When Gina Yashere, a British comedian with Nigerian parents, took some time off from her job as an elevator engineer to try out comedy, her mother, a teacher, was decidedly unimpressed. “You’re giving up a good job as an engineer to be a clown,” she told her.
That was 15 years ago. Since, Yashere has sold out 2,000-seat auditoriums in London, been a finalist on Last Comic Standing, and appeared on The Jay Leno Show as the Surly Psychic along with The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brian. She was the first British comedian on Def Comedy Jam. The London Guardian called her one of the funniest comics in the world. Her mother, after being included in the taping of a TV talent show Yashere appeared on, is now her biggest fan.
Yashere made a DVD in England, Skinny Bitch, which she funded herself so she could have control over the material, the look, and the price. She is doing the same in San Francisco, taping Laughing to America (a play on Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America) at the Brava Theater on Saturday, September 22 at 8:00.
Yashere came to the U.S. in 2007, after getting on Last Comic Standing.
“I came back to London, put my house on the market and came here with two suitcases to my name,” she said.
When Yashere took some time off from her job fixing elevators years ago, she decided to do some things she’d always wanted to. She was naturally funny, and people, including teachers, always told her she should be a comedian or an actress. Her parents, however, wanted her to get a solid education and a good job. She liked the idea of being on stage, but it seemed out of reach.
“I thought those are the people on TV – they’re a different breed of person,” she said.
But when she performed at an open mic night, and it went so well, people asked her to perform at their clubs. She decided to ride the wave as long as it lasted and then go back to her regular job. But the wave kept going.
“It’s been a steady increase,” she said about her career. “Doing my own DVD and selling it to Showtime was one of highlights. I didn’t know you could do that. I was just going to sell it out of the trunk of my car, then I thought this is good as anything I’ve seen on TV. I realized I can do stuff myself; I don’t have to wait for people to give it to me.”
Gina Yashere Live DVD Comedy Taping: Laughing to America
8 p.m. at Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St, S.F.
Admission is $18-20 For tickets, call 800) 838-3006 or visit Brown Paper Tickets.