Gina Yashere is a comic I’ve been watching for years. I caught her in Montreal to say hi and was so pleased that I had a chance to chat with her over the phone.
Gina has been a stand-up and TV star in the UK for several years now, with appearances on iconic TV shows such as Live At The Apollo & Mock The Week, as well as creating & performing popular comedic characters on The Lenny Henry Show. Gina has performed for audiences not just in Europe, the US & Australia, but she is in fact, a highly sought after comedian in Asia, making numerous sold-out appearances in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia & Hong Kong. It’s a wonder she found the time to pick up her 4th award in a row for “Best Comedian” at the recent Black Entertainment & Comedy Awards (UK).
Gina will be coming to Toronto to perform during JFL42 from September 26th to 29th. I recently spoke with her and got her views on comedy, UK vs US and dessert.
So how did Gina get into comedy? Well, she started out as an engineer. She used to build and repair elevators for a living. The building industry went through a slump in the early 90s and with the summer off, she decided to try this “stand-up comedy thing” that everyone said she should do. After a few open mics, Gina never went back to engineering. A new comedian was born.
When I first started watching Gina, she had a completely different style. I wanted to know what, if anything, prompted this change.
“I like to change my look every 5 years. I like trying new looks, new clothes, and different pieces. Since I’ve been a kid, I’ve been experimenting with my look. Nothing prompted me, it’s just like “Oh let me try this haircut” or “Oh I like these clothes” so I get into styles and wear them until I get bored.”
Having traveled many places and performed on stages all over the world, I wanted to know what she liked the most about Canada. Was it the poutine? Nope, it’s our culture. “The audience is more worldly, unlike American audiences who don’t travel that much. I like Canada because it’s the middle ground between the UK and the US so it has a more neutral view, more worldly view so I don’t have to explain so much.”
Gina left the UK to perform in the States and she never went back home. She has been killing it ever since. But what if you wanted to break out into the UK? Are there any tips or things you should know? Gina says “Just go! Fortune favors the bold. If you want to try something, try it. The worst you can do is fail and come back home. That’s how I ended up in America.”
But there has to be a difference in comedy between the UK and the US, right? “Not that much of a difference. People are people.” Gina says. “As long as they are facing the right direction and have a sense of humour, that’s it. The only real difference is that Americans tend not to travel as much outside of America so their views aren’t as worldly so I have to explain a little bit more. If I tell a joke about Malaysia, I have to explain where Malaysia is. So I have to do more explaining with American audiences. And I’m British and I’m Black so that needs a lot of explaining.”
Lots of comics have rituals, time slots or a special way on how they write their material. When it comes to Gina, “I think of an idea and I’ll put it as a note on my phone. Then, I’ll do it on stage and see if it works, I’ll try it again the next night and embellish it. And if it still works, then the next night I’ll embellish it more until it’s solid. I don’t have a process of sitting down and writing, I just basically do it.”
If you could describe your comedy as a dessert, what would it be?
A triple layer, chocolate cream banana, and peanut butter pie. You got your crunchy hard layer, you got your soft creamy interior, yeah. Basically 3 delicious different layers.
You can catch Gina September 26th to 29th. “People who come are gonna see me being funny.’ Says Gina “That’s what you’re gonna see and that’s why people come to JFL to see – to see comedians being funny.” Click here to buy your tickets and don’t miss out on this snappy, smart and very British comedian.