On Saturday, July 12 at the Strand Theatre in Shreveport, NFL star quarterback Michael Vick will host the Michael Vick Comedy Explosion. The event will feature nationally-recognized comedians such as Nephew Tommy (Steve Harvey Morning Show co-host), Robert Powell, Tony Roberts (HBO’s Def Comedy Jam), and many others.

Yes, that Michael Vick.

The Michael Vick who is better known for being a pro football player than a comedian or comedy show organizer.  The Michael Vick who is less known for doing jokes than he is for doing two years in prison as a convicted-felon dogfighter. The Michael Vick who is such a bane to some in Shreveport that they’ve organized an animal-rights-themed protest against him and the Michael Vick Comedy Explosion, on the day of the show. Yeah, that guy. He’s doing a comedy show. In Shreveport.

Earlier this week, Shreveport News had the opportunity to speak with Michael Vick about comedy, the show, and the obvious “other” things. Yep, that Michael Vick.

We found that spending a few minutes talking with Vick left us even more puzzled than after first hearing he was doing a comedy event, but not about why he is putting on the event event or why Shreveport, of all places, was chosen as the destination.

His passion for the Michael Vick Comedy Explosion can be felt with every visionary word as he tells of why he’s doing this, and he leaves little confusion as to why Shreveport was chosen and why comedy. He speaks with the cadence of a man with a dream, not as some NFL player just trying put his name on something for profit’s sake. It’s clear that being one of the leaders for an event like this is a thrill for him.

“This is something I thought I’d never get to do,” Vick says, as he explains how the event came about and his love for comedy.  ” I’d probably be sitting in my living room watching a comedy show on TV.  Why not see it live? I thought this would be an awesome opportunity.”

Apart from Vick as the celebrity host, even the city chosen seems like a mismatch for such a comedy show.  Shreveport isn’t considered to be high on the list of places comedians go when on tour; but it is evident from Vick that this was no careless whim. This was not a mismatch but a thoughtful move based on his experiences in his own hometown of Newport News, VA.

“Two years ago (comedian) Kevin Hart came to Hampton, VA,” he recalls. Hampton is near Newport News and a town of only 137,000, a much smaller area than most of the cities Hart toured.  “Who would’ve ever thought that Kevin Hart would come to Hampton?  It was crazy! Everybody came out and had a great time.  It’s talked about still to this day.”  Shreveport was chosen because, like Hampton and Newport News, it’s off the beaten path of places comedians frequent. As Vick puts it, he and his team wanted to choose “somewhere we could give the people in that city a special treat, and we felt Louisiana would be great for it.”

“That’s the cool part about (choosing Shreveport),” Vick says.

Some in Shreveport don’t think it’s so cool, though, that Michael Vick, the convicted dogfighting felon, is coming to town. Many of those people are even calling for him to leave and the event to be shut down.

“It doesn’t happen too often,” Vick says of a protest organized for the event, admitting that it was surprising to hear of the protest.

“That’s part of it, though,” Vick continues, speaking of the process of atonement for his past and how he’s now perceived by some. “I want people to know that I’m not the person that they think I am.  It’s surprising, but at the same time you understand… how people feel about certain things.”

Wait, was that empathy for his detractors? From Michael Vick? That Michael Vick?

He could’ve talked of violent crimes other NFL players have served or are serving time for and how fans have appeared to overlook their transgressions after the fact. Former-NFL player Donte Stallworth, for example, spent only 24 days in prison for killing a pedestrian while driving drunk. He was suspended for only one season during the height of his NFL career, compared to Vick’s two for dogfighting.  And to this day, there is little outcry that Stallworth is still allowed to drive a car.  Vick makes no mention of incidents like these.

Vick spent 23 months in a federal prison for dogfighting, which was at the time one of the stiffest penalties handed out for that crime.  After prison and his required service to the animal rights community, he’s quietly gone about his life even promoting or giving to animal rights and other charities long after he was obligated.  Meanwhile, his enemies have ridiculed him and even issued death threats before his public appearances.  And although the questions we asked him gave him excellent opportunities to mention incidents like these and support a theory that he’s the victim of unfair treatment, he brushes it off as “part of the process.”

This Michael Vick is a different Michael Vick.

We asked him about the current situation with Cleveland WR Josh Gordon and the comments former-LSU player Tyrann Mathieu made on Twitter related to Gordon’s latest troubles.  Vick was careful not to judge either, but stressed that his advice for both players would be to “remember how important their dream was for them when they were younger.”  He reflected on something NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell once told him, “Playing in the NFL is a privilege, not a right.”   As he spoke, it felt as if he was talking face-to-face with a younger version of Michael Vick, the old Michael Vick.  “You can have it taken away from you just like that.  You work so hard… Don’t ever take it for granted.”

“Tyrann Mathieu showed it,” Vick continued, “that he had the maturity to come back.  And I think Josh Gordon will, too.  Some times you just gotta pay the price and then, you know… You never know what you had until it’s taken away.”

Michael Vick is coming to Shreveport to do a comedy show.  No, not that Michael Vick.  This Michael Vick is a man who has turned over a new leaf. And while his interest in comedy and our city might be puzzling, it’s less of a mystery than why so many refuse to believe he’s a changed man.

For tickets to the show, click here or contact the Strand Theatre box office at 318-226-8555.