Sat | Aug 8, 2020

Long roads between laughs - Tony 'Paleface' Hendriks reflects on travelling to do stand-up comedy

Published:Friday | March 9, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Tony 'Paleface' Hendriks
Tony 'Paleface' Hendriks
Tony 'Paleface' Hendriks

Tony 'Paleface' Hendriks, who is currently concentrating on writing film scripts, left Jamaica in 2001 to explore stand-up comedy opportunities in England. The actor and comedian was well known in Jamaica, not only on the stage but also on screen with his free-to-air televised Paleface Point of View, commentary done hilarious style.

Having satisfied himself on that short look-see that there were opportunities to cash in on chuckles, Hendriks returned to Jamaica and then officially relocated. He made his mark, but it was literally a long road.

"While working in the clubs sometimes you would be on the road for a week, sometimes a one-night stand. Say if a show is in Manchester (northern England) and then Glasgow, it would not make any sense to come back to London and then head out again," Hendriks said.

He worked all over England, in Ireland, Scotland and Wales, racking up the miles as he was driving sometimes eight hours at a stretch. And this was apart from air travel time to the US, Canada, Jamaica and various Caribbean countries.

However, it was not such a long road to Hendriks cracking into the big laughter leagues in England as he cracked up audiences. He explained that unknown quantities are normally placed in the middle, so there would be a guaranteed strong opening and end. Paleface started out in that centre line-up spot, was quickly an opener and he tells The Gleaner, "within a few years I was closing shows".

Television provided him an unexpected initial toehold, but it was not Paleface Point of View which had Hendriks being sometimes recognised on the streets by English people who knew nothing of Jamaican TV.

"Channel 4 came to Jamaica and shot a show called Caribbean Uncovered. They went to Hedonism, they asked me to show them around Fern Gully and the carvings, and so on. When I came to England, there were people who saw it who recognised me in the streets," Hendriks said. That was not a door opener though, and Hendriks got a copy of Time Out magazine, looked up venues hosting stand-up comedy and pounded the pavement, knocking on doors - with a smile, of course.

"My unique selling point was being the white man who talk Jamaican," Hendriks said. "They still call me Jamaican Paleface."

In 2015, Hendriks moved to the USA and these days, visits Jamaica a lot, as he writes film scripts, a storytelling format he always wanted to get into but could not while travelling so much. Among the scripts he has written are Shoot the Girl (which won the Black Screenplays Matter Summer 2017 grand prize) and The Lightning Bird, which is slated for release in a few weeks.