Cook-up grows with ‘testicomedy’ - Praise and laughter staging attracts mixed audience
About midway through his performance at Tuesday’s Comedy Cook-Up, Owen ‘Blakka’ Ellis defined the fusion of Christian worship and laughter, which was playing out to a large audience at the National Indoor Sports Centre, Independence Park, Arthur Wint Drive, St Andrew.
“You have testimony and you have comedy. This is testicomedy,” he said.
Subtitled the 'Praise and Laughter Edition' for the first time in its 14 stagings, the Boxing Day Comedy Cook-up 2017 was a blend of stand-up comedy and high-energy gospel music, praise and worship style. It did not hurt that two of the principals in Ellis International, Blakka and Ian ‘Ity’ Ellis, have publicly accepted Christianity. Blakka attributed an increased turnout to the gospel component.
“You have seven, eight bishops who come out to laugh,” Ellis said, naming the Reverend Al Miller among those who were Christian leaders in the audience. With this first equally yoked staging of comedy and praise on this scale, Ellis pointed out that the secular audience will go where the gospel audience is, but not necessarily vice-versa. And the mixture of persons who ate up the cook-up - from hotties tottering on high heels and pulling down the hems of short dresses designed to ride up, to children in the arms of their parents - was visual testimony to the event’s across the board pull.
Ellis told The Gleaner that adjusting the event’s tone also made a difference in his family members who attended, as previously his grandchildren were kept away, but now they could come, even as he kept a sharp eye on the offspring of his offspring.
Although the trio of praise leaders - Kevin Heath co-ordinating the willing audience to follow his double with his double hand pumps, Rondell Positive who injected Buju Banton’s Destiny to excellent effect and closer Jermaine Edwards who mused musically on A Beautiful Day - performed at the end, there was an exchange of the spoken and sung word throughout the cook-up.
So in the early going, Marq Johnson’s songs ran into hilarious hosting duo Ity and Fancy Cat’s audience interaction (a measure of the event’s nature was the many men who sprung up promptly when they asked all the men loving one woman only to stand). And in the later stages, Leighton Smith’s measured timing of advice to the police to get a Coaster bus driver to guarantee quick response to emergency calls, as well as his encounter with an ultra-polite robber, came in between the praising and worshipping.
St Hope, reflected on experiences in the U.S., including those of the undocumented worker kind, where a painter was given Spanish Oak to paint the porch, but returned to say that he had done the job on a BMW as the employer was mistaken that it was a Porsche. Kathy ‘Tan Deh Deh’ Grant’s vocal pyrotechnics as she demonstrated the enthusiasm of Jamaican worshippers took the house down. Ventriloquist Willie Brown’s vocal technique was of another kind, as he spoke through and to his doll partners - Uncle Rufus and Woody.
Ellis - who had explained comedic partner Winston ‘Bello’ Bell’s absence due to illness - told The Gleaner, that it was the largest ever turnout for a Comedy Cook-up, which previously had been held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel.
He also told The Gleaner, that the plan is for Comedy Cook-up to maintain its praise and laughter direction. Although some marketing was done through the churches, it could have been more. “There is an audience that wants to go out,” Ellis said, but there are not enough events which cater to their tastes.
In addition, having done events from church barbecues to nightclubs, Ellis is also interested in the versatility of stand-up comedy.
“We are saying we can create a space where people can do their most way-out set,” Ellis said. “But then there is this space.”
Then he clarifies. “But there is this bigger space.”