Caro Meets Comedy Interview

Gina Yashere: Live In The UK

By | Published on Thursday 3 October 2013


Gina Yashere probably doesn’t need much introduction, as you’ll no doubt have seen her performing stand up on the telly, appearing on shows like ‘Mock The Week’, and doing things like hosting the MOBO Awards.

You might not have seen her quite so much of late, though, because in recent years she’s been living in LA, and turning up on the likes of ‘Def Comedy Jam’ and ‘The Tonight Show’.

This October she’s back in the UK as part of her hectic global touring schedule, and, as she’s calling in at a number of different London venues, we sent over a few questions to find out a bit more about her life, career, and why she left for America.

CM: What can we expect from your upcoming show? Does it have a theme?
GY: The basic theme is a run-down of the last 24 months. The Olympics, the Jimmy Saville debacle and why I can no longer pee in a straight line.

CM: Do you enjoy coming back to the UK?
GY: I love coming back. It’s the equivalent of taking my bra off after a long day. I can let it all hang out, speak at my normal speed and cadence, and not have to be thinking stuff like ‘Gas, not petrol’.

CM: What made you decide to leave for the US?
GY: I’ve been in England all my life. It’s a small world now, so I wanted to carry on doing what I love doing with sunshine and palm trees as a backdrop. Plus there are a lot more opportunities in America for black comedians.

CM: What are the main day to day differences between living in America and living here? What do you like about it?
GY: In LA specifically, the standard of living is higher for less money. I rent a lovely apartment with spectacular views and a rooftop pool for the same money I would pay for a flat in Wood Green. I like the American attitude in that ambition is not sneered at. If you make it big, you don’t have to do this whole fake humility, “I just happened to be in the right place at the right time” crap. You are allowed to own your success.

CM: Not too many British comedians seem to do well in the US – why do you think you have been successful there?
GY: I don’t try to give them what they have already. I stay true to myself. I’m not surreal – my comedy kind of bashes you over the head, so there is no not getting it. And I’m just friggin good at what I do!

CM: We’ve seen you on TV a lot in the UK in past years, and it looks like you’ve been doing lots of TV stuff in the US too. How different is it from live performance? Which do you like better?
GY: Live is ALWAYS better, as there is absolutely no censorship. I don’t have to write my whole set out word for word so it can be pored over by lawyers before I can perform it. Live can be completely spontaneous. I can change direction at any point in the show if I feel like it, and time restrictions aren’t as rigid.

CM: You apparently began your working life as a lift technician. How did you end up doing stand up? Or was comedy the plan all along…?
GY: I wasn’t a technician – I was an engineer – That’s 2 separate qualifications… I fell into comedy while in-between jobs. It was never the plan. I thought I’d have the summer off, play around at this comedy thing as everyone always told me I was funny, then go back to work in the winter. I just never ended up going back.

CM: Who are your favourite comedy acts? Have they influenced the way you perform?
GY: I didn’t really watch comedians like that. I was never really interested in it till I started doing it so I don’t have any comedic influences, which I think is a good thing. I’m Gina. I don’t want to be a watered down version of someone else. Tho, having said that, I did LOVE Russ Abbot and Kenny Everett as a kid.

CM: David Mitchell has recently defended the comedy panel show against Charlie Higson’s criticism that, because they are cheap, they are increasingly taking up space that could occupied by new sketch shows. As someone who has appeared regularly on both, what’s your opinion? Are panel shows less worthy of airtime?
GY: I don’t think they are less worthy, as they rotate talent and give more comedians a chance to appear on TV as opposed to the sketch show with the same cast every week. There is a place for both. What we should all be screaming about is the sheer volume of shit reality shows like that Essex drivel that makes stars of people who have no discernible talent or skills. They’ve turned the act of being a celebrity into a vocation, instead of being celebrated for actually being good at something.

‘Gina Yashere: Live!’ tours throughout this month; her London gigs take place at Arts Depot in North Finchley on 4 Oct, Jackson’s Lane on 16 and 17 Oct, The Albany on 26 Oct, and Croydon’s Fairfield Halls on 31 Oct. For a full list of dates, see this page here.