Rickey Smiley is laughing at his own jokes. Because, he says, life is funny.

The seemingly innocuous events of his life, and the way he delivers each tale, weaves a comedy routine that is both relatable and humorous to any audience.

And he has a lot to say. Over the past 27 years, Smiley's career has taken him from stand-up to television to film, radio and back again. He's learned a few truths along the way. Writing a book, he said, was the logical next step.

"After this long in the biz, you start to do comedy about your real-life experiences: your frustrations, the things that make you happy and the things that make you sad," he said. "I stopped just writing jokes and spent a little time with my life. That's what this book is about, those experiences and what I learned from them."

Smiley explores what he has learned in hopes of inspiring others in his book, "Stand By Your Truth and Then Run For Your Life!" His memories are sweet and descriptive with subtle advice that often delivers "ah-ha" moments. His writing is humble as he encourages everyone to live by example and see the humor in everyday events.

And, as a true Southern boy, he has a few things to say about etiquette.

"Growing up in the South and raised by grandparents and great-grandparents, I was taught to be no-nonsense," he said. "I know to be respectful, to say 'yes ma'am' and 'please' and 'thank you.' It's a mix of common sense and common courtesy and that shows up in my writing."

It also shows in many of the original characters he performs, including "Mrs. Bernice Jenkins," "Lil' Daryl," "Joe Willie" and "Beauford" - all of which have been plucked straight out of his childhood.

"I couldn't make these people up," he said laughing. "These are all my grandmother's friends, all of the folks at the barber shop, at church. This is real life. This is my life."

Smiley has always been an open book. His top-rated docu-series, "Rickey Smiley For Real," is in its fifth season and explores his own balancing act as a working radio host, comedian, business mogul and philanthropist along with the joys and pains as a single father of four.

Off-camera, Smiley is dedicated to empowering and enriching the communities in which he serves daily. He is a champion to various causes through The Rickey Smiley Foundation, a nonprofit founded to help underserved communities.

Because, he said, giving back to a life that has been good to him is how Rickey Smiley stands by his truth. That's how his grandmother raised him.


Book: "Stand By Your Truth and Then Run For Your Life!"

When: 12:30 p.m. Feb. 17

Where: Trustees Theater, 216 E. Broughton St.

Info: savannahbookfestival.org