As her four JFL42 appearances inch nearer, I had hoped to share with you a sneak preview of what you might hear from Gina Yashere. But I have no idea what she’s going to do. And frankly, neither does she.
“I do a feel, based on the audience,” the British comic who has since made a home in New York shared. “Some of my best material comes from watching the audience, or [even] something I see on the way to the show.” The fast-paced, often evolving nature of her sets is one of the things that makes her most memorable and enjoyable. “Whether you know me or you’ve never heard of me, you’re going to enjoy it.”
Yashere broke onto the American comedy scene through NBC’s Last Comic Standing, and has since become familiar to many via truTV’s Comedy Knockout and as The Daily Show with Trevor Noah’s resident “Brexpert,” but she’s largely uninterested in bringing the show’s political bent to her stand up routine. When asked if she prefers to lean into, or away from, the presidential jokes that pepper lots of sets these days, she emphatically responded, “Away.” She elaborated, saying “we’re feeding him, he feeds on the attention.” By choosing instead to joke about other things, bringing the audience into the set along with her, she’s created a rare space where she doesn’t feel “bombarded by his stupidity”- and fans have vocally appreciated the break. “People say, ‘thank you for not talking about it. We want to escape him.’” But with a deep and varied bench of jokes, there’s plenty more to enjoy from her sets.
Watching Yashere, it’s clear that she is willing to pull inspiration from a multitude of places. Her latest special, Seeso’s Ticking Boxes, touches on topics like her youth and growing up with an African mother, her worldview, and her life as a comic constantly on the move. And true to form, she does include two front-row audience members in the fun, to tremendous comic effect. Traveling all over the country and garnering acclaim for her specials and TV appearances, Yashere has quickly learned that letting anything and everything inspire her is a surefire way to endear herself to audiences all over the world.
One place that surprised her, in terms of how well her comedy was received? Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. “Those shows tend to sell well to ex-pats, Brits and Americans who are over there,” she said, “but five years ago I sold out in K.L., with all Malaysians! And it was one of the best places.” She credits a growing and booming comedy scene in Asia with her success there. On her list of places to go that she hasn’t yet performed? Brazil- “for fun, or for work!” But in the meantime, she’s looking forward to sharing her unique brand of observational humor with the JFL42 audiences, and hopefully seeing other comic friends (she cited W. Kamau Bell as a colleague whose show she hopes to catch while there) at the prestigious festival.
Gina Yashere will be appearing at JFL42 September 26th-29th for four shows. Can’t make it to the festival? She returns to Canada often, and tours frequently throughout the U.S. Follow her progress on social media @ginayashere (on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram), and get tickets for a show near you on her website.