Former UM athlete attributes comedic success to Greek life, risk-taking

Former UM football player Alfred Langston “Finesse” Mitchell currently performs comedy and has showcased his work on Saturday Night Live. Photo Courtesy Alfred Mitchell
Former UM football player Alfred Langston “Finesse” Mitchell currently performs comedy and has showcased his work on Saturday Night Live. Photo Courtesy Alfred Mitchell

The University of Miami football program is prestigious, known for bringing in some of the nation’s best athletes, producing some of the most successful professionals and having a history that includes five national championship titles.

However, UM football players have sometimes forged other unexpected paths to success.

Alfred Langston “Finesse” Mitchell has gone from being a walk-on member of the football team in the 1990s to being an actor, author and stand-up comedian who is touring the world.

He has since racked up an incredible resume and has worked with some of the most well-known actors in the world, serving as an SNL cast member from 2003 to 2006 and performing on networks like Comedy Central, HBO and Showtime. He now lives in Los Angeles and stars in a TV One original movie called “Media” that will air on Feb. 25.

“Finesse Mitchell is not only a good friend but one of the nicest and most down-to-earth comics that tour the circuit,” said Michael Universal, a marketing manager for Levity Live Comedy Clubs. “Finesse has brought laughs to thousands of people all over the nation, and still continues to dominate the comedy scene after all these years.”

Mitchell’s “down-to-earth” nature and positive attitude are part of what audiences find so engaging.

“When I saw his show, it was fun and hilarious humor,” said Tywan Martin, an associate professor of kinesiology and sport sciences.

While Mitchell described the past 20 years as a “blessing,” he can point to one gig as the defining moment of his career: his performance on BET’s “ComicView,” filmed in his hometown of Atlanta.

Mitchell said it got him “hooked into the game,” and after that, he knew he wanted to pursue professional comedy. He started participating in open mics and comedy in Broward County while still working a regular job at a health insurance company.  After seeing how much of an impact his comedy made on audiences, Mitchell began to love the comedic arts and soon pursued a career on stage.

Well  before his SNL career, Mitchell was a high school football player looking to attend college at UM. He was drawn to the university for the stereotypical “Miami Vice” lifestyle and the Hurricanes football team, which was in its “Decade of Dominance.”

“I pictured myself hanging out with Crocket and Tubs on South Beach, sipping on mojitos and watching girls skate by on roller blades in bikinis,” Mitchell said.

He tried out for the UM football team in the summer after he graduated high school, making the list of six walk-on athletes. Mitchell began his college career studying engineering but found it was too time consuming, so he changed his major and graduated with a degree in communication.

In 1991, the Hurricanes won their fourth national championship, and Mitchell called the experience “humbling.”

Mitchell’s favorite UM memory is also one of his most embarrassing. It was his freshman year, and Mitchell was about to play in the iconic Orange Bowl for the first time. He was waiting in the tunnel, ready to charge the field with his teammates before things went awry.

“I was supposed to be in the back because I was a freshman, and a walk-on at that,” Mitchell said, who found himself near the front of the line with the stars of the team. “Well, when the smoke blasted us and we charged the field, I couldn’t see a damn thing and ran right into the band and cheerleaders in front of 85,000 people.”

Outside of football, he also was able to discover his comedic talent thanks to his peers. Mitchell credits his love of humor in part to fraternity life during his time at UM, where he was a brother of Kappa Alpha Psi.

“I learned who I was as person, businessman, and the future entertainer that I became shortly after,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell says that his fraternity brothers brought him more laughs than any other thing in his life, and it was the first time that he realized people thought he was funny enough to be a comedian.  Performing in step shows around campus made him comfortable with being on stage.

“The good and bad times we all went through during our college years as young black men on campus helped shape my point of view for later when I became a comedian,” Mitchell said.