Gina Yashere: British comic's back at Freight & Salvage
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British comic Gina Yashere, who's sold out London theatres, been a Daily Show correspondent, and had a fourth Netflix special broadcast in March, returns to our shores to perform her new comedy show at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage on Sunday, July 8. Also performing will be lesbian comic Karinda Dobbins, Shea Suga and producer Lisa Geduldig. During her travels, Yashere replied to a few emailed questions in advance of her show.
Cornelius Washington: When, and in what situation, did you discover the truth that you are hilarious?
Gina Yashere: In school, I was the archetypal class clown, so I realized that I was funny from a young age. I used it to distract my classmates and diffuse tense situations. All of my school reports read, "Clever, but disruptive."
Do you write your own material, or do you partner with a writer? If you do, who are they and how do you collaborate to create your material?
I write all my own material, as it's based on my life and my opinions, but I sometimes talk through my ideas with friends. Sometimes, comics give each other taglines, so often a comic has seen me and said, 'You could add this', and I've taken stuff on board, and I've also done that for other comics.
What and when was your big break?
My career has been a series of small breaks spread out over a long time. The biggest right now has got to be my Stand up Special on Netflix, as part of The Standups, Season 2. Netflix has simultaneously opened my audience up worldwide, and the joy of it not being on a network is that people can watch it whenever they want, so I'm seeing a continuous effect.
Your routines about your African family wanting a middle-class career for you are brilliant! How do they feel about your career now?
My mother wasn't happy about my choice to leave my job as an engineer and become a comedian, but I got on TV within six months of doing so, and more importantly, got her on TV, so all has been good ever since. She's super proud.
How do you identify, sexually?
As a human, but if you want the label; Lesbian.
What is your opinion of the NetFlix scandal?
If you're talking about Monique, then I think what she was saying was essentially correct, in that women, and especially Black women are undervalued in every facet of life, and in every work environment. We are paid less, and white dudes are often rewarded for an inferior product. She went about making her opinion heard in totally the wrong way, though. No regular person gives a fuck about a celebrity complaining that they're "only getting paid half a million dollars for an hour's work." Asking people, who mostly will never see that amount of money in their lifetime, to boycott Netflix in solidarity, was never going to work.
What is your opinion of the Roseanne Barr debacle?
She's a racist, and I have no sympathy for her whatsoever. I don't care about her apology. She is only apologetic because her wallet and the wallets of her co-stars have been affected. Her crying that she has lost everything makes me sick. She is still a multimillionaire. She hasn't lost her home and everything she owns from a natural disaster or been criminalized and had her children taken away from her for simply trying to escape oppression and enter through the U.S. She needs to crawl back into her cave.
Your observations of Prince Harry's wedding are spot-on! How do you think the wedding will affect international race relations?
It won't. Did a Black president help? Nope. In fact, I believe we got Trump because we had a Black president. It was the rebellion of the white voters, who thought their power was diminishing, in the new ever-changing America.
How has your humor evolved in the past years of your career?
I've become more of a storyteller. I'm delving deeper into my stories, so the joke quotient is the same. But I stay on one story for longer periods of time, and mine it.
In the African-American entertainment world, there is a tradition that singers open for comedians (Patti LaBelle opened for Richard Pryor), and vice versa (Comedians Sinbad or Arsenio Hall would open for Luther Vandross). For whom would you like to open, and who would you love to have open for you?
In October, I'll perform with Whoopi Goldberg in London. I've always wanted to work with her, so I'm done!
What do you want people to know about the reality of what Africa is, versus the propaganda that they've been shown?
I was born and raised in London, England. I've been to Nigeria twice, South Africa once, Gambia twice, Ghana once, and Tunisia once. Africa has 54 countries.
What are your career goals?
To sell out theaters all over the world. That's it. I love live stand-up. Everything else is secondary. I enjoy doing TV, but for me, it is essentially a vehicle to get more people to see my stand-up.
What are your personal goals?
I want to be healthy and happy. I'm 70 percent there.
Gina Yashere (and Acquaintances) at Freight & Salvage, Sunday, July 8. $25-$30. 7pm. 2020 Addison St., Berkeley. www.thefreight.org