ONSTAGE Growing up in London, Gina Yashere never considered a career in comedy. She came from an academic family, and her mother had specific careers in mind for her kids: doctor, lawyer, or engineer. So Yashere became an engineer, building elevators for Otis, at London’s Canary Wharf tower. After a few years, she took the summer off and was volunteering for different charities. One was doing a fundraiser, looking for singers and poets and other performers.
“I wrote what I thought was a play for my friends and me,” she said. “It turned out it was comedy. And the reason I knew it was comedy was people pissed themselves laughing.”
Yashere decided to take six months to try comedy before going back to a full time job. She never returned. After becoming a standup and TV star in the UK, she came to the United States to slay on Last Comic Standing, where she made it to the final 10. She appeared on Def Comedy Jam, The Tonight Show, Comedy Central, and now she’s the British Correspondent on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.
One person wasn’t thrilled about Yashere’s career path at first—her mom.
“She was not happy,” Yashere said. “She said, ‘You’re a leaving engineering to be a clown?’ Then I got on TV and everything changed.”
Yashere’s mom even goes to some of her shows now, such as the one above, at the Apollo. And Yashere travels all over the world, selling out 2000 seat auditoriums. On July 8, she’ll be performing at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley with Shea Suga and Karinda Dobbins.
Local comedian Lisa Geduldig is producing the show and she’ll be the MC. She’s known Yashere since bringing her out her for the 10th Anniversary of Funny Girlz: A Smorgasbord of Women Comedians in 2008. Geduldig also co-produced Yashere’s Laughing to America at San Francisco’s Brava Theater in 2012.
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“She has an amazing stage presence and she tells it like it is. I feel like she could do hours and hours of comedy,” Geduldig said. “She does this routine about health care and how she could get in an accident and have her leg severed and she could buy two first class tickets—one for her and one for her leg—and fly to England to have her leg reattached and it would be cheaper. The audience really laughed. She’s so relatable. She’s not staid, and she doesn’t do the usual stuff.”
In her act, she just talks about her life, Yashere says. She’s always done that, she says, but over the years, she’s gotten more comfortable with it.
“I’m pretty much a better version of myself,” she said. “I was always original, but now I have more freedom. Before I wasn’t that personal, and it was like ‘Where can I get the laugh and I need jokes,’ but now it’s all from a place of truth.”
Coming to the United States was a dream of Yashere’s as a little girl, and now she loves living in Brooklyn and the energy of New York with its outdoor music, museums and culture. The move has been great for her career, she says.
“If you do well in America, you do well all over the world whether you’re a singer, actor, or comedian,” she said. “In England, I was quite well known, but coming here has taken my cache up a level.”
It certainly hasn’t hurt her cache being on the Daily Show. It was a job she didn’t need to audition for.
“Being a comedian takes me all over the world, so I’ve known Trevor for years,” she said. “We bump into each other in Australia and South Africa. When I moved to New York, we were chatting and he said they were looking for new correspondents, so he texted me to come on the show and cover the British stuff.”
She says she looks forward to the show at Freight & Salvage.
“I love performing in Northern California—the audience is a bit smarter and interested in the world at large. That’s why I shot my stand up special at Brava,” she said. “In LA, the audience wants to be in TV or movies themselves, and they’re looking for the best camera angle.”
GINA YASHERE (AND ACQUAINTANCES)
July 8, 7pm
Freight and Salvage, Berkeley
Tickets and more info here