Sat | Dec 16, 2017

Cold world for local comedians

Published:Monday | August 21, 2017 | 12:00 AMCurtis Campbell
Christopher 'Johnny' Daley in action.
Rohan Gunter
Christopher ‘Johnny’ Daley and the Jamaican King of Comedy, Oliver Samuels, share a moment backstage at the recent ‘Laugh Out Loud with Emanuella’ comedy show, held at the Lime Golf Academy on August 1.
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They have been part of Jamaica's entertainment industry for many years, having brought laughter to homes and at events both locally and internationally.

However, practitioners are of the opinion that their jobs are not taken seriously when compared to other forms of entertainment, leaving them feeling like the bastard child.

Comedians are known to play 'the fool' in their performances. However, many believe, based on their lack of appreciation locally by the powers that be, it would appear that they are literally taken for fools. Overseas-based Jamaican comedian Rohan Gunter says the people ought not to be blamed.

"The people enjoy the shows and they appreciate the art form, but there is no prestige for comedians in Jamaica. In the US, Steve Harvey is a superstar, but in Jamaica, they tend to see comedians as a man who give some jokes like some form of gimmick," he said.

The former Comedy Buss winner also noted that the lack of support from sponsors has forced comedians to rely on themselves for longevity, and gave credit to those acts who have been able to use social media as a means of developing their brands.

"Shows like Magnum Kings and Queens of Dancehall, Rising Stars and Dancin' Dynamite have been going on for years, yet they (sponsors) allowed Comedy Buss to disappear after two seasons, even though the audience loved it. That shows that sponsors don't see the value in comedy. Sure, they made Iceman, Pretty Boy Floyd and some other people ambassadors for a corporate company... but where is the consistency? That is why comedians have to find their own way to showcase their work independently and then sponsors will come on board," he said.

 

GETTING SPONSORS

 

Gunter also revealed that prior to migrating to the US, he had tried his hands hosting regular parties and comedy events. However, it was always an easier task at getting sponsors for his parties than comedy events.

"I even tried a comedy school tour and despite the fact that school tours are popular things and it was rooted in education, all my proposals went unanswered. I also believe Jamaica has a huge pool of comedians who are undiscovered due to the lack of avenues for exposure. I think the hotels need to get on board instead on focusing on the same type of entertainment," he said.

Comedian Christopher 'Johnny' Daley says he has all but given up on the Government or sponsors to help the comedy sector. He, too, believes Jamaicans are in support of comedy, but cites a lack of interest by capitalists.

"If you invest in comedians, more people will hear us and they will come out to see us. A shift has to happen and we have to be conscious of the times we are living in. As comedians and as sponsors, we can't be expecting to do the same thing and get different results. That is why I entered an international comedy competition and now I have opened markets in Finland, Malaysia and Indonesia," he said.

Daley, who started Comedy Buss with partner Coleen Lewis, also revealed that the show did not fail due to poor ratings. He hinted that the production partners were unwilling to deliver their side of the deal based on the true value of the Comedy Buss brand.

"We were given an offer that we felt was unfair, based on the fact that we had a winning product. Even recently, I was contacted about Comedy Buss and I am contemplating to sell the franchise," he said.

Daley, who currently hosts a movement called Comedy Bar, advises fellow comedians to think outside the box and find means to develop their brands independently, until the Government and or sponsors decide to join the party.

entertainment@gleanerjm.com