In D.C. Dream Day, we ask our favorite people in the area to tell us how they would spend a perfect day in the District.
But Rawlings is, first and foremost, a stand-up comic. This past fall, he went to Charlotte to record his new special — set for a March 17 release on Netflix — which he considers a self-deprecating reflection on his life to date. Among the topics he tackles: fatherhood, relationships and the enduring grind of show business.
“Any work that I’ve done, whether it be film, television, anything, it’s only been my platform to encourage people to come see me do live performances,” says Rawlings, 53. “As much as people have seen me on TV and in the movies, I think for the most part, the real hardcore fans know me as a headliner comic for the last 26 years.”
Rawlings’s local ties are strong: He grew up in Alexandria, attended what was then known as T.C. Williams High School and spent part of his military service stationed at Bolling Air Force Base. Although the entertainer moved to New York in his 20s and is now based in Los Angeles, he regularly returns to D.C. for shows, including an annual slate of sets over Thanksgiving weekend.
On Rawlings’s ideal day in the D.C. area, he revisits his roots by packing his itinerary with comedy, go-go music and plenty of time for friends and family.
I’d wake up at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City — that’s my go-to place to stay, and that way I can dip into the mall and do a little shopping if I want. But the first thing I would do is take my 6-year-old son, Austen, to the International House of Pancakes in Alexandria to get his favorite pancakes and bacon. I’m simple, so I’d get the classic pancakes, mixed meat and scrambled eggs [with] cheese.
Next, we’d meet up with my family and just walk through Old Town Alexandria, close to the Torpedo Factory, just to reminisce about my childhood of hanging out in that area. After that, I’m an old head, so I need to put that nap time in there — the perfect day for me is getting the right amount of rest and meditation. Around lunchtime, I would burn a candle, listen to whatever music inspires me and just relax.
That would lead to my favorite place for seafood in the D.C. area, which is Quarterdeck in Arlington. I’d get an early dinner around 4 or 5, reconnect with some friends, possibly do a couple of shots of Casamigos, crack some crabs and get ready to go out.
Then we’d head to my favorite club in D.C., which is the DC Improv. I’d get onstage with Marshall Brandon, who has been my opening act for, like, the last 10 years. If you see me, you see him. He’s really making a name for himself now, and I love working with him because he brings fire on the stage and he forces me to always be at my best.
After the Improv, I would go to the Hamilton, since that would be a good place for me to wind down my night in D.C. I like to do family-style eating — my friends are like, “This is the only guy that goes and just orders half the menu and eats a bite of everything.” I just really like the experience of trying different things, and there’s nothing like breaking bread with some good people and comparing the things you like, the things you didn’t like, and just have that family vibe.
The Hamilton usually has a live band on the upper level, and I love the nostalgia of go-go music. So if I had a chance — and it’s past my prime for doing [this] — I might run up on Backyard Band for about an hour before it gets too hot and sweaty. And that would be my perfect day.