Benny Blue: Out of the Blue, Into the Dark

Muskegon-native, now L.A. based comedian Benny Blue – will make a West Michigan homecoming later this month, when he records his first-ever live comedy album at the Frauenthal Center.

Titled “Live From My Mother’s Funeral,” the darkly-comic special chronicles Blue’s time growing up in Muskegon. Part stand up, part one-man show, it focuses on his relationship with his mother, who had multiple sclerosis throughout her life, and ultimately died from bone cancer in 2021. 

Presented like a eulogy, it touches on how his mother’s disability and personality affected his unique worldview, and how he developed his very harsh, yet very hilarious, sense of humor.

“This whole thing is really based on true stories, slightly embellished for comedic flair, but true nonetheless,” Blue said. “Different moments where we had some interesting times, both when I was growing up and in the weeks and months before she died. Just illustrating her personality and how that affected who I am.”

Blue, whose real name is Ben Rhinesmith, was the sort of kid who left home at an early age to chase his dreams in L.A., and he said that the distance he’s had from family and West Michigan ever since impacts his comedy, and comes out in the show as well. 

“It really takes you through this whole winding road about not only growing up, but how that’s shaped the decisions that I’ve made being out here (in L.A.), and all the way through getting into comedy, leading to some silly stories that actually happened on the day that she died, and at the funeral. It really gives you that whole chronology of our relationship together.”

Although he always knew he was funny, and a natural performer, Blue said that he never had any grand aspirations about becoming a comic.

He actually started out playing music, first playing in band in school, then playing bass in his own band, before ultimately getting a degree in music production, with hopes of becoming the “guy behind the guy.” Primarily working in hip hop during his time in the music industry, he sought out and cultivated talent, while always putting himself on the backburner.

“By the time I got to L.A, I was a manager, and I was doing A&R work, and I finished my music career, so to say, as a publicist,” Blue said. “Then eventually I just got sick of dealing with other people’s talent, and I was like, ‘Well, if I’m not really enjoying the music industry, I might as well push my chips in and see what I can do just putting myself out there.

Getting into standup at 27, Blue has been doing comedy now for seven or eight years, including what he calls the “COVID recess,” when nobody was doing shows. 

Meanwhile his stage name goes back to his early days living in L.A., when he and his friends ran around town like the Rat Pack, wearing suits, and going by the nickname “Benny Blue Eyes.”

“When I started standup, it was maybe a little bit more marquee friendly, but also, I think just suited how I present myself and how I deliver my comedy,” Blue said. “There’s a level of showmanship, but there’s also a level of kind of like dry wit and sarcasm. And I think that is a good way of presenting myself, and also kind of allowing me to be that person onstage, as opposed to being Ben off stage. And that’s what I also think is interesting about this approach to an album is I’m performing as Benny Blue, but you’re getting Ben’s life. Like most of this has absolutely nothing to do with the Benny Blue side of me. So it’s all those worlds colliding, and there’s going to be a level of vulnerability that I think is a little bit different from most comics who are just trying to build a fan base, and do jokes about Spirit Airlines and dating apps.”

He added had he not grown up in Muskegon he would be a fundamentally different comedian, as the blue collar background and divorced homes of lots of his friends made it an environment where “you had to have a little bit of leather on your skin.”

“Muskegon is also a central character in the story as well,” Blue said. “Like the neighborhood I grew up in and how I grew up and how people look at things that people like me do. It’s not always the most conventional thing for folks in West Michigan.”

The recording of his comedy album will be a completely local affair, with his high school friend directing, and all West Michigan locals working on the crew and production. 

On the cusp of what he considers becoming a real professional comedian, Blue wants to use the special as a springboard to the next level. And even if Netflix or HBO don’t come calling right away, he plans to give himself time to decide on just how to license and distribute it, with plans to release it publically on his late mother’s birthday next September.

“I think she would get a kick out of it,” Blue said when asked what his mother would think of the special. “I think there would be some parts that would make her laugh. I think there would be some parts that would hopefully make her view things about her relationship from a different perspective. I think there may be some things that would surprise her, and maybe shock her about why I did certain things the way I did them, and how I viewed our dynamic together.”

Benny Blue: Live From My Mother’s Funeral Standup Comedy Album Recording

Beardsley Theater at Frauenthal Center, 425 W. Western Ave. Suite 200, Muskegon
Dec. 16, 7 p.m., $20
(231) 727-8001,,