British comic Gina Yashere was already successful in her home country and at venues all over the world but was unknown to American TV audiences until her appearance on Last Comic Standing in 2007. Yashere will bring her special brand of comedy to Lincoln Hall, Saturday, Sept. 15, for a 9 p.m. ages 21+ show.
Yashere grew up with her siblings and Nigerian-born parents in London, where she attended what people in the United States would call public school. After high school, Yashere got an electrical/electronic engineering degree while she was working.
"I used to build and repair elevators for Otis as a maintenance technician and engineer," said Yashere.
When asked how she got into comedy, Yashere said she fell into it by accident.
"I was hanging around with some friends and they kept telling me I was funny," said Yashere. "Around the same time, I had left my job at Otis and had the summer off so I decided to try stand-up. I appeared at small venues in and around London at first. As soon as I started performing I thought, wow, this is what I want to do. I did not know I could make a lifetime career out of it but I was enjoying it so much I kept on performing. I thought when this dries up I can go back to my engineering job. That was 20 years ago."
Currently, Yashere's work can be found on Netflix's The Standups series.
Yashere explained that she has no idea how Netflix executives found her work or why they wanted her to be a part of the series.
"They contacted me and asked me to come up with 30 minutes of material in two weeks and I said yes," she said. "It is so cool to be included among these other comics."
Yashere is also the British correspondent for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. She said the opportunity "came out of the blue."
"Comedy Central is a very younger male viewers skewing channel so when they were looking for new correspondents for The Daily Show I never bothered to send in my stuff," said Yashere. "Then Trevor [Noah], whom I worked with at times while touring all over the world, texted me one day and asked me to do some stuff for the show."
The arrangement Yashere has with The Daily Show means she comes in to do British-focused stories every couple of months.
"All of my appearances have been quite successful and have gone viral but the ones that have gotten the most feedback are the Meghan Markle and Prince Harry story and the last one about [Donald] Trump," said Yashere.
Yashere also self-produced three one hour specials over the yearsSkinny Bitch for Showtime, Ticking Boxes for SeeSo with an album released under the 800 Pound Gorilla label and Laughing To America that she self-sold. Both Skinny Bitch and Laughing to America also had tracks played on SiriusXM and other platforms.
In addition to her comedy specials, Yashere has appeared on a variety of UK and US TV series, including a number of the late-night talk shows, Live at The Apollo and Def Comedy Jam where she holds the distinction of being the only British comedian to ever appear on the show.
Not only does Yashere perform stand-up, but she has also appeared on UK-based TV shows and done voice work as Keisha in Bromwell High and as Gravelle in the Wallace & Gromit movie Early Man.
As for who inspires Yashere, she said it is not fellow comics. Instead, Yashere said she looks to Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, Maya Angelou, Angela Davis, Harriet Tubman and Colin Kaepernick because they all fought for justice in their own way. Yashere said the fact that Mandela could forgive his captors after being imprisoned for 27 years is saint-like because she is not sure if she could do the same thing.
"I never really watched comedy before I started doing it," said Yashere. "I was never a comedy aficionado and I still do not watch anyone else because I do not want to be influenced by other people's style of comedy."
Among the accolades Yashere has received are the Best Comedian award four times in a row from the UK Black Entertainment & Comedy Awards. The Hollywood Reporter also named her a top 10 rising talent.
Yashere is based in New York City where she lives with her girlfriend Nina. They met at the now-defunct Michigan Womyn's Music Festival in 2013 where Yashere was performing and Nina was attending with a friend and have been together ever since.
"I love the city, culture and people," said Yashere. "I hate the filth, cockroaches and rats but other than that it is a great city to live in as an artist."
When Yashere is not working, she can be found at yoga classes or taking in the art that is available in New York City including music, dance, films, plays, musicals and museums.
"I am talking to the Metropolitan Museum of Art about doing an installation there," said Yashere.
In terms of what people can expect from Yashere's upcoming Chicago show, she said it is laughter.
"My show being political is a bonus," said Yashere. "Come check it out. You will have the time of your life."
Lincoln Hall is at 2424 N. Lincoln Ave. Advance tickets are $20 and day of show are $25; visit http://www.lh-st.com/Shows/09-15-2018+Gina+Yashere.
For a taste of Yashere's work, view The Standups trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8_9OUZFfQM.
See ginayashere.com/ for more information or to download her work for as low as $5.