Mike Epps’s Favorite Things


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Jul 31, 2023

Mike Epps’s Favorite Things

Advertisement Supported by My Ten The star of the Netflix sitcom “The Upshaws” borrowed some of his comedic timing from Redd Foxx and was inspired to act from watching Denzel Washington. By Chris


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My Ten

The star of the Netflix sitcom “The Upshaws” borrowed some of his comedic timing from Redd Foxx and was inspired to act from watching Denzel Washington.

By Chris Kornelis

When Mike Epps was growing up in Indianapolis, his grandmother’s house was home base for the entire family.

“My grandma had 11 kids. And some of those 11 kids had five or six kids each,” he said in a phone interview in July, before the SAG-AFTRA strike began, adding: “You got aunts and uncles and all them coming over and hanging out, checking each other out — a house full of people.”

In time, her house also became the place the future comedian tried out his earliest material.

“That was my first breaking ground,” he said. “My first experimental jokes were in that house among my cousins and my family and my people.”

It is part of the inspiration for “The Upshaws,” Epps’s sitcom about a blue-collar family in Indianapolis whose new season becomes available Aug. 17 on Netflix.

“If you look at the show, it’s my voice. It’s who I am. It’s my city, my friends, it’s my family. It’s my everything,” Epps said.

He talked about some of the other components — the books, TV shows, unicycle — that make up his life. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.


I love “Sanford and Son.” That was a show that modeled itself from our people, from Black people. It was definitely a template of what we are and who we are. I watched it every day. I borrow a lot of timing from that show. Redd Foxx’s timing was impeccable, more than you could chew off.


I play chess so well in my normal life that it’s almost hard to do it on the board sometimes. The game is a reflection of who I am and the decisions that I make. So, sometimes I can play the board game and see where I was delinquent in my life or see where I could move better or see the sacrifice. The game is very parallel to my life. So, when I’m playing, I’m thinking about those decisions.


Robert T. Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad Poor Dad” changed the way I thought about money and people with money. It also reinforced how I grew up. It’s easy to be poor when you don’t have a lot of goals. Once I started having goals of wanting more, it was over with. I was like: I got to have more in life. I deserve more. There is more. I don’t have to settle for being poor.


I have some positive jealousy about “Creed.” I can really box, but I was too old to be in the movie, and I think Michael B. Jordan did a great job. When you’re a Black man and you see a Black movie like that that is macho, you know, you want to be a part of it in some capacity.


I love riding one wheel. When I was a kid, I always tried to find something that made me stick out and be different from everybody else. So I learned how to ride a unicycle — short and tall. When people see me riding it, they look at me like I’m crazy and say: “What the hell you doing? Why did you do that?” And then they try to get on it. That’s what it does to you.


“Glory” was the first movie that I saw that inspired me. When I saw Denzel Washington, I was like, That’s what I want to do, right there.


I’ve vacationed in Miami, the islands, all the tropical spots. But I’m a Black cowboy. I love the cowboy feeling of something. I love dirt. I love desert. Jackson Hole, Wyo., is a really quiet, subdued place. To get a cabin there in the summertime — oh, man, it is breathtaking.


It’s always good to hear a voice in our community speaking the truth. Killer Mike is one of those guys that has been blessed to have that voice for our people. His songs are thought-provoking, they move you in a lot of ways. He’s touching on a lot of good points in the hip-hop industry, in the Black community itself, and white America.


When I’m out on the road telling jokes, the first thing I want to hit is a vintage store. I want to hit the vintage clothing store, and I want to hit the antique furniture store. You go to a store in one of these cities outside of where you live, man, and you find some jewels up in there. Some of these old people, they bring stuff in these places that you wouldn’t believe, and in perfect shape.


My favorite city to perform in is Detroit. They have the most fun. They love to come out and celebrate. My audience in Detroit, man, they got fur coats on, they got diamonds, they got thick glasses on, the women are looking good — they sparkling. That’s my audience.