The Harlem Globetrotters, America's original court jesters, will bring their slam dunks, trick shots, pitiful Washington Generals and time-tested sight gags to the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa next Thursday.
The organization has been going through a renaissance lately, selling out arenas despite the tough economy, selling what Sports Illustrated called "the sports equivalent of comfort food."
Two of its new breakout stars, Herbert "Flight Time" Lang and Nate "Big Easy" Lofton, who made a lot of fans during The Amazing Race last season, will be at Disney that day instead of the Tampa show, a team spokesman said. But the team itself is entering a second record-breaking year of ticket sales thanks to a renewed focus on the jokes and performances, even holding improv classes for the players once a year.
We recently caught up by telephone with five-year veteran Herb "Moo Moo" Evans, 27, a college basketball star at Troy University who earned his nickname for drinking up all the milk in his grandmother's house.
What is your week like?
This week we played in New York City and visited schools, and we do promotions, but then we play almost every day. It's up to the coach's discretion. He might tell me 'You look like you are tired,' and let you sit one out. But you just do what you have to do. We play 200 games a year.
Do you have any signature move or trick?
I do one move where I spin the ball on one finger and I go around behind my back and then put it back on that finger. I was doing that when I was 12. But a lot of our moves, we make it look easy, but it's hard. It is not as easy to learn those, but it's fun once you get that.
What athletes or performers do you admire?
We watch everybody. We watch a lot of Martin Lawrence and Jamie Foxx, and the other guys don't like it so much but I watch a lot of Friends and Comedy Central. Some of the comedy guys, you see how they control a crowd. For me it's more how can you control a crowd so I learn from them.
Were you ever in school plays as a kid?
I was never in plays, I was kind of a jokester. It fits me to come play basketball each and every day. The joking and performing, everybody kind of grows into it, when they see how much fun it is. I look to Richard Pryor for my inspiration.
Have you seen the president play hoops?
He's pretty good for a man of his age, to be such a busy guy and he can still go out and play. I'm hoping they get that White House basketball court built so we can come play him.
Do you have joke writers?
Not really, but we do have improv training every year. He kind of tells us how to think quickly on our feet and we spend a couple days playing off each other. It is one of the most hilarious two or three days in the training camp.
The old globetrotters made it to Gilligan's Island and solved crimes with Scooby Doo. Will we be seeing you guys someplace ridiculous, like Jersey Shore or the Playboy mansion?
We gotta get in on the right kind of shows, so I think we'd be more like something on Cartoon Network than Jersey Shore, and we are talking to them about that.