Byron Bowers and the Dual Powers of Loss and Light (Interview)

 Above photo by @tylerossity.   Cover photo by @joelbrandano.

Byron Bowers is a Comedian who never shies away from truth and pain in his work. We got the chance to speak to him during a short break between his appearance at the Toronto International Film Festival to promote his role in the new Shia LaBeouf movie Honey Boy, and a return to Toronto with his Solo Show at JFL42 on September 24th. He sat down with The Interrobang to explain how a lot has happened since he left.

Byron Bowers will be performing his solo show at JFL42 in Toronto (underway now!) on September 24th at the Rivoli @ 9pm, September 25th at The Garrison @ 7pm, and September 28th at the Rivoli at 7pm. For tickets, go to jfl42.com.

The Interrobang: How are you?

Byron Bowers: Not bad right now i’m in L.A i’m getting rejuvenated which is something that I need. I just left TIFF and I just left Georgia.

The Interrobang: So your father died 3 or 4 days ago?

Byron Bowers: My father was dying as I left TIFF which was very interesting because I was there promoting Honey Boy which is this film about the son of an addict, and the causes of having an addict as a father. My father was also an addict. A film like that can bring closure to the emotions you have having parents like that.

The Interrobang:  What is that trip like to take?

Byron Bowers: I got a text as soon as I landed in L.A saying I needed to go home. My dad’s heart had stopped five times they had resuscitated him and they said they wasn’t going to do it anymore when I was in L.A. So I had to get to Georgia in time. I made it in time so that’s positive.

The Interrobang: What were those last moments like?

Byron Bowers: It was a spiritual moment. It wasn’t as much as a loss because I felt as though I’ve already lost. Things people take for granted when their parents are sane- that closure that is needed. I didn’t have that in him because of his mental illness, but I was able to bring closure and complete the circle before he left and I felt his energy leave his body. I was holding him when he transcended. It was a very peaceful transcend and we made amends. I mean, we’ve been making amends but we just couldn’t communicate it.

Within that moment, in those last 5 minutes as I’m looking into his eyes and he has this look of sorrow, and I’m telling him there’s no need to be sorry, that you lived a full life and I will take it from here. That I’m not angry and that you did great. So many great things when you were in your right mind. Those were our last words and that was our last conversation.
The nurse told me he might not make it to 7 a.m, and I’m telling her, he’s leaving now. He just left the building, he’s gone then they check the machines he was gone.

I was the last person of contact physically, emotionally and spiritually that he had. It was a very spiritual moment for me it was beautiful.

The Interrobang: So powerful thank you for sharing that.

Byron Bowers: Whatever he had was not going away. This was the only way.

The Interrobang: Have you laughed since your father died?

Byron Bowers: Yeah I’ve laughed a bunch of times. My grandmother really took it bad she was saying that was the one, that was my child, that was the one. While her other children are in the room. And I was like come on grandma this is not a time to pick favorites. That was really funny to me.

I was telling someone that I felt my father’s energy go through my body; this feeling in my arm as he transcended and I immediately got an erection. They broke and just started laughing. I’ve been able to laugh and make jokes about it because that’s how I handle against trauma or certain situations.

The Interrobang: Have you done a set since your father died?

Byron Bowers: I pitched a television show. but I haven’t done a set. I’m still processing this stuff and just soaking it all in. Like planning a funeral, never having done this before as a person who doesn’t like funerals and that’ll be a piece that I’ll try to use. I’m gathering all these pieces that I’ve witnessed.  I have to leave tomorrow to go to the actual funeral. I don’t like funerals I handle death differently than my traditional family but all the decisions fell on me because I am the next of kin. There’s something silly about the racket of the funeral business.

My grandma had a coupon for $100 off a $ 9,000 funeral.

The Interrobang: Are you going to address it in your JFL42 show? How do you prepare for a festival like this after what you have just been through.?

