Published on April 16th, 2013 | by Brian Moreno
Comedian Spotlight: Tone Bell
Just like every other profession, the career of being a comedian involves so much more than talent. Comedy requires persistence, timing and sacrifice but there is also another dynamic that a lot of people never understand. A great deal of your life is determined by what you say yes and no to.
Tone has the standard stare and judgment of every pro comedian but what make his opinions wildly different, and unlike most comedians, he is understated. Some call that charisma, some call it an aspect of being cool, but when you ask him you find out it is years of hard work, training, preparation, sacrifice and saying “No” to the wrong paths.
Tone has been in LA for less than twenty months and depending on who you ask they know him for different things. Some people know Tone Bell as an actor, from “Whitney” and other projects, but rest of us know him as a comedian. When you ask Tone, it is clear who he is, “I act so I can do comedy.” And there is no doubt in his mind about that. Only time will tell if that changes but he is a self-proclaimed comedy “addict”. He realized at an early age that he could tell stories really well but he had to make the stories “good so I wouldn’t get in trouble, because I was always getting in trouble”. As a young man he started training himself to “trim the fat” and “talk like I am listening”.
When asked what he means by that you quickly realize that his demeanor and understated ways are more than just natural, it is developed. It was developed as child and through the years while working in marketing for Anheuser-Busch. “My entire career is about not saying stuff”, Tone readily admits. He prides himself on his opinions and ability, but when pressed he seems more impressed with his own listening skills, and in a world of talkers, I would agree.
Tone talks about life being more of a chess game than checkers but that is easier said than done. What impressed me is his ability to put that into practice, to this point, it seems as if he has. Tone moved to LA after winning NBC’s Stand Up for diversity program, which he entered four times and came in second place the previous year. Prior winners include W. Kamau Bell, Ian Edwards and Eric Andre. This win was a big jumping off point for Tone, it included a development deal and a host of offers he has been more than willing to turn down.
However the path to comedy was not always clear to Tone, the idea was already growing but after a good run in the corporate world the reality TV show “Survivor” came calling and one of Tone’s big chess moves came, he said NO to “Survivor” and YES to comedy. Acting was always a goal, but, “no one makes it through reality TV” and he did not want to pave the way. Tone hit the comedy scene in the Dallas area and realized comedy was “it”. He would rather be hawking for three minutes of stage time than at a family engagement or at a friend’s birthday or chasing a girl. He wanted to be on stage and that was that.
Tone has said a few times, “I would rather die being me than someone else.” He is talking about being true to yourself; which is probably why Tone has such a deep belief in the power of “No”.
If Tone doesn’t believe it is right for him and the people he calls family, then without wavering he seems to say “No” as if it is simply another adapting chess move. “If they really want you they will come back and show you”, commercials, television, film, endorsements but “You don’t f*** every chick”, which is literally and figuratively true, for men and women. Tone lives by the principals that saying yes to everything that comes your way diminishes your value, so think three moves ahead and don’t get stuck on one path. He credits a lot of his understanding about the power of saying No to a conversation he had with Whitney Cummings where she broke down the “Hollywood mindset”.
Tone values and credits his Dallas comedy family Raj Sharma, and Mark Agee with keeping him not only grounded but keeping his comedy sharp and putting him in check from time to time. Something we all need, something Tone knows he is fortunate to have.
He talks about a video “Will’s Wisdom” as one of the most influential lessons of his life and when you see it, it is easy to see that Tone probably knew all these ideologies before, it just took Will Smith to verbalize them. And of all the people I have met in my life, rich or poor, famous or nobody, his definition of success is one of the best I have heard, “My success is defined by my ability to inspire people”. Something I am sure he has already begun to do, my best to Tone and in his pursuit, he is truly one of the unique varieties in Hollywood.