Terry Crews jumped out onto the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts stage screaming, flexed his pecs at the audience and turned back to his interviewer, UF journalism department chair Ted Spiker, for a chest bump.
“Man is it good,” Crews shouted into the microphone at a volume that caused some audience members to jump in their seats. “Lord, I love it.”
The actor, known for his roles in comedy movie “White Chicks” and TV sitcoms “Everybody Hates Chris” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” spoke Tuesday night at the Phillips Center to an audience of about 1,400. Accent Speaker’s Bureau paid Crews $40,000 for the speaking event, according to Alligator archives. All of the free tickets were given away.
Crews touched on everything from funny Hollywood experiences to his troubled upbringing with an abusive father.
He recounted how he bombed an audition the same day he landed his role in “White Chicks.” Looking back, he said he knows he failed at the first audition because of the fear and pressure he felt.
“You have to trick your brain because it’s going to betray you,” he said. “You’re going to think, ‘Oh my god, it’s the worst thing ever,’ and it’s actually the best thing for you.”
Crews described how he used comedy growing up to cope with trauma. Some of his earliest memories are of his father shoving his mother to the ground, he said.
Before he and his brother cried or hid in another room, sometimes they would laugh, he said.
“Comedy is a way you keep from going insane,” he said. “It’s a way to process; your brain has to process tragedy.”
Friends Peter Nguyenho and Livia Ledbetter got to the Phillips Center at 5:20 p.m. and were first in line.
When he first saw Crews on “Everybody Hates Chris” at about 12 years old, Nguyenho instantly fell in love.
Now Nguyenho, 20, said Crews’ vocal support for victims of sexual assault and disclosure of his own porn addiction is a beacon of what Hollywood should be.
“I really appreciate the way he uses his platform to speak out and really push things forward,” the UF psychology junior said. “I wish there were more celebrities like him.”
Ledbetter, a longtime fan of Crews’ work in “White Chicks,” said she waited more than 90 minutes at the Phillips Center not just to laugh at the actor’s comedy but hear his story.
“I like that he’s willing to reveal so much about himself,” the 20-year-old UF women’s studies and sociology junior said. “I feel like with actors we get caught up in their celebrity-ness. We get to see more of his serious side.”