Comedy boosted by corporate support
Leighton Levy, Gleaner Writer
The Ity and Fancy Show entered its seventh season recently, continuing its long run of giving Jamaicans an opportunity to laugh at themselves in the face of some trying times for most. Comedy is one of the things Jamaicans do best, but for the most part, the genre lacked support, and as such, bordered on stagnation.
That has all changed in the past few years with the emergence of new comedians like Dutty Berry and Wally British, who continue to breathe new life into the genre, helping it to re-emerge and evolve. Behind much of that development has been the investment of telecommunications company LIME. The company's continued support of the genre has been hailed by those who have benefited from its investment.
"The support from LIME was the right thing at the right time," revealed Owen 'Blakka' Ellis, himself a celebrated comedian who manages the principals of the Ity and Fancy Cat show. "It gave a tremendous boost to the genre of comedy, both in terms of practical growth, support and general image and status. And I think it was a really courageous move on the part of Carlo Redwood, because the apparent view among big corporate sponsors was that comedians are not big enough to be 'brand ambassadors'."
Worthy of endorsement
Redwood, LIME's vice-president of marketing, sees the money spent as an investment in quality Jamaican entertainment. "From where we sit, we believe that our move prompted a long-deserved and renewed wave of recognition and formal validation/endorsement for the entertainment art form in Jamaica," he said. "LIME has continued our support of comedy through our continued association with our brand ambassadors Ity and Fancy Cat, Pretty Boy Floyd and Donald 'Iceman' Anderson. We continue to integrate them in our aggressive marketing and below-the-line activities. A year ago, when we started with them, we were the first brand to fully utilise comedians in a major way and I dare say were pioneers in this area."
The Ity and Fancy Cat show, he said, provides a common ground for most Jamaicans regardless of socio-economic status. For the company, the show also provides a wide cross-section for placement of its messages while driving brand affinity for its customers through a medium which patrons enjoy.
Ellis said the partnership was a very timely one that has helped him and his team propel the genre forward. "We were at the end of a sponsorship cycle with other sponsors for the TV show. They not only upped the value and gave us a new contract, they have also supported our attempts to keep comedy alive with a monthly show. Their support has allowed us to extend the life of the Ity and Fancy Cat show, keep our monthly comedy café event going, and that keeps working comedians active and paid, while creating opportunities for new stars to emerge. Dutty Berry, Kevin 2 Krazy and Wally British all had their live comedy debut at the LIME Comedy Café that is held monthly at the South Beach Café on Brompton Road in Kingston."
The support has also kept Ellis' annual Christmas Comedy Cook-up going.
The sentiment is shared by J.R. Watkis who manages Donald 'Iceman' Anderson, hailing the partnership between corporate and comedy as groundbreaking. "No one saw this combo of comedy and telecoms coming, and this magic has opened many more eyes and ears to what local comedians have to offer," he said. "More comedians are emerging to larger audiences. Comedy in Jamaica has a stronger machine exposing the genre locally, regionally and internationally, which works well for brand 'Iceman' and all his other professional endeavours."