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Mom was inspiration for Donnell Rawlings' humor

Donnell Rawlings began his career in comedy clubs. As a heckler.

"People started showing up for the show just to see me heckle," Rawlings says. "The owner asked me to go onstage to silence me. It backfired for him, but it worked for me. Once I went onstage, I didn't see myself as ever doing anything else."

He says the comics he heckled didn't take offense.

"A lot of them became my closest friends," he says.

Don't heckle him when he performs at the Pittsburgh Improv this weekend, though.

Born in Washington, D.C., Rawlings probably is best known for playing the bizarre, half-naked, lotion-toting Ashy Larry on the popular, but short-lived "Chappelle's Show" on Comedy Central. He titled his 2010 DVD "From Ashy to Classy."

He cites his mother, Joyce Rawlings, as his chief comedic influence. No matter how bad things got, he says, she found a way to make him laugh.

"My mom had a sense of humor even when things didn't go all that great in my life," he says.

Things seem to be going well now. Rawlings is developing a resume of film and television roles. He played Damien Price in the Baltimore crime drama "The Wire." He appears on "Guy Code" on MTV, where he dispenses advice such as how to talk to cops. He's also climbing aboard "Hip Hop Squares," a urban-centric reboot of the traditional "Hollywood Squares" game show set to premiere in May on MTV2.

Additional Information:

Donnell Rawlings

When: 8 p.m. today; 8 and 10 p.m. Friday; 7 and 9 p.m. Saturday; 7 p.m. Sunday

Admission: $20

Where: Pittsburgh Improv, Waterfront

Details: 412-462-5233 or www.improv.com

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