Gina Yashere has travelled the world with her comedy and now she is back in Britain with her new show Laugh Riot, which will be in Leeds’ City Varieties Music Hall on 26th March. She spoke to The Gryphon about her travels, being a female comedian and her future plans.
What can people expect from Laugh Riot?
A riot of laughter. It’s a stand up show of my life over the last couple of years. I went to Asia and was followed because they had never seen black people before, I was diagnosed with sleep apnoea and ended up in a brothel in Singapore. I’ve done three shows already and the feedback has been phenomenal. It is just a good night of fun.
Where did you travel in Asia?
Different countries like Malaysia, Singapore and China. China specifically was the funniest story because I was just followed down the street. I’ve travelled a lot and I’m used to being looked at, and I look odd. I have piercings and tattoos and look weird anyway, but in China they were so vocal about staring at you. It would be like in a movie where you walk into a tavern and everyone turns around to look at you. When they followed me I turned around and ran at them. It was hilarious.
As long as the audience speak very good English and have a sense of humour they will enjoy the show. When I tour over the world I mostly preform for ex-pats but I will cater to every crowd, so if I’m in China I’ll talk about what happened to me in China. I don’t think there is a huge difference.
A lot of people have a preconception that Americans have a very different humour to us, do you agree?
I’ve never had a problem with preforming to Americans but then maybe my comedy is not quintessential British, like dry and sarcastic, that’s not me. Maybe that style of comedy wouldn’t work in America.
How did you get into comedy?
I didn’t plan to get into comedy. I enjoyed my previous job but took the redundancy and some time off and the comedy thing came knocking and I just gave it a go. I have always followed my instincts. I am competitive so I want to be the best I can be and just keep going harder and harder.
You recently won “Best Female Comedian” at the Black Entertainment and Comedy Awards for a fourth year in a row, how does that feel?
I love doing what I do and the rewards confirm that I am doing the right thing, but I am not in it for that, but to perform and being paid to enjoy myself. I have moved so much that I am not really sure where the awards are.
Comedy is a male dominated profession, how do you find being a female comedian?
It is male dominated as there are fewer females, which means that when we’re good it gets noticed and when we’re shit it gets noticed. If you watch a bad male comedian it doesn’t make you never want to watch comedy again, but when a female is bad we all get tarnished with the same brush. I used to work on a building site, where there wasn’t even female toilets, so compared to that comedy isn’t bad.
Who are your favourite comedians?
I like Katt Williams and Chris Rock and other comedians that I have worked with, but I never watch other comedians.
I don’t have any favourite comedians. Some comedians that you see you can just tell who they love but with me I never watched comedy and even now I don’t. The human brain is a sponge and assimilates everything. When you’re watching me, you’re watching me and if you think it’s similar to someone else it’s probably because they’re copying.
As well as stand up, you’ve appeared on TV shows such as Mock the Week. What’s your favourite medium?
TV is great as a lot more people can see me in one hit but, for me, live stand up is my passion. There is no censorship. Just my brain, my mouth and you guys.
You’re often received well by critics, do you pay much attention to them?
I don’t care what critics say. Some love you and that’s great but some don’t. I don’t think there should be critics for comedy as it is subjective. One critic came to my show and gave it a bad review, while everyone else was pissing themselves. For me it’s all about the audience.
Which venue are you most looking forward to performing in?
O2 Academy in Brixton on the last day, it’s going to be big. Big inside as it holds over 2,000 people and also because I’ve seen some of my favourite music groups there. I get to play in a venue where I used to be a punter.
What other countries would you like to travel to?
Cuba and Brazil. Cuba before the Americans get there, as the embargo has been lifted. It has been in a time-warp since the fifties and I want to get there before the McDonalds and Starbucks do.
What immediate plans do you have after this tour finishes?
More touring. I’m in New York for a day and then I’m doing a two week tour in Canada. But I always take time out. At Christmas I went to Thailand and after I had finished touring in Borneo I stayed an extra ten days. I want to experience the places I visit and turn it into a holiday.
Photographs: David Burgoyne