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February 2, 2006
Clean Sweep

Brooklyn comic Cortez Jackson scrubs his bad act

by Darren D'Addario
This isn't the first time Cortez Jackson has left heroin, homelessness and prison behind, but the 48-year-old stand-up comedian believes it will be the last. The Fort Greene native has spent a total of 15 years behind bars, including a sentence in Attica for armed robbery. It was there that Jackson was finally able to kick drugs and forge a new life.

"Five years ago, I'm sitting in a [holding] cell, worn out and waiting to be sent back to prison," he recalls. "I knew that if I could quit drugs in jail, it would be a piece of cake to stay off it once I got out on the streets again. That's what I did." In addition to years of sobriety, Jackson has been aided by Ready, Willing and Able, a Doe Fund program that helps former prisoners adjust to life on the outside. RWA got him a job as a street sweeper in the Bronx. "Sweeping a street was like a privilege to me, an honor," Jackson says. "I felt good to be out there. And it helped me achieve my plan."

That plan was to stay straight and get back into comedy, a field he'd dabbled in since the early '90s. Jackson has recently returned to stand-up full-time, and in a style influenced by Rodney Dangerfield and Redd Foxx, he talks frankly about his past -- which he's determined never to revisit.

"I've been trying to turn my life around for 20 years, you understand," he says. "I just got tired of f**ing up."

Cortez Jackson performs Sunday nights at Sugar Hill in Brooklyn. For more info, call 718-797-1727.

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