Breaking big: Lavell Crawford

Comedian talks about role in ‘Breaking Bad.’

There were a few moments on the great AMC show “Breaking Bad” that you probably didn’t realize were funny at the time, such as when a character named Ted Beneke tripped while trying to escape two thugs and accidentally broke his own neck. The funny part is how the two thugs, Huell and Kuby (played respectively by the stand-up comedians Lavell Crawford and Bill Burr) just stood there and dumbly watched the whole thing.

“(Huell and Kuby) were just fronting,” said the famously portly Crawford, performing at the Taft Theatre this weekend. “Huell was basically just a security guard, where it’s a prerequisite to be out of shape, with a huge belly and uncomfortable shoes.”

In retrospect, Huell and Kuby were like a very subtle version of Cheech and Chong. (Their employer, Saul Goodman, also the protagonist of the “Bad” offshoot, “Better Call Saul,” was also played by a comic, Bob Odenkir.) Yet Crawford never saw anything unusual in the casting of comedians in such a dark show.

“For comedians, most of our stories come from a dark place,” Crawford said. “There’s a reason why people are afraid of clowns.”

Many of Crawford’s “dark places” come from his childhood. His father was absent and he was often bullied for his weight. He made his major breakthrough on NBC’s competition series “Last Comic Standing,” Season 5, at the age of 39.

“I was unknown,” he said. “Working at Best Buy, getting fired, working for the city, chasing dreams, trying to get out of my mother’s house before she kicked me out.”

It’s a little-discussed fact that Crawford beat out Amy Schumer that season, finishing second to Schumer’s fourth. But Crawford doesn’t claim bragging rights.

“She’s very talented. She hung in there,” he said. “At the time, she hadn’t been doing it for very long. She was actually funnier offstage. I think she finally found a way to get rid of her nervousness so she could show people what she could do.”

Crawford’s comedy is mostly drawn from his personal life. These days, he jokes a great deal about fatherhood, both as a dad himself but also his 2010 reconciliation with his own father.

“I don’t hold any grudges,” he said. “Now that I’m a father and husband I can kinda relate. My wife and I have our moments. He could’ve stayed around and abused me, and I’d have less confidence than I do now. If you don’t want to be there, sometimes it’s better that you’re not.”

Another related, big change in Crawford’s life has been his dramatic weight loss.

“I have a 5-year-old, and I didn’t want to die,” he said. “It’s one thing to run off. It’s another to let yourself die when you could’ve done something about it.”

Thank you for reading the Journal-News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.

Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Journal-News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.

Contact this contributing writer at