Five questions with Ian 'Ity' Ellis
Ian 'Ity' Ellis can come up with and deliver a joke at the snap of a finger engaging in snappy dialogue with Alton 'Fancy Cat' Hardware as half of the Ity & Fancy Cat duo. Becoming a Christian over two years ago has not stopped the flow of chuckles, while taking seriously doing his MBA degree at the UWI, Mona.
Ity does a spot-on Bob Marley impression, with many a former Jamaican prime minister and a certain Renato DeCordova Valentino Adams stored in his vocal cords, but he answers The Gleaner's Five Questions in his own pleasant tones.
How are your MBA studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona, going?
July 31 was when I finished. No more classes. We have completed all the modules and all the semesters. I am just waiting on the results now to be sure I have completed successfully. I have one final exam. Tuesday was my last evening of class. It is really Emancipation Day. The idea is I have completed all the studies, been successful in all the areas. No more assignments, no more group meetings.
I have a daughter doing a first degree and a brother doing a PhD. They got breaks. I got no breaks - we go straight through. It is every single week, every single month. (Of course, he was working at the same time, so Ity remembers having to hurry from the Beres Hammond Love and Harmony cruise to class).
How do you do a voice impersonation?
I look at the person first. It is etched in my mind. Like when I am doing Bob Marley, I close my eyes a lot, so I get into the character. All the impersonations have been on the fly. The first time I did Bob Marley, I was doing a show for Courts. They were playing One Love, and I went into it. That became my foundation for voice impersonation.
I have done Adams. I do Bounty Killer a lot, Edi Fitzroy. I have done Michael Manley, Eddie Seaga, Portia Simpson Miller. I have never done Bruce's voice, never done Andrew's. I have been able to do some better than others. In the Ity & Fancy Cat TV show, I have done Adams and look back at it and say, 'Wow!' I am looking to see who is next. I am thinking of pastors like T.D. Jakes.
Has becoming a Christian affected the number of shows that you do?
A weird thing is happening. I am doing a lot of my shows by myself. It started in church. I was hosting events and realised that no known comedian became a Christian in the space (although there are persons who were already Christians who have gone into comedy). It was a new thing. Now, I am doing a lot of appearances, a lot of corporate appearances, by myself. Corporate Jamaica likes when the act is clean. It doesn't hurt their brand. Ity & Fancy Cat is a family brand. There is some material I would not do, but most of the content, I can still perform. I am not a gospel comedian. I am a comedian who is a Christian. I will do some events that people might say, 'Whoa!'
Gospel comedians only perform in churches and give jokes that are biblically based and stay in the spiritual space. I give performances in the secular space, but I remain PG. I used to do the Craven A booth at Reggae Sumfest every year. The first year after I became a Christian, I said I could not do this one. The space was challenging for me. We were in a booth where there was smoking, the ladies were skimpily clad, from
9 p.m. to 4 a.m. Some people were drunk and cursing. I would have to be in the space because I was the host. I did a show for the JCDC, and Minister Grange said, 'I like the fact that you are a Christian and you still in comedy'. I felt really good to hear that.
Do you prefer hosting events or doing stand-up comedy?
I am more practised hosting an event. I have been hosting a lot of weddings, and I just do my comedy in between. When you are working as a comedian emcee, you are expected to give jokes.
If you could write the biography of one living Jamaican entertainer, who would it be and why?
Why Buju Banton jumps into my mind? I am one of those Jamaicans who grew up when Buju became a big hit. His career has a trajectory - from dancehall to Rastafari, down to him being charged, to incarceration and the expectations of his release. I think I would like to do the book on Mr Mark Myrie.