special, “Afros & Bellbottoms”, which aired live from the Paramount Theater in New York. His style – absolutely improvised, uncompromisingly spontaneous – is a litany of lines about the seventies, a self-styled monologue on dashikis and afros, bell-bottoms and platform shoes, a parody of America past and present. Afros & Bellbottoms is currently available for home video rentals.
The Sinbad Show, based on Sinbad’s original idea for Fox Network, received critical acclaim. Sinbad sails into feature films making his starring debut in “Houseguest” which was in the top ten chart for home video rentals for weeks. Sinbad starred in “First Kid” as Sam Simms, a fun-loving Secret Service agent and James Bond–wannabe who has to look after the son of the President of the United States. Sinbad was the executive producer with Del Ia Torre and Riley Kathryn Ellis.