Comedian Gina Yashere Talks Trump, Travel & Telling Stories

British comedienne Gina Yashere is at home in New York as the impending Hurricane Joaquin makes its way toward her. Fortunately, sheÕs only there temporarily. When she speaks with BTL, sheÕs recovering from jet lag after her stop in Hong Kong prior to continuing her tour outside of the city, hoping to dodge all bad weather. ÒLuckily I plan my foreign travel around winter, so I wonÕt be here for the whole thing,Ó she says, laughing.
Yashere is no stranger to Asia, where she√ïs acquired a diverse following. √íIt (the reception) is great over there,√ì she says. √íI√ïve been over there at least five times. I√ïve developed a little bit of a following. The crowd is usually a mixture of ex-pats — Australians, Brits, Canadians, Americans — and locals.√ì
Culture differences donÕt seem to affect the reception to her comedy, either. ÒMy comedyÕs the same everywhere,Ó she adds. ÒI make a couple of local references and then talk about myself for an hour.Ó
Yashere has found success in such a variety of places primarily because she doesnÕt see many differences in humor from place to place. ÒMy style really isnÕt British,Ó she says. ÒAmericans think the British humor is all the same. But it depends on what background you come from. My family are immigrants (Nigerian) to England, so I donÕt have that quick, dry sense of humor. My stuff is a lot more elevated, a lot more storytelling. So my stuff travels quite well.Ó
She also hasnÕt had an issue with a language barrier yet. Malaysia, in particular, surprised her. ÒIn Malaysia, theyÕre not ex-pats,Ó she says. ÒTheyÕre Malaysians, theyÕre locals. So I was thinking, ÔUh, how is this going to work?Õ But their English is fantastic and they love comedy. So I came on and did my thing in English, and it killed. They loved it. IÕve been to Holland and done shows, where IÕve been the headliner, and every other comedian has come out in front of me and done their sets completely in Dutch. And I come on, and then I do my stuff in English, and it still seems to work, funny enough.Ó
Despite having seen much of the world, Yashere still has a few to tick off her bucket list. ÒIÕd love to perform in Brazil, only because I havenÕt been there yet, and Cuba. Other than that, there arenÕt many places I havenÕt performed before!Ó
YashereÕs favorite tour stop was off the coast of Indonesia. ÒIt was so weird,Ó she reflects. ÒI happened to do a show in Bali and met a guy, and heÕs like, ÔThereÕs no entertainment on this one island. Would you come and do the first comedy show ever on the island? And as payment IÕll give you a week of accommodation.Õ And I said, ÔYeah, letÕs do it!Õ So I called my best friend up, they flew out from England, and I did this show for 70 divers. I was standing literally 30 feet away from the ocean. Then I spent the rest of the week eating fresh fish. It was amazing!Ó
Not many comedians have traveled quite so extensively, which Yashere is well aware of. ÒMost American comics, when they say theyÕre going on the road, they usually mean Minneapolis, you know? Whereas me,Ó she laughs, Òwhen I say IÕm going on the road, itÕs far flung.Ó
With that wide array of experiences, Yashere√ïs stand-up generally consists of storytelling, which doesn√ït always include more personal details. Yashere, who is a lesbian, doesn√ït feel the need to bring it up in her comedy acts. √íI don√ït really talk about LGBT issues — it√ïs one factor of who I am,√ì she notes. √íYeah, I talk about it, as one routine, but then I move on because there√ïs a lot more interesting stuff about me. I don√ït really talk about it at all; I√ïm not political. Same with: I don√ït want to spend all my set talking about that I√ïm black; there√ïs more to me than that … I talk about everything.√ì
Though she admits sheÕs not very political in her acts, itÕs hard to avoid the current presidential race. ÒI have thoughts; I donÕt talk about them that much,Ó she admits. ÒBut I think Trump is a big fucking idiot. And I would not be surprised if he did make it all the way to presidency. ThatÕs the American voting public. You voted an actor into presidency before, so I put nothing past America!Ó
Another way Yashere keeps her stand-up unique? She's reluctant to watch any other comedy. √íI don√ït want to be influenced by anybody else,√ì she says. √íWhen you see comedians, you can see who they√ïre influenced by. I tend to stay away from watching too much comedy … I am not one of those comedians with an extensive DVD collection of comedians. That√ïs not my thing at all.√ì Though she is a fan of √íModern Family√ì: √íI think that√ïs probably the best sitcom ever made.√ì
The well-traveled comedian will visit Metro Detroit for the first time on Friday, Oct. 9 when she performs at Kola Restaurant & Ultra Lounge in Farmington Hills. Is she expecting anything from the area? ÒIÕm hoping to bump into Eminem at the show!Ó