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Comedian works, lives by motto ‘Handsome Lives Matter’

PENROSE – Yes, Black Lives Matter. But Byron Moore, aka Handsome the Comedian, has a slightly different slogan, Handsome Lives Matter.

Yes, he’s handsome, in italics and all capital letters, with his bushy beard and a clean-shaven head. Just ask him, and he’ll tell you he’s handsome. But there’s more to handsome than good looks.

The phrase emblazoned on sweatshirts he wears is not a political message for Moore, a Penrose resident, nor is it only a way to hype his on-stage career. He sees “handsome” not only as a way to describe how good looking he is, although it’s that too.

“Handsome is like a lifestyle,” Moore explained. It means being a gentleman.

People in the Black Lives Matter movement don’t object to the tweaked slogan, Moore said.  “They think it’s cool.”

The ever-brash comedian showed himself recently when he saw a reporter and cameraman interviewing 21st Ward Alderman John Collins-Muhammad on a sidewalk off West Florissant and Adelaide avenues. Seeing his opportunity, and wearing a “Handsome Lives Matter” sweatshirt, Moore pulled over and walked by the group.

“Muhammad for Mayor,” Moore said to the alderman, whom he knows personally. After everybody laughed, the alderman insisted he wasn’t running for the city’s top job.

The news guys talked some with Moore, and he revealed in a follow-up conversation that he has entertained this year around town.

As with many comedians, many of the jokes Moore tells are born of pain.

When he was about 1½, Moore was taken from his biological parents and sent to live with his second cousin at a house in the 5400 block of Goodfellow Boulevard.

“It was devastating on me,” he said. He lived there until he was an adult.

He attended Lafayette High School in West County under a desegregation program, even though it meant getting up at 5 a.m. every day and taking an hourlong bus ride to and from school.

He wrestled, and he would have played football if he hadn’t done something dumb: Because the coach wouldn’t put him in the first game, Moore stopped coming to practices. Later, he was told the coach had planned to play him in the second game, but by that time it was too late.

After high school, he got a 3.5 grade-point average on his way to receiving an associate’s degree at St. Louis Community College.

Moore seemed to be on his way to a good life.

But then he decided to try his hand as a small-time drug dealer. He thought he might become a drug king in St. Louis, but he wound up with only a king-size addiction. He was hooked on everything.

“I was born an addict,” Moore said.

But it wasn’t forever. Helped by a 12-step program, he got cleaned up on April 12, 2007.

Today, besides being a comedian, he’s a heavy equipment operator, an addiction therapist and has been a partner in a landscaping service. He also is a relationship counselor. And he watched over three children.

Byron Moore, aka Handsome the Comedian, performs at Shade Restaurant and Bar. Photo courtesy Byron Moore

He got his start in comedy from the comedian William Cleotis, aka Willie C. Cleotis told him that if Moore was serious, he would give him five minutes to open his show at the Shade Restaurant and Bar in Florissant.

Moore has also entertained at the Legacy Bar and Grill, 5249 Delmar Boulevard. He’s been at open mics on any stages he could find in this year of COVID-19. And years ago, Moore said, he entertained at the famous Cotton Club in Harlem.

All that comes from years of trial and error.

“I come from a family of jokesters,” he said.

When he was a boy, he was given a dollar bill attached to a string. Whenever somebody tried  to grab it, he would pull it away. Later, people said he did that about 100 times a day.

“I was in love with comedy,” Moore said. “I was class clown, kicked out of class.”

 It may seem tiresome, but for Moore, it was practice.

Moore is available on Instagram at Handsome the Comedian and on Facebook.

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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