I’m just a regular dude who wants to be great at what I do. If I focus on being great, that’s everything … . All the other things that fame and fortune provide would be a bonus.”
Andre McSween grew up with an affinity for performing. Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, McSween recalls as a kid he would stay out with his friends slamming each other with ‘yo mama’ jokes. McSween participated until the jokes came around to his momma. His love for his mother far outweighed wanting to listen to his friends banter about her being anything other than a certified saint.
Even growing up McSween showed a healthy respect for his mom by hiding from her what he loved the most, watching comedy. Young Andre would sneak downstairs to his older brother’s room in order to watch Andrew Dice Clay and “Three’s Company.” His mother, a devout Christian, would not have allowed him to watch, had she had known.
McSween’s mother also instilled in him a healthy respect for the arts through piano lessons. Andre would play classical standards by Bach, Beethoven and Handel for hours at her behest.
Shortly after High School, McSween enrolled and studied at the Actor’s Theater Studio located in Manhattan. He loved the intensity of acting, which helped him draw on previously untapped deep wells of emotion. His undeniable attraction to performing became a compulsion he continues to harbor.
In order to maintain a flexible schedule for auditions, McSween took up work as a Personal Trainer. But with his focus shifted toward his work as a trainer, McSween allowed his career to stall. “I started working at my job more than my career,” he says. “I didn’t realize I had stopped working towards my initial goal.” It was only after he was invited to attend a friend’s comedy show that McSween realized what he wanted out of his life.
“I noticed that she had a gig at least a couple times a week,” McSween says of his comedienne friend. “While an actor could go out for hundreds of auditions and not land one, I realized the opportunity to get on stage and in front of a crowd at least twice a week if I were to work as a comedian.”
Andre booked himself the following week at the Laugh Factory in Manhattan. “I was excited. This was my first show and I wanted to look fresh, so I bought a new outfit and sneakers. I was ready with my material. I couldn’t wait to get on stage … and finally when it happened … It was so painful, it was the longest five minutes of my life. I looked out into a sea of faces, and though it may have been fifteen to twenty people in the audience, I felt as though I was bombing at Carnegie Hall.”
The pain was intolerable. Andre raced off stage, hoping that the agony from his failure would subside. As he recovered backstage, Andre watched the rest of the acts intently. “I watched how the other comics handled the audience with an ease that won them over. I wanted to do the same. I decided I would make it a challenge to win over the audience every single time I got back to the stage.”
McSween got to work at becoming a better storyteller and comedian. He landed a second show at the old Laugh Factory on 8th Ave in the winter of 2006. After McSween’s set, Kyle Grooms, a comedian known for his work on the Dave Chappelle show, was back stage. Grooms told McSween he had a “good set.” McSween recalls this with a dismissive statement: “I’m sure he probably says this to everyone coming off stage … but it made an impact on me because I look up to him and admire his work.”
Moments like these remind McSween why he continues pursuing his dream. With a mantra that doesn’t allow him to change or slow down he has stated fervently that “There’s got to be a reason to keep going, when there’s every reason in the world to stop.”
“I will never miss a show. It can be raining cows and I’ll be at the show, talking about the cows. I would prefer to be on stage constantly.”
Most of McSween’s jokes have to do with his relationship with alcohol, his stint with drugs, and his family. Though he claims to be a momma’s boy, he’s equally proud of his father, a physician, and mirrors his father’s drive, channeling it into his performances. He has said the only thing that would keep him from the stage is the thought of speaking about his sex life in front of his mother, and is elated that she has yet to attend a show.
McSween’s strength of his love for his family is as endearing as the lighthearted way he banters about dabbling with ecstasy while on vacation, a story that leaves his audiences questioning the nature of dolphins and their relationship to humans.
McSween shares an open unfiltered conversation with his audience in every show. It is what he calls being “blue” in reference to the taboo of being his true self on stage. Even in a five minute set, one can get a glimpse into his life, which he conveys with the cool confidence of a seasoned performer. Other than performing in front of his mother, his only other fear has to do with the time he has been given to achieve the level of greatness he pursues.
In a profession that McSween admits is isolating and lonely, he compares his work as a comedian to combat. Even on the battlefield of shady promoters and unforgiving audiences, he advances and secures new ground.
In April of 2012, he returned to theater, performing off-off Broadway as a philandering boyfriend. McSween loved the challenge of playing the role, calling it “intense” and “violent”. Playing a villain, McSween basked in the audience’s disdain for his character, and the cacophony of booing from the audience every time he entered a scene. In the comedian’s world, it was practice at dying, every night.
Andre S. McSween has made it his mission to become a great comedian, actor and performer. “People remember those who are great,” he says. “I am competing at the highest level to achieve that.” The confidence he exudes leaves very little room for anyone to doubt this statement.