Byron Bowers: The show is already spiritual. It is a show about balance and accepting the world for what it is, regardless of what’s going on it. It will be in tune with the overall show.  It’s an experience in themselves the people have when they come to my show. That’s what they enjoy about it. I think this experience will add to those experiences. We go to some pretty interesting places. Nobody leaves the show feeling the same way they did when they entered the show.

The Interrobang: Is there an audience member that you generally find this effect is lost on like who shouldn’t come to your show?

Byron Bowers: I think if you haven’t accepted who you are as a human being. Which means that if you haven’t accepted that you have flaws, explored them, or dealt with any lows like really been down and went through the other side, then this show is going to affect you…. you’re not going to want to laugh at the moments you should laugh at. It takes a certain type of person to enjoy a show like this. It’s not for the fake.

The Interrobang: What does the Byron Bowers experience feel like?

Byron Bowers: Racism on Mushrooms.

The Interrobang: You are such a prolific comedian yet you don’t have an album and you don’t have a special. What can we expect from one? When will the time be right?

Byron Bowers:  We’re gearing up for a special now. I’m in talks with people. I’m putting it together. I’m writing it myself and Alma Har’el the director of Honey boy and a few other documentaries. I want it to feel authentic with a little bit of magic to it.

The Interrobang: Where would you like to shoot it? What place would be the best conduit of that magic?

Byron Bowers: Inside the subconscious mind if I had a place you know what I mean. I don’t have a place as of now and that’s something I’m considering of like where to do it at. But it’s more about what I’m tapping into, than the actual place if that makes sense.

The Interrobang: What was your worst moment on stage?

Byron Bowers: I was at JFL new faces in 2013 and I was genuinely killing , everyone was laughing and applauding but it wasn’t authentic to me. It was authentic the place it came from, but I had put a cloak over it. A part of me felt like I was shuckin and jivin.  That was the first show I got a write-up and everything and after that show I immediately started talking about slavery for the rest of my shows. The audience was gasping they were scared and they were nervous.I was like, this is what this thing should be.

The Interrobang: What was your most profound moment on stage?

I think the first time I told the story about visiting my dad for the first time in 6 years was another important marker for me. People laughed loud and hard. I wrote these stories cuz I thought the game had gotten rid of me. I couldn’t relate to audiences so I just wanted to give them my truth. And then the relatability started to happen.

When I taped my episode of This is Not Happening, I told a story after shooting all-day and flying to L.A not feeling well so I stripped all the jokes out of the story because I couldn’t remember the beats. Something was like ‘just tell the story you lived it you don’t have to go over something in your head you already lived.’ I connected to the audience on a different level. Just hearing the quiet in that room not even knowing I was on the verge of tears.  I’m seeing these images in my head as I tell these stories. Then at the end, instinctively I said something and it got a laugh and I’m dropping the mic and all my energy is just gone after that. It was a true testament of following my instincts.

I don’t know what’s going on but I think I’ve stepped in a river that I’m not meant to have control over but I must go with the flow. Comedy took me to this point. I was sitting in the Dead Sea thinking how did I get here? I had quit comedy because I had gotten booed so many times and then something was like– it will take me to the promised land.

So as I’m sitting in the Dead Sea and I realized instinctively, I did stand-up. I realized comedy is an old dream from years ago. I have to do the next thing and I don’t know what the next thing is and then some of the dramatic stuff started to happen as I stepped into my lane and started to figure out where I was as an artist I got The Chi and then Honey Boy.

The Interrobang: What do you want for your future?

Byron Bowers: Family, True wealth and fulfillment.

The Interrobang: Is there anything else you want to say?

Byron Bowers: I’m looking forward to coming and preforming in Toronto and making sure I deliver the show that I know I can deliver. Hopefully people will take a chance like they did in Montreal. Experience something that might be a little different.

 

Byron Bowers will be performing his solo show at JFL42 in Toronto (underway now!) on September 24th at the Rivoli @ 9pm, September 25th at The Garrison @ 7pm, and September 28th at the Rivoli at 7pm. For tickets, go to jfl42.com.

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