Miami comedian Freddy Stebbins performs at the Fillmore

 

Meet Stebbins’ corral of quirky Miami characters in his show ‘Miami ... Don’t Feed the Natives!’

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By Amy Reyes | areyes@MiamiHerald.com

College lectures can be tedious: It’s a safe bet most open laptops are used for pirating wi-fi to peruse Facebook and not for note-taking. But in a class with Freddy Stebbins, adjunct professor of sociology at Miami-Dade College, lectures can be a hilarious — and hopefully informative — exercise in comedy. The 46-year-old Miami native is part of Miami’s small but thriving local comedy scene, and one of Miami’s few openly gay comics; he uses the lectern as a fun way to tap into his comedic mojo. This Saturday, he performs at the Fillmore Miami Beach in his new show “Miami ... Don’t Feed the Natives!” — a blend of his Miami-fied impersonations with stand-up and video clips, creating multimedia comedy experience that both lampoons and exalts Miami archetypes and, possibly, throws a little sociology in the mix. Don't worry, there will not be a test after the show.

How did you get into comedy?
I’ve always been sort of a nerdy guy. I went to a really jock-y high school, Columbus High School — it’s a big football school. I’m not an athlete. The only way I could get popular was to do funny accents so I’d get to go to parties. Then I moved to L.A. where I went through the Groundlings school, got into comedy and radio and stand-up.

What brought you back to Miami?
I moved back to Miami 12 years ago to work on a Travel Channel show called “Get Packing.” But I missed Miami. It’s my home. I know a lot of people don’t like Miami, but if you’re from here and you have family, if you enjoy the rawness of it, it’s much more interesting than Los Angeles. I felt my future as an actor and a comedian would be based more on the energy and the drama and the color that comes from the dynamic of living in this weird city.

What’s the local comedy circuit like here in South Florida?
It's an up-and-coming, fresh scene. Lots of great young talent. People come to Miami because they know that every night of the week, they can find a room to do comedy — there might be 100 people or there might be eight. There are about 30 of us local regulars from [local comedy collective] The Have-Nots, at Casa de HaHa, at the Improv.

Are there a lot of gay comedians in the South Florida comedy scene?

Not really. I wish there were more. I’m one of the few openly gay comedians on the scene in South Florida. I get some flack for that, but it allows my characters to be more flamboyant.

What is your show like?
I do a unique kind of comedy, a blend of stand-up and impersonations of local personalities that you’d find in Miami — overbearing Cuban moms, the old Jewish condo commando whose lived on South Beach for 53 years, a Jamaican kid who does pirate radio, a very flaming gentleman who just happens to be a diehard Miami Hurricanes fan. I am the Walter Mercado impersonator — I do the most androgynous, Liberace-like mystical man of all time. I do all of these types of characters. What I’m trying to do is capture the new Miami natives. Natives used to be people who were born here, but most people in Miami now weren’t born here. They’ve been here for years, they’re the natives now. They’re all very funny and colorful. And I do it all in full costume.

How do you keep the momentum going if you have to change costumes?
I have produced six short videos, interviewing seven other Miami types of people, played by me.

You are a professor of sociology at Miami-Dade College. What happens when your students catch your act?
I pretty much teach the class in a comedic style. I will go through role in an accent. When I am talking about the industrial revolution, I will pretend to be a caveman. If I’m giving a famous speech by Plato, I will get on the desk and take off my shirt and put a robe across my chest. I can’t do a Greek accent, so it comes out as a Russian accent. I had so many boring teachers in college, but the funny ones you remember. I find that student's retention is better because of my delivery. The kids say, “I remember who Cicero was because you did that impersonation of him as a homeless guy.” They always ask me for extra credit for coming to my shows.

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