Jokers get serious

BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Observer senior reporter
johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

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Tired of being seen as simply a pack of jokers, Jamaica's stand-up comedians are getting serious about their craft and have moved to form an association.

The Jamaica Association of Comedic Entertainers (JACE) held an inaugural meeting on the weekend to hammer out the framework for an umbrella organisation to see to the professional development and welfare of it members. The group was conceptualised by veteran writer, actor and producer Owen “Blacka” Ellis, who created a document outlining the structure of the group. However, it was Christopher “Johnny” Daley who decided that the time had come for action to be taken to formalise the work and worth of the nation's comedians.

“For years we have been talking about forming an association, getting a group together to make representation as a bloc. There is JADA (Jamaica Association of Dramatic Actors) JFM (Jamaica Federation of Musicians), and so on... the time has come for us to get our act together,” Daley told the Jamaica Observer in a telephone interview.

“Blacka had created this document some time ago and last weekend we decided to just flesh out... expand on Blacka's document with the aim of getting our association going,” he continued.

According to Daley the biggest takeaway coming out of recognising the confab, was the fact that all parties were on the same page in terms of the urgent need for organising and getting the group of entertainers on a more professional footing.

JACE is aiming to provide an environment to foster the growth and development of its members and the entertainment industry here in Jamaica as it relates the stand-up comedy. The association is also looking to create a national yearly roster of shows produced by, and featuring its members, so as to prevent clashing and unnecessary competition among events. The group will also offer guidance and support for its members as it relates to issues of remuneration.

“Gone are the days when stand-up comedy and comedians are simply seen as a side show. There are still some people who see us as something extra on an event and not worthy of being the main attraction. So we will also be putting a lot into developing our membership and preparing them for work across Jamaica, into the wider Caribbean and the diaspora,” said Daley.

JACE members can be individuals or a duo, who are performers for stage and have performed in front of a live audience for 10 minutes or more. Among the comedians present at last weekend's inaugural meeting were Bobby Smith, Dufton Shepherd, Boasy Boy Floyd, Lemon, Leighton Smith, Christopher “The Entertainer” Larmond and Michael V.

Daley, who first became known to local audiences from on his work on the television sitcom Lime Tree Lane in the 1980s, said the main trigger to get JACE started was his work with the Comedy Club, a weekly stand-up comedy spot in the Corporate Area. This, he said, offered comedians a place and space to develop their talent in front of an audience and garner the confidence to hold their own in the entertainment sphere.

“When I came back from Finland in 2016 I was inspired to start the Comedy Club based on what I had experienced there, participating in the international Laugh Factory's 'The Funniest Person in the World' competition. We started small and grew to full houses and sold out shows as persons began to accept the brand. This got us talking as entertainers in comedy, and this is where we are today.”

Daley is proud that the Comedy Club was able to be the home base from which the promoters of the stand-up comedy show Outburst, which was staged last year, could scout talent. Local comedians including Diego, Tubeless and Dufton Shepherd were the toast of the event which was headlined by American Mike Epps.


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