Comedian CP promises you’ll see Detroit in ‘Detroiters’
Detroit native Chris Powell wrote and starred in a few episodes of Comedy Central’s new sitcom debuting Feb. 7
Comedian Chris Powell knew he chose the right TV show to write and star in when he arrived on set.
“There was so much Faygo,” says Powell, who goes by CP. “I was like, ‘Oh my god!’ Tim and Sam are the Faygo gods.’ ”
That would be Tim Robinson (“Saturday Night Live”) and Sam Richardson (“Veep”), creators of Comedy Central’s new sitcom “Detroiters” debuting at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. Like Robinson and Richardson, Powell is a native Detroiter and worked with the show’s writing team to make sure the Motor City was properly portrayed — down to the “whatupdoe” T-shirts, People Mover and Better Made Potato Chips that appear in the trailer.
“As Detroiters, we really take that to heart, and there’s a certain way we talk and walk and things that we eat and drink that’s only us,” says Powell in an interview while driving to a voiceover gig in Los Angeles, where he resides.
The 33-year-old grew up in Detroit and graduated from Mumford High School and Michigan State University with a degree in communication studies. He launched his comedy career in Detroit and started building a fan base, though he admits it was difficult.
“Detroit is a very serious place, and a lot of serious things are happening there,” he says. “It’s a place where people need to laugh, but it wasn’t necessary the easiest avenue for (comedy).”
He began posting videos of himself to the internet — when “viral videos” weren’t yet a thing.
“I was kind of like one of the first people to really use the internet to get myself noticed, and then take it to the next level,” he says.
Powell has since starred on shows like Fox’s “Empire” (playing the role of L’il Prince) and HBO’s standup comedy special “All Def Comedy.” He’s hosting a new MTV2 series, “World Star TV,” that premieres at 11 p.m. Friday.
Powell met Richardson for the first time while working on “Detroiters,” and the comedians bonded as they tested each other’s Detroit knowledge. He connected with Robinson about four years ago.
“Him being from Detroit, I always followed everything he was doing and where he was going to be,” he says. “I introduced myself to him. He told me he heard about my stuff. That was a big moment for me to have somebody who was on ‘SNL’ say that they heard about me.”
Powell was originally asked to write a “Detroiters” episode with his writing partner, Chip Hall, a former “King of the Hill” writer and producer. They spent a week in the writer’s’ room, and Powell recalls how he made the team crack up when he played a character during a table read.
“Everybody was laughing, and somebody made the comment like, ‘Man, CP should play that role.’ We all kind of laughed like, ‘Yeah whatever,’ ” Powell says.
But then his agent called, saying the producers wanted him to play the character he read. They loved it so much, they wrote him into several episodes.
Powell declined to share details other than the character’s name is Ned, and “he really looks up to Tim and Sam.”
We also couldn’t get him to divulge episode details, but he promises viewers will recognize Detroit spots. Filming took place in the city over the summer.
“I can’t give away all the secrets,” he says, “but I will say, man, this show is so Detroit. It’s crazy.”
Powell adds that it was an honor to work on a project with people from his hometown. (Actor Keegan-Michael Key of “Key and Peele” is another Detroit native starring in the series.)
“Being in Los Angeles, when you come across Detroiters, I mean, no pun intended, but we just fell right in like we were all cousins,” he says.
Though his home is now LA, he still loves Detroit and longs for coney dogs he can’t get on the west coast.
“I understand that right now Detroit is frozen, and I don’t miss that,” he laughs. “But I miss downtown in the summertime and the fireworks and Campus Martius and Belle Isle and Coney Island. A lot of these things I miss, I seemingly was taking for granted.”
Every city has the good, bad, ugly and “the stuff only your mother could love,” he adds. Yet the series sets Detroit’s not-so-good days aside and just gives the city a chance.
“I appreciate the fact that in ‘Detroiters,’ ” Powell says, “Detroit is a normal city that you would want to spend time in and that you would want to come see.”
10:30 p.m. Tuesday