Night & Day — Local comedian Ernie Bivins knew from an early age that he wanted to find a way to follow in his father’s giving footsteps and do things to help the community.
Bivins, who was born and raised in Niagara Falls, has gone through hard times before. Having served some time for bad decisions in the past, Bivins learned that he had too much potential to do good to end up back where he was.
“I’ve been told I was funny all my life and I wanted to do something different,” he said. “I knew I had no business doing what I had been doing. I blame myself, I’m my worst critic, but its part of my driving force for doing good.”
The Ernie Bivins of today has proved that he has made a complete turnaround. Since he began to pursue a serious comedy career back in 2009, he has gained a fan base, regularly performs in the area and has even recently shared the stage with comedian Mike Epps at the Seneca Niagara Casino earlier this month.
Also known by his stage name, “Black Ernie,” Bivins says he obtains his comedic inspiration from other comedians like Richard Prior but mostly he draws it from “real” everyday life. He has a show coming up Saturday night at the Icehouse, 512 Third St., Niagara Falls.
“There’s stuff you would say with your friends but not in public — I just say it.” Bivins explained. “One of my slogans is ‘I don’t tell jokes, I tell the truth.’ “
Once his comedy career was off the ground, he turned his attention toward giving back. In the past few years, “Black Ernie” has worked to raise awareness of issues like cancer, cerebral palsy and bullying.
Most recently, Bivins was joined by Epps at the Doris Jones Family Resource Center to talk to local kids about why bullying is wrong. Bivins says he was inspired by his father, who was always involved with bringing positivity into the community.
“I always said I wanted to do something like that,” he said. “God has a way of working things out and it worked out. I want to help people with my comedy.”
The next thing on Bivins’ to-do list is to help spread awareness of domestic violence in the area. He is currently working toward getting rapper T.I. to come give a presentation on the subject.
Susan LaRose, the Niagara County Domestic Violence Coordinator, says that this sort of thing can be good for victims of such issues as domestic violence.
She noted that the problem has been a steady one in Niagara County for the past 15 years, but that domestic violence-related homicides have gone down from seven in 1994 to only 15 total ever since. However there are still 3,200 reports of domestic violence reports each year, and countless more instances that go unreported.
“The thing about domestic violence is that it’s a private matter,” LaRose said. “Once they see it out there they’ll realize it is being talked about and it’s not so taboo and it’s OK to talk about it.”
In a similar fashion to the Mike Epps anti-bullying event, Bivins hopes to have this event at the Doris Jones Family Resource center as well. He is aiming for sometime this summer.
Jennifer Parker, a PR consultant with the Niagara Falls Housing Authority says that in a world with so much noise and distractions, you have to try different ways of getting people’s attention. She believes that comedy is a good way to start.
“When comedians open their mouths they have a tendency to say things that people usually wouldn’t say in a one-on-one conversation,” Parker said. “It takes the edge off so people are able to relax and it gets their attention if they’re in the right mindset to listen.”
Bivins says that he plans on doing comedy and using it to help people forever. He also says he never plans on keeping his talents in Niagara Falls.
“I’ve lived here 39 years, I’m never moving,” he laughed. “If I do get rich (doing comedy) the only thing that will change is my wardrobe and my bank account. I’ll still be me. I’ll still be helping out.”
His next performance will be on Saturday at the Icehouse on Third Street.