Actor/comedian Sinbad is not the backward-looking type. His TV sitcom The Sinbad Show is history, but he isn't spending time dwelling on it.
"I didn't come to Hollywood to do TV," Sinbad said by phone this week in advance of his comedy concert Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall. "My style is real wild and out there, and, unless you're Robin Williams or someone like that, you don't get a chance to stretch out on television. But everything is a positive experience, no matter what the outcome. Being in television gave me a core audience and helped me make my alimony payments."
That isn't to say Sinbad's television career hasn't had its highlights. He first made a splash as host of It's Showtime at the Apollo and the highly successful Cosby spinoff Different World. That led to two HBO specials, Brain Damaged, and last year's Afros and Bellbottoms. When he first started his role as single foster-parent David Bryan on The Sinbad Show, he was glad for the chance to address an issue close to his heart. Black men on television, he says, usually do "nothing," for a living, he told the Ethnic Newswatch last year: "They don't have jobs. I'd rather not be on TV if I have to (portray) that."
Right now, with The Sinbad Show behind him, he has set his sights on on higher ground: movies, multimedia entertainment. If he does get back into television, it will be on the other side of the camera.
"I want to do my own shows, produce my own films," he said. "I also want to explore the new media technology, like CD-ROM. Every year takes me to a different place creatively."
The Michigan-born actor/comic is not a stranger to the area. One of his first gigs was playing Giggles comedy club in Tampa more than a decade ago. After he ran out of money, the club put him up for a year, from '83 to '84. He used to catch shows at Ruth Eckerd Hall and often try to talk his way into opening slots for entertainers like Nell Carter.
"I would come up to them and say, "Can I be the opening act?' and they'd would always say, "but I don't know you.' I'd think to myself "One day I'm going to come back and do a concert here myself.'
He did, eventually _ his most recent appearance was at Ruth Eckerd in 1989 _ but right now he's excited about the upcoming Disney movie House Guest, in which he plays a man who assumes another identity to escape from "some people I owe money to."
"It was a lucky accident that I got this script," he said. "I got it, and they let me do some re-writes on it, and, bam! it just hit."
Projects like that give him a chance to showcase his comic style more so than on television. His style is more narrative than punch line-oriented. Sinbad says he doesn't even know a joke.
"The only thing I have stylewise is just to be me," he said. "Like Cosby. He's a man who's just funny being himself."
AT A GLANCE
Sinbad at 7 p.m. Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Tickets are $24.50.