Born October 23, 1970 in Atlanta, GA.
Donnell Rawlings is an overnight success a decade in the making. You've seen him on Comedy Central's award winning and critically celebrated Chappelle's Show as 'Ashy Larry', the 70's jheri curled 'Beautiful', and numerous other characters he's played. Donnell is the franchise player Dave Chappelle and Neal Brennan wanted as a writer and prime time player on their team. Since Dave Chappelle had business to take care of in Africa, Donnell was asked to step into the huge shoes Dave left behind, and host the Lost Episodes. "Hilarious" is what Linda Stasi of The New York Post calls Donnell's performance as host.
His unique brand of observational humor earned Donnell co-hosting duties On Power 105's (NY's #1 Hip Hop and R&B radio station) morning show "Egypt and Ashy in the Morning". Currently Donnell can be seen regularly on E!'s hit show "Chelsea Lately" and doing sketch work for his new website www.bootlegcomedy.com. He also enjoyed a reprising his character of Day-Day Price on HBO's Emmy-Award winning series "The Wire" during a 3-episode arc, during the show's final season (2007-2008). In 2007, Donnell co-created and starred in Heavy.com's hit web series "From Ashy to Classy", in which Donnell portrays the loveable yet clueless culture critic, Ashford Lawrence. The series was picked up for a second round of episodes and remains one of Heavy.com most popular shows. Additionally, Donnell has starred in "Reality Bites Back" for Comedy Central, tours heavily with his stand up dates, starred in a series of promotional interstitials for MTV, and has completed 3 films in the past year.
Donnell has performed his intelligently bold stand-up throughout the U.S., Europe, and the Caribbean. He has appeared on award winning Law & Order series, Special Victims Unit (SVU) and Criminal Intent (CI) and has also appeared on CBS Third Watch and the Emmy award winning HBO Special: The Corner.
Growing up, this Washington, D.C. native used humor as a means of persuasion with the ladies and whipped out his wicked wit as a weapon of mass destruction in verbal battle. While in the Air Force, Donnell's wordplay shot down more military personnel than the G.I. issued arms.
When Donnell returned to the States and settled into civilian life, he decided to check out the local comedy scene in D.C. He quickly became the "official heckler" as he ate comedians alive from the audience. One day a local comedian challenged Donnell to bring his act to the stage. Six months later Donnell was performing on HBO's Def Comedy Jam.
From his weekly guest appearances on New York's Hot 97 Morning Show, to his role in the blockbuster Spider-Man II and his position as resident "Funny Guy" on the Ricki Lake Show, Donnell rise to stardom may not have been "overnight", but the journey has given him the life experience to keep his humor edgy and relevant.
Donnell's peers have noticed his talent and potential. Neal Brennan, co-executive producer and co-head writer of Chappelle's Show: "Whenever we put Donnell in the game he's going to hit a home run." Jamie Foxx says "That guy is a beast!" Wayne Brady commented that Donnell provides "amazing work on the show" and Dave Chappelle feels that "Donnell brings so much to the table...this very funny guy makes it look natural and easy."
Writer, actor and comedian Donnell Rawlings made his mark on the comedy world as a cast member on the now defunct Chappelle's Show. Whether a background player or portraying his stand out character Ashy Larry, Rawlings became a viewer favorite and a rising star.
As an actor, Rawlings has been featured in TV shows (The Wire, Law & Order , Third Watch and The Corner) and films (Legacy, Car Babes and Fifty Pills. Most recently Rawlings created the website Bootlegcomedy.com. Recenstly in Chicago for performances at Zanie's Comedy Club, UnRated Magazine spoke with the funnyman.
How did you get your start in comedy?
I would go to comedy clubs as a fan and would heckle the comedians. One day the owner challenged me and I performed and I've been doing it for 14 years.
So you were a trouble maker?
Yes, I gave my mother trouble in the delivery room. I'm a notorious trouble maker.
How did you get on the Chappelle Show?
Dave's friend Neil Brennan (co-writer on the show) was a PA for In Living Color and he noticed my audition. I told him if you're ever in a situation, throw me a bone and that's how I got on the show.
What was it like working with Dave and Charlie? Was it funny all the time or were you guys serious-
(We were) serious in performing but it was constantly funny. I would go into work early and leave late. Dave gave us freedom to do what we do-bring comedy to the table.
Do you or have you spoken to Dave? Would you work with him in the future if the opportunity presented itself?
Some of us still talk more than others, we see each other on the circuit.
Who are your idols, mentors?
Because I never thought I would be a comedian, my mentors were uncles, my mom and dad. Everything happened by chance. I'm a fan of Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence.
What do you think is the current state of comedy?
It's the only field that's recession proof. People aren't working but still find money to get a laugh. Comedy is not hurting right now.
Anyone you want to work with in the future?
Jewish people. None in particular. Because their checks clear. (I've worked enough) with Pookie and Ray Ray.
Which do you like better: movies or television?
I like the art of acting-Acting 75% of the time. I like playing different roles......playing someone else.
What is your favorite movie?
The Five Heartbeats.
Best experience so far in your career?
Everything has been a learning experience throughout my career there has always been growth.
What do you do to relax and enjoy yourself?
Read scriptures and listen to 50 Cent.
Advice to young comedians, actors and writers coming up?
Stay focus, stay funny or get out!
Future projects, what are you working on now?
I'm working on a comedy porn (movie) -it's the first of its kind. It's about a comedian who doesn't do well (not funny) and they find out he's well endowed and he starts a porno career. Its call Black Cocktails.
But seriously, I'm working on bootleg comedy.com Chelsea Lately Show and doing my stand up.
Interview by Tamara Jenkins ©January 2010