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Interview with international comedian Gina Yashere

Gine Yashere’s career has transformed from lift engineer to a nationally successful comedian with her own kind of comedy.

She describes her experience as a light engineer as “very rash and impulsive”. Gina left the work in summer of 1996 when the company were making people redundant. But she confesses that she has never looked back back.

Always complimented for her comedic personality, she decided to give comedy a go. Though first offered £5 for her stand-up performances, this gradually increased as she continued to have people in stitches with her wit and one liners.

The plan was to continue doing comedy shows till the journey “dried up” but it never did.  Fast forward to the current day and she is a multi-award winning comedian with gigs in Dubai, Australia, South Africa and Hong Kong under her belt.

According to Gina, a great performance comes down to two things, likeability and relatability: “You could have the best jokes in the world, but if the audience don’t like you they won’t laugh at you,” she says. “It’s about having good material, good writing and good performance.”

“The audience can smell fear, you must have a high level of confidence or the audience will be like sharks to blood. They will eat you alive.”

Nobody wants to be booed off the stage but to Gina, an audience’s disinterest in the performance is a bigger issue than no feedback at all: “For the crowd to just sit there and stare at you or perhaps start conversations themselves, that is not good.”

Could you imagine forgetting a joke, that would be my biggest worry as a comedian. Gina handles the occurrence of mind blocks by ‘blabbing’: “That’s the fun part, it’s not reciting someone’s script. If I forget I’ll adlib it or move on to the next topic,” she explains.

Dealing with mind blocks for Gina is simple really, she will keep talking until she can remember the punch line and if she can’t she will just move on. What keeps her going is her passion and love for what she does. Criticism does not knock her down because she believes in her capabilities: “I am competitive. I wanna do it till I’m the best and till I’m the best I’m not stopping.”

“I don’t want to dilute my brand. I try to keep my brand separate from everyone else.”

Gina had never actually watched comedy before she had started doing shows, she confessed she doesn’t “know anything about comedy”. She worries about the risk of anyone else’s style creeping into her comedy and that she could begin to copy or simulate some of their performances.

One of Gina’s biggest influences is Katt Williams: “I was on tour with him for a few months and I would definitely pay to see him and Dave Chappelle.”

“I used to be an engineer so I’m used to those sort of challenges. I carry on doing what I am doing and don’t let those challenges step in the way, ” she said.

Just like her previous career, the comedy industry is male dominated. Gina has noticed that this leads to males simply booking other males, but she simply says “that’s just how it is”.

Gina’s always makes sure to perform with jewellery on, confessing that she “could not go on stage without any”.

The jewels she wears on tour seemingly make her feel invincible as she says that when touring in Manchester she had left her jewellery at home but she borrowed whatever she could from other people on the set: “I would feel so naked without it.”

With previous film credits including Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Mr In Between she is open to filming opportunities: “I’m never one to turn down opportunities. I enjoy the acting stuff and wouldn’t say no to it.”

Despite the fact Arnez J, Kevin Hart and Bruce Bruce all starred on ‘Def Comedy Jam’ too, Gina holds the title of being the only British comic to star on the comedic show.

“Going to the States to perform is one of my biggest achievements,” she says.

Being on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien and having sold her Skinny Bitch DVD to the American channel Showtime rank highly as her greatest achievements too. “I am breaking my own barriers.”

Gina’s adds that alongside comedy and being draped in jewellery her biggest weakness is her sweet tooth: “I am a big sugar junkie, but for health reasons I have to cut it out.”

Gina plans to continue what she is doing: “There is nobody out there like me and if there is they are copying me.”

Gina is currently on a UK tour.

Gina Yashere - Credits: David Burgoyne