8/12/2013 10:00 A.M. ET
Funnyman Smoove brings laughs as broadcaster
Actor, comedian, Yankees fan calls play-by-play on 'Express Written Consent'
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
He's played one of the most hilariously inappropriate characters on television in modern history, and with every profane word and uncomfortable exchange he had with his better half (in a bromance setting), the more well-known he became in pop culture circles.
Fans of the long-running HBO comedy "Curb Your Enthusiasm" probably remember Leon Black, played by JB Smoove, the fast-talking cat who burst onto the scene in season six as Larry David's mooching, foul-mouthed BFF.
Leon was introduced to the series as the cousin of a family that lost its home to Hurricane Katrina. David's character took in the family, and Leon came along for the ride, even though he never was subjected to a hurricane-riddled flooded mess of a house.
Leon lived in L.A., but why let that stop him from indulging in a good free-loading slumber party?
In real life, Smoove is, like Leon, fast-talking and hilarious. Fortunately for the other J.B. during a recent taping of Klondike-sponsored "Express Written Consent," -- MLB.com's Jeremy Brisiel -- Smoove's person-to-person conversations are all G-rated and acceptable for mainstream consumption.
That doesn't make Smoove any less hilarious, though. Watching the All-Star Game while hanging out in a suite at Citi Field, Smoove rattled off a list of several of his closest Hollywood friends who, like him, had recently scurried to New York to help Chris Rock shoot a movie.
"Everyone is in town you can think of," Smoove said. "Jerry Seinfeld. Adam Sandler. Tracy Morgan. That's when you know you've made it big, that you can pull out favors like that. You can call anybody and say, 'I'm shooting a movie. I need you.' And they all show up."
Smoove may not yet have such pull, but he's doing well for himself. He's starring in another David doozy on HBO titled "Clear History," alongside another group of Hollywood heavyweights that includes Jon Hamm, Bill Hader, Kate Hudson, Eva Mendes and Michael Keaton.
"It's shot kind of 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' style," Smoove said. "But it's not a 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' movie."
Speaking of enthusiasm, Smoove had plenty of it while watching the All-Star Game from his perch in the suite. A die-hard Yankees fan ("Old school -- in the heyday of Billy Martin, Thurman Munson, Graig Nettles, Reggie Jackson," he gushed), he worked himself into a well-controlled frenzy as Robinson Cano stepped to the plate, gushing that the second baseman is The. Next. Great. Thing.
"This is definitely going to go down in history as one of the best Yankees ever," Smoove said. "True Yankees fans know an up-and-coming player when they see one. I know an up-and-coming player."
And just like that, down went Cano, plunked on the right thigh by a Matt Harvey fastball.
"Uh oh," Smoove said. "Maybe I spoke to soon. That's not good."
What is good is Smoove's ability to jump from topic to topic and wax poetic on each without needing much prompting or preparation. Like most skilled stand-up comedians, all it takes is a quick mention of an inanimate object and off he goes, using the visual to trigger a stream of consciousness that makes one think. And, hopefully, laugh.
Take, for example, Cracker Jack.
Leon -- er, JB -- harkened back to a more innocent time, his youth, when he just wanted to sit back and have a hot dog and some Cracker Jack at a Yankees game. And not the commercialized new-school bags they sell these days.
"The box," he said. "The box of Cracker Jack. With real prizes. Not the little cardboard lick-it-and-put-this-tattoo-on stuff. I'm talking about the real prizes. The prizes that were big. Big old prizes."
"Cadillacs. And cars. And real rings. And jewelry."
The weekly exercise of "Three up, three down" forced Smoove to have some more honest moments as he matched up baseball terminology with topics thrown out by Brisiel.
"Skills as a hip-hop dancer ..." Brisiel began.
"Throwing smoke," Smoove responded.
Brisiel: "The current state of your career."
"Golden Glove," Smoove said, confidently.
Brisiel: "What you look forward to next year ..."
"Well ... hee-hee-hee-hee," Smoove giggled.
"I'm getting old," he continued. "So, I've got to say ... a high hard one. I'm getting old. I've got to stay in the game."
Odds are, JB (and Leon, and any other alter egos coming down the pike) will have no problem sticking around for a while.