Darius Bowie gets big

BY NAT ALDER | JUNE 26, 2014 5:00 AM

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When Darius Bowie first started making videos in high school six years ago, performing comedy professionally wasn't a considered avenue. Sure, he wanted his own show like Dave Chappelle. But it's not like Bowie, born in Chicago and raised in Waterloo, initially expected his comedic side projects to take off. Yet, slowly but surely, they did. 

His videos, typically parodies of news events, commercials, or even viral hits themselves, gained approval from viewers in Iowa City and abroad. One video, a parody of a Sun Drop commercial (aptly titled "Sun Drop Commercial"), features Bowie, a sophomore at the time, dancing in various locations around Iowa City -- in front of the Old Capitol, on a table in the library, in Cheba Hut. The video has 14,200 hits and counting.

"What happened was I saw the Sun Drop commercial, and thought it was so funny," Bowie said. "I thought, 'How can I do this? How can I make this funny, what places can I go?'"

Two years later, one of the places he's going is Blue Moose, 211 Iowa. At 7 p.m. tomorrow, June 27, Bowie will host a concert featuring Chicago rapper Katie Got Bandz.  In addition to hosting, Bowie has been given a fifteen minute slot to perform standup. 

Iowa City is where Bowie began his standup work. Four years into his comedy career, Bowie approached Tom Garland about performing at the Yacht Club downtown. Bowie was given a five minute slot.

"My first set was a minute and 39 seconds," Bowie said. "I thought I was up there for five minutes. But I got off the stage early. It felt like forever." 

Regardless, an audience of 200 showed up, they laughed, and Bowie was invited to return. Two weeks later he did, and Bowie's second set was a full five minutes. Of the 200 there the first night, a hundred returned to see his act. 

Now two years after his first night in front of a crowd, Bowie's sets are considerably longer.

"I'm doing ten to twenty minute sets when I'm on the road," Bowie said. "The longest set I did was half an hour at a show in Cedar Rapids."

Bowie's mother, Lena Gaines, understood Darius's talent but did not expect him to use it professionally.

"He's always been funny," she said. "But I didn't know he wanted to pursue [comedy] until about four years ago."

Venturing into standup does not mean Bowie has abandoned his videos.

Big YouTube celebrities like Jenna Marbles or Ray William Johnson make a living off the video hosting site. As of 2014, both stars earn an annual salary upwards of $4 million. Johnson's channel has 2.6 billion total views (that's almost one view per every dollar made by James Cameron's Avatar), Marbles' channel has 13.4 million subscribers. It's Bowie's hope that if he persists with producing video content, he can become as big as either of those personalities. 

"You can start somewhere," he said. "You can start in Iowa City, doing Sun Drop videos, eventually you can get somewhere. That's what my hope is, to keep doing those videos, keep entertaining people, and hope that it gets to a point where it's big enough."

Part of his mission to getting "big enough" included opening for comedian Lunell, rappers MGK and Future, and performing in Florida during Spring Break.

Stand-up and sketches from those shows and others encompassing his two year journey as a comedian will be featured on his first comedy album, "The New Kid," being released July 13.  

"I want people to go through the experience," Bowie said. "It's been a fast two years, but I want people to see the growth of the standup itself. I'm going to have the sets of my first and second shows on there, and that way you can hear the bits and see how they've grown."

The album will be available for pre-sale on iTunes on July 6. 

As for after the album, there's a quite a bit on the 22 year old's plate. Bowie plans on moving to LA in December to become a full time actor and stand-up comedian. Between now and then, Bowie will perform in a few live shows and has a multitude of video sketches he will produce and upload.

The sketches are already written, but take time to make, as Bowie writes, directs, shoots and edits himself. 

Aaron Ecklund, a former film major, worked with Bowie on a short film during their time together at Iowa. Ecklund sees a drive in Bowie that can lead to many opportunities. 

"The amount of shows he's MC-ing, the hits he gets for his videos – you can tell he's done a really great job about getting word of mouth out there and establishing a persona," Ecklund said. "I really think the sky's the limit for him." 

While it may have hardly crossed his mind six years ago, comedy performance has now become an avenue that Bowie simply refuses to walk away from. 

"I love [performing comedy]," Bowie said. "Making people laugh, making people happy, I will never not want to do that."

What: Katie Got Bandz concert. MCed by Darius Bowie
Where: Blue Moose Tavern, 211 Iowa
When: 7 p.m. June 27
Admission: $15-17

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