First car bought
Owen bought his first car while in the Navy, in 1993. "I'll never forget it. I bought an '85 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme and it had whitewalls," he says. "We don't make a lot of money in the beginning in the military. I saved up $2500 bucks and the car was $2500 bucks.
"I thought I had to get back to Ohio to buy a car. When you first go into the military, your whole world is still revolved around your hometown," he says. So he flew home to buy it. Since Owen needed money to pay for things like insurance, the car dealer allowed him pay $2000 and send $500 the following month.
"I drive back to D.C. and my warranty was 1000 miles or 30 days and it broke down. I was like, 'Really?' So I called the guy and I said, 'I can't get the car back to you and I'm not going to make it within 30 days with the car.' I took it to a mechanic, he faxed over what was wrong with the car and the guy called me back and said, 'Don't worry about it, just get the car fixed.'"
Owen had the Oldsmobile for a few years and drove it to San Diego when he got transferred. "I was rolling in that car," he says. He later sold it for $700 and bought a brand-new 1996 Chevy S-10 pickup.
"The only reason I got the S-10 pickup is because when I had the Oldsmobile, it had such a big back seat and big front seat, so I would always drive when we would go out. I was sick of being the taxi. In my mind, I was like, 'I'm going to get a pickup, a two-seat pickup with a bed and no backseat, and that way I'm not going to get stuck with driving anymore.'
"The bad part about a pickup is now when guys move they call you," he says. "Now it's worse because when you're in the Navy, guys move a lot. So they're calling, 'Hey, can you help me out?'"
His big break
Owen started doing stand-up in the Navy, performing at Christmas parties and retirement parties on the base. "I was always funny, but in the back of my mind I wanted to be in stand-up, but I didn't know how to do it," he says.
His big break was on BET, after he auditioned to be on the show "ComicView" in 1997. He did some showcases that led to his own one-hour show. He was then asked to host ComicView, not only making him the only white guy to host that show, but also the only white on-air personality BET has ever had.
"Once I became the host, then it was -- I'm a full time stand-up now. I could go on the road and I didn't have to have another job," he says.
Even after that big break, Owen did not splurge on an expensive car. "I bought a used Ford Explorer," he says. "I took a class when I was in the military called 'Debt-Free Living' and I live my whole life like this."
The class taught him to only buy things he can afford. "Don't go charging stuff, so every car I bought, I bought. I've never had a car payment. I only get cars when I can afford them completely. I don't want car payments. It's a lot less stress with no car payment for my life. When I first got married, my wife did, and I had to break her from that cycle," he laughs. "Now she's like, 'I don't know why I never did what you did.' You just save until you can afford it. If you can't afford it, you can't afford it."
Favorite road trip
Owen's favorite road trip sounds like it should be part of his act. "The best road trip I ever took was from San Diego to Vegas. It was going for New Year's Eve in 1997," he recounts. "It was four dudes. We were young; we thought we were about to rip Vegas apart; none of us had ever been to Vegas, and we didn't do nothing!"
He calls that Las Vegas trip the "Hangover PG version." "We had no connections. We couldn't get into any parties. We just hung out at the casino lobby. We watched everybody party all weekend!" he says. "None of us met any girls. But the trip up there, the anticipation of it, we thought it was going down! It was going to be crazy!"
When they got up to Vegas, they didn't know what to do. "We were like, 'We're here!' That's when the record stops. We thought when you get there everybody invites you in -- 'Come here to the club and party with us!'" Owen hollers, as if from far away. "It wasn't like that at all. We just laughed on the way back. We had a good time, but when you look back on it, we were like, 'Everything we did in Vegas, we could have done in San Diego!'"
Owen is a headliner on the Shaquille O'Neal All-Star Comedy Jam, which has been touring the country since September. "We always tell people NBA or NFL guys will show up, so you're always going to see some professional athletes at the show, if we're in a city that has a professional team," Owen says. The tour will be in Indianapolis during the Super Bowl.
Owen was recently named "Black America's Favorite White Comedian" by Ebony magazine, and he appears in the upcoming movie "Think Like A Man," out March 9, based on Steve Harvey's best-selling book. "It's a romantic comedy. It's almost like a battle of the sexes," he describes.
He's one of the ensemble cast of stars that include fellow comic Kevin Hart, Jerry Ferrara (from "Entourage"), Gabrielle Union, Chris Brown, and Kelly Roland.
Owen just finished filming a one-hour special slated to air on Showtime this spring, followed by a DVD release. To find out where he'll be performing live, visit garyowen.com