Eddie Griffin reminds you of that guy who hangs on the corner when the weather's hot the clown who hoots at the honeys, tells the freshest jokes, and does a mean James Brown or Michael Jackson. He practically was that guy.
"Man, I used to be a street dancer back in the day," said Griffin, 32, co-star of the new movie "Double Take" with Orlando Jones. "I was with this group called Soul Patrol. But once I started doing comedy, that was it, baby. I went to Hollywood."
The former stand-up, a regular presence on TV and in movies for seven years, hasn't thrown away his dancing shoes. In one scene in "Double Take," he does a funky Godfather of Soul shuffle step and split. In another, he and Jones launch into some locking and breaking.
"Double Take" a "Trading Places"-style road movie with "Mad TV" alumnus Jones as an investment counselor framed for embezzlement and Griffin as a jive-talking 'hood rat got mixed reviews. But its leads got gold stars Griffin especially, whom critics hailed as "gifted," "exhaustingly energetic," and "side-splittingly funny." Early estimates put the film's gross at a healthy $10 million in its first three days.
Griffin's road to Hollywood had a few bumps and potholes. The Kansas City, Mo., native, who married at 16 ("Oh, I'd say that lasted about a good year"), was running a dance studio and was "broke as hell" in May 1989 when he and a cousin visited a comedy club.
"So we were up in the club, right. And it was one dry white comedian after the other," Griffin recalled. "My cousin bet me $50 to go on stage. ... so I went up there (and) did my thing. The place went crazy. I knew that was my calling."
Soon afterward, Griffin caught a bus, "the hemorrhoid express," to Los Angeles. He grabbed the mike at the Comedy Store on Sunset Strip. He wasn't an immediate hit, but he took a job as the club's doorman, studied comics, and developed a technique.
"A lot of my material comes from home," said Griffin, whose 15-year-old son, Eddie Jr., now lives with him in L.A. "Growing up was funny, man. You have my Uncle Curtis who believes he should be a porn star. My grandmother is from New Orleans and swears she's a voodoo priestess."
Griffin whose credits include 1999's "Foolish" and "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" and "The Walking Dead" is concentrating on his movie career. He'll be seen this year in the thriller "John Q." He's also working on an album with his band, Eclectic Diviny.