The popular comedian is headed to The Birchmere
Donnell Rawlings first captured the attention of comedy lovers thanks to some of his hilarious sketches as Ashy Larry on “Chappelle’s Show” and quickly became a force both on and off the stage as a comedian, actor, and podcaster.
Born in Washington D.C. and growing up in Alexandria, Rawlings served in the U.S. Air Force, though it was always comedy that he wanted to do with his life. Upon leaving the Air Force, he set out to establish his career.
He had a memorable part in HBO’s “The Wire,” and playing Dez in Pixar’s hit film, “Soul.”
In 2022, Rawlings appeared in Adam McKay’s HBO series, “Winning Time: The Rise Of The Lakers Dynasty” and on Netflix’s “Snoop Dogg’s F*Cn Around Comedy Special” alongside Katt Williams, Mike Epps and Sommore. He also co-stars on STARZ’s “Black Mafia Family” opposite Russell Hornsby and Snoop Dogg.
Later this summer, Rawlings will film a new special for Netflix produced by Dave Chappelle himself.
“This is my third project with Netflix and I’m grateful for the opportunities,” Rawlings said.
But it’s not just on TV where the comedian shines. His live gigs are always in demand, and on July 2, Rawlings will be serving up laughs at The Birchmere.
“It’s almost going to be like a class reunion, because people know me well here in the D.C. area,” Rawlings said. “It’s going to be a good time. I don’t expect people to rush the stage—those days are over—but it’s going to be a night of great standup. What they should not expect is for me to be politically correct.”
Because of his friendship with Chappelle, Rawlings spent a lot of the pandemic at the comedian’s “summer camp,” socially distanced comedy shows that he put on during the last couple of years.
“We built an outdoor pavilion-style comedy space and tested every day, so we were able to live our lives as normal as possible,” Rawlings said. “I know a lot of comics that jammed up and didn’t have too many opportunities to perform, but we were still able to do about four shows a week thanks to this.”
When things started to ease up a bit with restrictions, Rawlings started doing some smaller standup dates in 2021, and he’s happy that full crowds are basically back.
“A lot of people had cabin fever; people were locked up for so long and couldn’t wait to have the opportunity to go out and see live entertainment again,” he said. “The audiences who have been attending the show, the response has been just overwhelming. It’s been exciting for me and exciting for them.”
When not out on the road, Rawlings stays busy with his aptly titled podcast, “The Donnell Rawlings Show,” which has achieved more than four million hits.
“You hear me raw, unedited and just some of my observations, and it’s something that I really enjoy doing,” he said.
That’s his attitude about his entire career. Rawlings was never the guy who had ambition to be an actor or comedian, he just sort of fell into it 27 years ago after an honorable discharge from the Air Force, and has never looked back.
“I wanted to be an architect, but I wasn’t good at math, so that didn’t work out,” he said. “I didn’t have a skill set so I joined the military at 17. It gave me some discipline and I traveled the world and I didn’t get into any trouble during that time.”
In addition to his career, the other important aspect of his life is being a dad to his 7-year-old son, Austen, and he tries to be a great role model and spend as much time with him as he can.
Rawlings is excited to be coming back to Northern Virginia to check out some of his favorite locales from his time living here and invited friends and fans to come to the show.
“If you are a fan of mine from any of my acting, they should come out and come laugh,” he said.